First Second Coming
The New God Series Book 1
by Jeff Pollak
Genre: Supernatural Romantic Suspense
In 2027 the deity known as NTG – short for New Testament God – retires after more than two thousand years of minding the store for his employer, Milky Way Galaxy, Inc. The new god, a planetary turnaround specialist, must decide whether Earth’s dominant species should or should not be included in his plan to bring the planet back into full compliance with Milky Way Galaxy, Inc.’s planetary operation standards.
Earth’s new God introduces himself to humanity by unexpectedly appearing on the Ram Forrester Hour talk show. Ram, an atheist, and co-host Brendali Santamaria, a devout Catholic, are stunned. God's interview, beamed worldwide, shocks and infuriates viewers. They learn that a sixty-day conference will take place in Los Angeles to determine whether humans are capable of helping him implement his planetary turnaround plan. To earn a coveted spot in this God’s good graces all mankind must do is eliminate religious violence forever, without his heavenly help, within sixty days. Failure means extinction.
God designates Ram and Bren as the conference’s only authorized media reporters. This assignment, fraught with peril, ignites their romance. Not only must the harried couple attend the conference meetings by day and do their show at night, they must also outwit a fanatical religious group bent on killing them. When rising conflicts within the conference intensify, it’s up to Ram and Bren to do whatever it takes to protect their budding romance and mankind’s very survival.
“Jeff Pollak’s debut novel, First Second Coming, combines suspense, romance, and theology in an imaginative, unique adventure!”
--Mark Moses, Actor (best known as Paul Young on Desperate Housewives and Herman “Duck” Phillips on Mad Men.)
“Wow! What an outstanding debut novel! Jeff mixes a wide genre to create this intriguing novel. Plenty of romance, action and some theology to keep things lively! Not a mix I’ve seen before but in the ratio he writes=perfect! A fab read. Looking forward to the next book!”
-- Becca Thompson, The Book Club
“An absolutely fascinating concept mixed with the perfect blend of action, romance and theology. Will humans choose to set aside their petty arguments and live peacefully, working to solve the world's problems side by side, or will the planetary turnaround specialist assigned to Earth as the New God have to take the ultimate action to ensure the planet's survival, even if that means human extinction? This book will grab you and keep you reading to the very last page. Can't wait to see what comes next!”
- Kristine Pfeffer Fox, Author
**Get the ebook free in exchange for an honest review HERE!**
Thirteen hours late, my cross-galaxy voyage to the All-Souls Transit Center ends in a puff of soft lunar dirt on Mare Tranquillitatis. I expect to meet the legendary God of planet Earth in his office, but as I deplane he’s shuffling down the concourse toward his departure gate. He’s easy to spot—inside this small, sparse four-gate terminal we are the only life forms in sight.
With his stooped posture and unkempt shoulder-length gray hair, God reminds me of the mythical Atlas. His tremors underscore the physical and emotional toll he has had to bear. Did his mental state also degrade? He spent two millennia managing a planet populated by quarrelsome headstrong terrestrials. Over that much time any deity posted to such a world would succumb to the effects of prolonged stress.
I quicken my pace, catch up to him and extend a hand. “Good day, Lord.”
“This is how you address your superiors?” The decibel level of his gruff voice implies impaired hearing. “Where are your manners? A bow is in order.”
Though I have not yet fully adapted to the musculature of this adult male body I inhabit, my flawless execution of a deep obeisance brings a quick smile to my face.
God gives me a brusque signal to rise. “You’re my replacement, are you?”
“Correct, Lord. I am humbled and honored to take your place.” I bow again, less fully.
“Call me NTG if you wish. I prefer answering to that nickname.”
So the rumor is true. That he calls himself the New Testament God instead of his given name means he has indeed gone native. This explains a lot.
We sink into a ‘maximum comfort’ couch—or so the attached tag boasts—stuffed full of condensed nimbostratus cloud threads imported from Earth. An ugly green tarp spread over the cushions prevents our clothes from getting soaked by residual moisture.
God adjusts his overcoat and leans toward me. “I trust you had an enjoyable flight?”
“I would like to say yes, but what a hellacious trip.” That’s an understatement. “We flew through several cosmic storms, circumvented an unmapped black hole and limped here on back-up power after the anti-matter fuel engine failed. I will never fly by chartered spaceship again.”
“Now that you’ve arrived, what makes you think you can take on a tough job like this?”
“This is my fourth assignment, though the first for Milky Way Galaxy, Inc.” I place my carry-on bag on the tan moon-rock table and open a side pocket. “I have a résumé, if you want to peruse it. In each previous posting, the planets I shepherded returned to optimal status. Whilst this assignment is more complex, I assure you my record shall remain unsullied.”
“Humph.” He spits into the thin puddle created by the leaky couch and waves off my résumé. “I thought those spineless MWGI decision-makers would send a rank amateur. After only three postings, you expect to fix this mess? You’re still wet around the ears, sonny. Have you even hung your precious university degrees on a wall yet?” He points at the nearby picture window. “On Earth they say you learn more through failure than success.”
“Elder, I did not travel here to fail. MWGI reached out because of my extensive training as a planetary turnaround specialist. They are confident I am the best available deity for this job.”
“And you agree with that assessment, do you?” He fidgets, as though trying to stand and walk away, but can’t get off the couch.
“I would not otherwise have taken the job, Lord. Once I did, I undertook considerable research. The travel delays afforded me extra preparation time. I have learned everything a new deity should know about Earth and its inhabitants. I am ready to take the reins.”
“Your extensive reading helped you form opinions regarding the humans, did it?”
I disregard the sarcasm implicit in the question. If I ever reach his wizened old age, young deities will receive better treatment from me than this. His attitude is understandable, though. Forced retirement is a difficult pill for anyone to swallow, supreme beings included.
“Lord, these sentient beings do have many laudable qualities. However, whilst I prefer not to focus on the negative, on the whole humans strike me as a rather unpredictable species.”
NTG spits again and rummages through the pockets of his black overcoat, pants and vest. “Where’s the damn thing? Did I forget it? Ah, here. Since you’re not dead, you’ll need this to get into heaven.”
He hands me a Holyday Inn card key with “NTG” stenciled on the back side. I stare at the card whilst mulling over my research, which characterized heaven as an imaginary afterlife sanctuary. With a shrug, I deposit the card in the pocket of my blue denim shirt.
“Many humans call it heaven, but I consider it home.” God’s melancholic smile comes and goes in seconds. “Souls get over the false advertising once they adjust to their newly deceased status. Follow the overhead signs to the tram that’ll take you to the complex. My office is by the main gate so I can greet arrivals on St. Peter’s days off. Ask for Angie, my chief of staff. She’s a real angel in every sense of the word.”
Jeff Pollak, the author of First Second Coming and sequels to come, was raised in the Riverdale section of the Bronx by a single mom and two grandparents who lived eight floors up. After graduating from college in Buffalo, Jeff headed west to Los Angeles for law school and spent his entire legal career in and around civil litigation. Now retired, writing fiction is Jeff's new passion.
Born and raised in New York City, I’d visited the World Trade Center a few times. Later on, as a partner in a Los Angeles law firm, I attended annual seminars my firm put on there each spring. Clients of mine worked in that building, some of whom didn’t survive.
Safe at home in Southern California, I watched the tragedy unfold. A deadline I had to meet required my presence downtown, so after two hours of sadness and outrage I drove to my office to do some work.
On the way, the L.A. police chief came on the radio to urge everyone who worked downtown to stay away. The concern was that a plane might smash into one of L.A.’s skyscrapers. Although I was only a mile away from the office, I dutifully turned my car around and headed home. That’s when this thought popped into my head: “Our world needs a new god who’s a planetary turnaround specialist.”
Even today, I don’t know where that idea came from. Religion and I parted ways in my childhood. Although I know what a corporate turnaround specialist is, a planetary one wasn’t something my practical-minded sensibility would conjure up. Nonetheless, the concept of a planetary turnaround specialist replacing Earth’s god took root somewhere in the deeper recesses of my brain. Over the ensuing years I must’ve subconsciously fleshed out that story seed. By 2014, when it dawned on me that retirement was no longer far off, I decided to try my hand at writing fiction.
Sure, I had to learn the craft. I adapted my writing style from the drone of lawyering to the drama of fiction and dove deep enough into the rules of creative writing to realize I could do this. At that point, what began as a random, passing thought of fancy in 9/11 re-emerged as a story with a rudimentary plot, well-rounded main and supporting characters, and three different endings. Once I’d typed up an outline and fleshed out the details, I was off and running – well, typing.
Until retirement in 2018, I used my free time to work on First Second Coming. I’m gratified to say that the book will be released as a supernatural/romantic suspense novel on August 1st, turning me into something I’d never have expected in my youth – an author of published fiction.
The ride from idea to publishable story was wild, full of unexpected coincidences and incidents that helped me shape the story. Here are just a few of them:
First, halfway through my first draft, while typing a scene I’d outlined, a slightly accented female voice suddenly said “That’s not what’s happening.” I looked behind me at the empty room. Then I heard “You’re writing the scene all wrong. Write what I tell you.” The voice belonged to Brendali, my main female character. She was inside my head, talking to me.
That freaked me out a bit at first, but we soon learned to work together. I’d transcribe her version of the story, she’d accept my edits and also stop waking me up in the middle of the night to pass along the next scene. Bren and I became friends through the ensuing six rounds of drafts and all the editing. We still are, now that I’m working on the sequel.
Next, by the fall of 2017 I’d completed three drafts of First Second Coming and was attending a writers’ conference in Irvine, California. At the first session of the day, a man who looked vaguely familiar sat down at my table. I checked his name tag. Sure enough, we’d worked together in the 1980’s. We renewed acquaintances and realized we lived fairly close to each other. He invited me to join his critique group, which included a number of excellent authors, some of whom were published multiple times. They helped me shape First Second Coming into a publishable book.
At the same conference a year later, in 2018, an author sat next to me during the Saturday night banquet. We became friends. A few months later, she was grieving the loss of a good friend – a man who had co-founded the World Parliament of Religions, which is a leader in the interfaith religions movement. This organization had begun in the late 1800’s in Chicago, but became inactive until this man and his partners resuscitated it in the 1990’s. First Second Coming already contained a quote from the Hindu Swami who’d originally founded the organization. My friend suggested that I attend the next World Parliament later in the year in Toronto. I did. Over seven days I spoke to hundreds of people about their religions, my novel and how receptive the interfaith movement might be to it. In addition, I met people from URI – the United Religions Initiative – and wrote that group and the movement into the story, enriching it.
These are only a few of the many highly unlikely coincidences that helped me along. While I still don’t believe in organized religion, certainly something supernatural assisted me in writing this novel. What finally convinced me of that is the epigraph for First Second Coming. I had chosen another, which needed copyright approval that wasn’t forthcoming. With time short to find a replacement, it took me less than five minutes to come across this John Lennon quote, which perfectly fits the story:
“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”
Leave it to Lennon to succinctly sum up what this wild ride has taught me: if you properly translate an idea into a work of fiction, your readers can enjoy the ride and, perhaps, take something with them from the experience.
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