Will iconic images recorded in the grooves of an ancient vase unite the Holy Land or rip it further apart?

THE VASE

A novel by Mark M. DeRobertis

Muhsin Muhabi is a Palestinian potter, descended from a long line of potters. His business is run from the same shop owned by his ancestors since the day his forebears moved to Nazareth. The region's conflict saw the death of his oldest son, and rogue terrorists are in the process of recruiting his youngest in their plot to assassinate the Pope and Israeli prime minister.

Professor Hiram Weiss is an art historian at Nazareth’s Bethel University. He is also a Shin Bet operative on special assignment. With the help of fellow agent, Captain Benny Mathias, he plans to destroy the gang responsible for the death of his wife and only child. He puts a bomb in the ancient vase he takes on loan from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Mary Levin, the charming assistant to the director of Shin Bet, has lost a husband and most of her extended family to recurring wars and never-ending terrorism. She dedicates her life to the preservation of Israel, but to whom will she dedicate her heart? The brilliant professor from Bethel University? Or the gallant captain who now leads Kidon?

Harvey Holmes, the Sherlock of Haunted Houses, is a Hollywood TV host whose reality show just flopped. When a Lebanese restaurant owner requests his ghost-hunting services, he believes the opportunity will resurrect his career. All he has to do is exorcise the ghosts that are haunting the restaurant. It happens to be located right across the street from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New Spider-man Movie -- um...

Okay, I saw the new Spider-man movie last night with my two sons, and... Well, during the movie I was thinking how I was going to write in today's blog just how stupid the movie was. How very stupid it really was. I'm a traditionalist you see. I've got the silver age comics from those years ago, and I know how Spider-man is supposed to be.

The 90's cartoon was pretty good, but the two versions of movies with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were disappointments to be sure. Of course, as I always say, Hollywood believes they know better than the original writers and creators of the genre and they change them mostly for the worse.

But last night, when the movie was over, both my sons said they liked the movie, which made me rethink my opinion of it. I thought back to Maguire's version and how they changed his web shooter to a non web shooter. The movie people made it so that the webbing was part of his biological make up, and the webs came from his wrists naturally, instead of from a web shooter that he invented like in the comics. That was a horrible change.

And in Maguire's and Garfield's Spider-man, they made the spider that bit Peter Parker some kind of genetically modified spider instead of a radioactive spider like in the comics. Another bad change because that meant Spider-man's blood isn't radioactive anymore. Ever heard the song? "He's got radio-active blood. Hey, there... There goes a..." Well, never mind. At least in Garfield's Spider-man and in last night's Spider-man, Peter Parker invented his own web shooter. And they actually never mentioned the spider's condition in last night's movie because they didn't reenact the origin scene.

So, anyway, as I was watching this movie I was not liking it. But then while listening to my sons after it was over, and hearing their opinions of it, and why they liked it, my opinion changed. And I decided I liked it. And here's why: Because this time the movie people made changes to accommodate the ongoing Avengers and Ironman/Tony Stark storyline. Which makes sense. And the changes mostly involved the Spider-man costume, meaning Tony Stark designed the Spider-man costume not Peter Parker. Which makes sense. And it even contains a lot of Ironman components, like a talking computer which makes sense. (Since it was designed by Tony Stark.) And even though Peter invented his own web shooter, Stark improved it in many ways. Which made sense.

So okay. I can change my mind. I don't have to be so stuck in my old-fashioned ways. I can change with the times. I can let my sons sway my opinion. The new Spider-man movie was good. Would I have written it differently? Yes. Would I have made it better? I would like to think so. But was it good anyway? Yes. It's a good movie. The best one yet.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

John Dunn - The True Story

I've talked about heroes recently, mostly of whom are fictitious characters. I've talked about strong men and yes, strong women characters in the movies and TV shows, but the one thing that is noteworthy about these strong characters is that they are fictitious characters.

The Jason Bournes, the Frank Martins, and even the James Bonds -- all fictitious characters. Even my own Trent Smith, the world's greatest martial artist from my Killer novels, is Fictitious.

But I heard once that truth is stranger than fiction. And the character John Dunn, from my latest novel John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu is NOT fictitious. John Dunn is a real character from real history, and his story is a true one. And I wrote it that way. Sure I put in some fictitious elements to spice it up. Mostly those elements were about his first wife, Catherine Pierce. I made her into a strong female character. It seems strong female characters are all the rave these days. At least Hollywood would have you believe that if you consider the movies and TV shows being aired at this time.

So I was sure to include a strong female character in my John Dunn book, and I made it the foremost female character in the story, Dunn's first wife, Catherine Pierce. But the truth is that the real John Dunn hardly mentioned her in his autobiography. Even in Charles Ballard's thesis on John Dunn I could hardly find a mention of her. Ditto with Donald Morris's Washing of the Spears and Ian Knight's Zulu Rising. In fact in every history book on John Dunn or the Zulus or the Zulu War I read there is hardly a mention (if any mention at all) of Catherine Pierce.

Now if John Dunn himself didn't bother mentioning much about his first wife, (or any of his 49 wives) what does that tell you? Nothing, really, but it didn't leave a lot to go on. All of the above writers wrote a great deal about John Dunn, however, almost all of them agreeing that his story was an incredible one. An incredible one that is TRUE.

Hollywood put out at least three movies about a white man living with the Native Americans. We've all seen them. Little Big Man, with Dustin Hoffman, A Man Called Horse with Richard Harris, and Dances with Wolves with Kevin Costner. And yeah, they were all intriguing, compelling stories of how a solitary white man became one with the Indian tribes. They were great stories. But they were not TRUE stories. They were imagined, made up, and fictitious.

Now that's the thing about John Dunn. He was NOT imagined. He was NOT made up. He is NOT fictitious. This man's story is even greater than those fictitious stories told in the above Hollywood movies. He was a man who from a very young age lived in Zululand, with the Zulus, as a Zulu. And would have lived his entire life that way if Captain Joshua Walmsley didn't find him and bring him back to civilization. He then retaught him English and tutored him in the civilized ways.

But fate would not let John Dunn go. Fate brought Dunn back to the Zulus. I made mention in the book that Dunn's destiny was in Zululand and Dunn realized that to be true. He returned to Zululand to fight in the Zulu Civil War. He fought on the losing side, and the victorious Prince Cetshwayo might have killed Dunn right then, but for Dunn's resilience in escaping the massacre, which included over twenty thousand Zulus (men, women, and children) on the banks of the Tugela River.

But even then Dunn hadn't given up on finding his destiny in Zululand. He returned to Zululand at the risk of being skinned alive. Which is what Prince Cetshwayo might have done had he captured him during the battle. Instead, when their paths crossed, Cetshwayo took a liking to Dunn, offered his friendship, which included land, Zulu wives, and even a chieftainship.

Now let's pause right there. It must be noted that a chieftainship is NOT something handed out arbitrarily or given to just anyone. A chieftainship is like being a governor of a state, like California New York, or Michigan. Not even Cetshwayo's brothers and fellow princes were guaranteed chieftainships. Many of them never achieved that status. But John Dunn did.

And the events that unfolded over the next twenty years were nothing short of amazing. I must advise any readers who find this interesting to read the book. John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu. Those amazing events conclude with the infamous Anglo-Zulu War. I made sure to keep it all accurate. Especially the battles, one in which John Dunn fought.

John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu. Based on the TRUE story of the REAL John Dunn. Order your copy today, and you will learn not just about John Dunn, but about the real history of South Africa and the Zulu tribes in the years following Shaka. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Blacklist - Disappoints


Okay, I checked out the two-part season four finale of The Blacklist, which wrapped up the "Mr. Kaplan" adversarial story arc, and it did indeed disappoint. Instead of Red killing her, she jumps off a bridge and commits suicide. Okay. But that wasn't how I would have written this ending. I would have made it all come together in a positive way, and everyone would have been friends again.

Which is how it should have been. Why? Because after Kaplan had recovered from Red's earlier attempt to kill her, she was remorseful. Not for what Red did, but rather for what SHE did. She admitted she was wrong, that she had betrayed Red, and that it was her fault that Lizzy had been kidnapped and put into danger. She admitted she deserved the bullet to her head.

But later, all of that was forgotten as if it had never been written or portrayed in the show. Instead, Kaplan turns into this vindictive, revenge-seeking antagonist, bent on Red's destruction. Um, what happened to all the remorse and Kaplan's concession that it was HER fault to begin with? It's called inconsistency, and that's BAD WRITING.

So, as I posted yesterday, the show dragged out this conflict between Red and Mr. Kaplan, to the point of Red's near destruction. But Red is resilient, he's the main character, after all, and he gets the jump on Kaplan. But this time Red is determined not to kill her. (Which he never should have attempted that first time!) Instead he offers her an out, which she doesn't take. Why? Because she's hell bent on destroying Red. Sheesh. What happened to her admitting she deserved that bullet to the head? It's called bad writing.

So, anyway, that's when she jumps off the bridge. And she does that because she has to die in order for her final contingency plan to be put into effect. Which is carried out by Tom, Lizzy's husband, and Red's former spy, but is now a spy for Kaplan. Upon Kaplan's death, Tom removes a suitcase from a locker and, apparently, is supposed to take it to Lizzy.

This suitcase, apparently, contains the bones of Lizzy's mother, Red's former lover, which, apparently will prove that Red had killed Lizzy's mother. Apparently. This was hinted at in a dialogue between Red and his bodyguard, Dembe, at the end of the show.

But wait a minute. Too many problems with all of this. Besides the fact that all of this is contrary to Kaplan's original remorse at having betrayed Red and her admitting she deserved the bullet to her head. Now it gets worse. I mean, since when does Tom work for Kaplan? Since, like, never. And since Red had already told Lizzy that her mother died in shame and disgrace, it makes the point that Red, if he did kill Lizzy's mother, his former lover, he had a damn good reason for doing so, which he always does when he kills someone. And Lizzy should know this by now.

Look--Red is the star of the show. He is someone the audience has empathy for and sympathy for, more than anyone else on the show. He's the hero. Yeah, he's billed as a criminal, but he's never done anything to anyone that makes the audience hate him. Never. Everyone he's killed, or dogged, deserved it, and deserved it big time. Kaplan's antics, on the other hand resulted in the deaths of several innocent people, and she even cut out an eye of an innocent man with her own hands. So, yeah, Kaplan, as it turned out was the one who resorted to evil deeds. Not Red.

But I have another complaint and it's unrelated to all of the above. For the entire season, the viewers of this show have been teased with the idea that Red is Lizzy's father. And it's something that I personally wanted to be the case. It would be the ONLY thing that would make sense out of all of this. Meaning, it's the only thing that would validate the entire series. Red NEEDS to be Lizzy's father for any of the show's storylines to make sense. So for four seasons, they hinted at it, and at one point while being tortured, Red admits Lizzy is his daughter, but he had never admitted it to Lizzy.

Now in the fourth season finale, a DNA test proves Red is Lizzy's father, and I approved of the reaction Lizzy displayed. She accepts him as her father, and is happy to have him as her family. I was cool with all of that. It's the way I would have written it too.

But then in that final dialogue between Red and Dembe, Dembe asked Red if he denied it. Why would Dembe ask Red that if Red was Lizzy's real father? Well, Red says he didn't deny it. Still, that question suggests that Red is NOT Lizzy's father. I know it's not definitive, and it may not suggest that, but perpetuating doubt is not cool. I want to know once and for all that Red is indeed Lizzy's father, and no more doubts about it.

I hate being played by a show, by a writer, or by anyone. Red better be Lizzy's father or the entire show is bullshit. Which would mean I wasted a good portion of my time watching a show that was bullshit. It wouldn't be the first time. The STARZ show Black Sails did that to me, and to countless fans who had followed that show. If The Blacklist does that too... Well, it would be unfortunate, that's all. We'll see.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Blacklist Falling from Grace


I had claimed that The Blacklist TV show had become my favorite TV show. At least insofar as current TV shows are concerned. That is quickly coming to an end. It seems that in its fourth season, the writers are running out of gas. It's not entirely unexpected.  Mostly, the writers were doing a great job. Not anymore, I'm sorry to say.

Why? Well, because one of my favorite characters in the show, Mr. Kaplan, has become the bad guy. Mr. Kaplan is a woman, btw, and she was a great ally of the main character Red Reddington. Which was why she was one of my favorite characters. But for lack of new storylines, the writers have made her into Red's adversary. And there was only so much they could do with that. And they've run out of ideas. They are dragging this out over the duration of the fourth season, and I'm tired of it. You see, Mr. Kaplan does not make for a great bad guy. No, she doesn't.

In fact, Mr. Kaplan was a great good guy. As long as she was on the side of Red Reddington. But now, it's like the two characters are playing tug-of-war with the other main character Lizzy Keane. To the point of ridiculousness. And I'm not one to favor ridiculousness in a storyline. I don't appreciate it. Because it was one of my favorite shows. Not anymore.

Perhaps I'll wait until the season conclusion. Which I will watch probably tonight. Then I'll make that decision. If they end this unfavorable story arc, then I might be back on board. So we'll see.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Hawaii Vacation Over

Today is my first day back from Hawaii. My brother lives there, and I took my wife and youngest son there this past week. Hawaii is famous, of course, for its beaches. And they are very nice. Spent a lot of time there. My brother is a lawyer, but he also wrote a book. A high fantasy novel. Kind of like the LORs story, but still quite different. In other words, fans who loved LOR will love his book.



So I was an A-reader or a Beta reader as some would say. And the writing was quite good. He's a talented writer and story-teller, and his story is one that I would say deserves to be published by the infamous Big Five. But that means an agent is required. Yes, the ever elusive literary agent. I'm considering going that route again for my novel The Vase. It deserves the Big Five as well.


But we all know how that goes. Fingers crossed. My brother lives close to a lot of beaches, and I guess when you live in Hawaii, who doesn't? I particularly liked Waikiki. It's one of the most famous beaches in the world. For a lot of reasons. There's a lot of people there. A lot of action, too. My son took surfing lessons, and he was a natural.



I was never a skate boarder when I was a kid, so I never had an interest in surfing. I mean, I liked the Beach Boys music, but surfing was never my thing. But my youngest son is good at skate boarding, and he was good at surfing too, on his first attempts. He looked like those dudes in the movies. I was proud of him. He wants to go back to Hawaii and get his own surfboard, too.


As for me? I'm good right here in California. Still, since my brother lives there, and in a really big house in an upscale part of Oahu, I have no reason not to go back. Hawaii is famous for other things too, not just the beaches. So yeah, it was all good. Right now, I'm back to work in perfecting The Vase. That's a real good story too.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Fear the Walking Dead - drops to a new low

Yes, a new low for Fear the Walking Dead last Sunday. It's as if they are running out of storylines. As of last Sunday's episode Fear the Walking Dead has devolved to the old  storyline of "Cowboys and Indians." You read that right. It's the 21st Century. Instead of the "Native Americans" assimilating into modern American society, and getting along with everyone else, we have our resident "Indians" rising up during this horrible "Zombie Apocalypse" to stick it to the White Man.

I  mean, come on... this is so old, and old fashioned, and overdone, and pointless, and just plain ridiculous. Once again, in a show where humanity is on the verge of extinction, struggling to survive against some kind of world destroying plague, with bands of thugs patrolling the landscape, raping, pillaging, and overpowering the weakened masses, now you have a group of people (Indians) not trying to help, not trying to contribute, not trying to make things better or at least survivable. Instead they are "rising up" against the "white man." Just like a 1950s Cowboys and Indians show.

This is so uncool, I don't have the words to describe it. I mean in this show the circumstances are such that anyone is lucky to find a place that is safe for any length of time. I get it about the thugs finding strength in their "gangs" and roving the countryside like wolves trying to dominate the weak. You have that anywhere you go, Just check out any big city in America today.

But when the world is on the brink of complete destruction, I would think that there remained groups of people who are not thugs. In the Waking Dead we see it here and there. Groups of benevolent people, in contrast to the thugs. In Fear we have the new group of people led by a man named Otto, and it's all good. But no, actually it's not. Now you have the "tribe" of Indians opposing them, and capturing them, shooting them, killing them, and threatening them.

What's wrong with working together to make life livable for all? Oh wait... There's no story there. But might there be? Can't some talented writers make a story like that? Or do we just need to see more senseless meanness, senseless cruelty to fellow travelers who are doing nothing more than struggling to survive? I guess the writers are bent on meanness. Like in Lost. Just be mean for no reason other than just to be mean. Why not? It's an easier story to write.

Monday, June 26, 2017

John Dunn read-through completed

I had reported that in the first half of my newest book, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu, there was only one typo. I had hoped that it would project to two typos for the entire book. Well, there's three. No worries, they're very minor typos. In the first half of the book there was a quotation mark where it didn't belong. It turned out that in the second half of the book there were two places where there was no indentation where there should have been.

Both places were in a section where there was dialogue. And for some reason, two times the next person speaking it didn't get indented. I suppose those things happen when the documents are converted from word docs to PDFs and then to print.

So three total typos. All three are minor, and don't impact the story at all. I had already noted that books published by the world's top publishers have at least that many typos, so I guess I'm right up there with them. Still, I'm a perfectionist, and I strive for perfection. I will see if in the future I can get those typos out of there. If not, no big deal. It's still good. So good in fact, that I'm with the impression my John Dunn book is my best book of all five that I've written.

My Killer of Killers book has no typos. That book is my personal favorite. I made sure it had no typos, but it took a Second Edition for that to happen, and I don't want to go that course again. I just want perfection if perfection can be achieved.

My book The Vase, I dare say, will be perfect. I'm still perfecting it right now. It's an amazing story. So amazing that it might end up being my best book. Hopefully it can break the Big Five. I'll need an agent for that. Finding an agent is not easy. But you never know until you try. So fingers crossed.