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.




Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Vase - Waiting for the Big Five

Since my book The Vase is in Limbo right now I have options. Go with my current publisher, Knox Robinson, (nope). Go with my other current publisher, Melange Books, (nope). Find another POD publisher, like its former publisher Penumbra, (nope). Self publish, (nope). Don't publish it, (nope), or once again try for the Big Five, (yes). But that takes an agent and agents are not interested in a nobody like me. Yes, but there are ways around that.

So I will examine publication via non-agent access to the Big Five publishers. It will be a last ditch effort on my part. At the same time, I will be undergoing a last ditch effort in my music. I'm at that age, I guess, where everything is a last ditch effort. My kids are in high school and college now, so even that part of my life is in its later stages.

Here's to hoping things work out.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Music Getting Closer to Being Posted

The last couple of weeks has seen a lull in my story writing. Back to school is in progress, of course, and I'm loving being back in the classroom. That never meant I didn't have time write, but with the recent completion of my latest book, John Dunn: Heart of a Zulu, I'm slow to proceed with my next.

I'm more inspired to get back to my music. It's like a cyclic thing for me. I go through phases I guess. It was all about drawing and painting for a long while. Then sculpture. Then music. Then writing books. Now back to music. It was during my music phase I had written quite a lot of songs about ten to twenty years ago. Some of those songs can be dismissed, sure, but some, I don't mind saying, were quite good. Especially my last two "albums."

I had not named my first eleven "albums", which were a collection of about ten songs each album. I considered ten songs to be about what would constitute an album from those years ago when albums used to be vinyl. Now albums are CDs, I think, or are those now obsolete too?

Whatever, I wrote songs in about groups of ten or so, and called it an "album." I only named them Volumes 1 though 11, until I wrote volume 12, and it contained an outer space type theme. Much like the individual songs Rocket Man  and Space Oddity, by Elton John and David Bowie respectively, which are just that, individual songs, albeit great ones, and worldwide hits. My Volume 12 is a collection of ten songs that has a space theme, too, so I call it Rockin' the Cosmos.

And the lyrics to Rockin' the Cosmos can be found right here on the blog. My next goal, at this point, is to see if I can post the entire collection of music onto the blog. Never mind that the vocals are horrible, which I readily admit. Singing is the one thing I readily admit I cannot do. But even so, I do it. Why? Because I have that much confidence, not in my singing, but in my music. I really believe the songs are good. So I will post them.

But therein lies the problem. I don't know how. But I know people. People who know how. And once those people have time, they will come and help me. I've already converted all my songs into mp3 formats, which was the first step. Well, the first step was actually recording the music. Which I did more than ten years ago. But that was on cassette tape. It was recently I did the second step. Converting the cassettes to CDs. Then the third step was transferring the music from the CDs onto my computer, and then the fourth step was converting the songs into mp3 formats.

Now, the fifth step will be posting the music right here onto the blog. Can't wait.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Aberrant Wave of Horrible Heat

I used that phrase, "aberrant wave of horrible heat" in my book, The Vase. It was published some years ago, but it's now unpublished due to the publisher going out of business. I'm hoping to find another publisher, this time one of the Big Five, even.

But speaking of aberrant waves of horrible heat, that's what I'm experiencing right now in the Bay Area. Heat in the triple digits in early September, I'm hearing is record setting heat, and I used that phrase often in The Vase too.

In the story in The Vase, the people in Nazareth, Israel were experiencing their own aberrant waves of horrible heat, and as I explain in the book it was due to unusual geomagnetic storms in the earth's atmosphere, which were caused by solar winds generated by solar flares erupting on the surface of the sun.

Yeah, that's a lot of solar activity for one day, but it's not just one day in which it occurs. It occurs over several months, even years, and it's an eleven year cycle called solar maximum. You learn that through research, and it's all in the book. You see, ultra concentrations of electromagnetic radiation also are spewed forth from the sun which makes its way into the earth's atmosphere, and seeing as how its this type of radiation that powers the audio/video recordings and playbacks of recent technologies, it's all fitting for the holograms that are projected from the ancient vases in a Palestinian potter's ceramic shop.

Throughout the story line the heat is atrocious, and I'm finding out for myself just what it feels like to live through that kind of heat. Friday, it was 107 degrees and Saturday it was 108. Let's see how hot it gets today. I think maybe I'll join the thousands at Santa Cruz. Just for some relief.

But it got me to thinking about The Vase. I'm still hoping an agent will pick it up, and shop it to the Big Five. Fingers crossed on that. We'll see.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Summer Over - Back to Work

Well, summer vacation is over, and it's time to get ready for work. But for me, work is great. I love my job. The classroom is my second home. I've considered writing a book on how to be a successful teacher. One of my secrets, of course, is just that. Making your classroom like your second home. A teacher has to love being in his/her classroom to be a successful teacher.

It's the same as being an author. A successful author has to love writing to be a successful writer. That doesn't mean all writers who love writing will be successful. I might venture to say all teachers who love teaching will be successful. Not necessarily, I know, but it's a good bet.

So back to the classroom, get it ready, prepare for those teacher meetings, which sometimes are fun, too, and then, get ready for the kids. Lucky for me I'm an art teacher. That means not only do I get to teach art, I get to make art at the same time. Which is great. You get to create. Which is what I'm all about. Creating. I create things. Books. Music. Art. Statues. Whatever.

I still find time to write. I do want to create that third book in the Killer series. Most likely it will be the last Killer book. Most likely. As for the MG/YA book -- Inside the Outhouse? Yeah...will probably finish that one day. And most likely that will be the last book I write. Not because I don't like writing anymore. I don't have time anymore. I'm finding that I have to dedicate the time to the wife and two sons.

Strangely, the older they get, the more they need me. You'd think the opposite would be true. I'm finding that it's not. High school and college is when they need me more than ever. As youngers I've been there for them. As young adults I'm needed even more. That means I'd better stay healthy and be available to them for advice and for support. I'd better be up to the task. Now more than ever.

Books are great. Being a father is greater. That's the real world. Sheesh, I've talked about John Dunn a lot. How in the heck did he manage being a father with over a hundred children of his own? I've only got two!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Killer Not For Hire

Book Three in the Killer Series is now in the works. It's a Trent Smith Martial Arts Thriller to be sure. And Melange Books has already agreed to publish it and will be sending a contract as soon as tomorrow. It is slated for publication in September/October of 2018, so that's about a year from now. So that means I have a year to write the book. Good thing I've already started it.

But I'm a far cry from completing it. I've got a good start though, and I have a good idea what is going to happen in the story. It's the book I started a year ago. It's the book I was calling Killer on the Payroll. But just recently when I resumed writing it I realized that one of Trent Smith's traits was that he worked for no one. So how could it be that a man who worked for no one could be a killer on someone's payroll? I was thinking at the time that he was being forced to by one way or another. But then, just this past week, I thought no. Trent Smith is not for hire. Not now, not ever. Thus the new title. Killer Not For Hire.

And I thought of it just in time. My publisher, Nancy had just emailed me asking me for the title of the book, so I replied the tentative title was Killer Not For Hire. Of course she advised with a year to go until publication there was still time to change the title if I so choose so that's cool. If I so choose. We'll see. For now, I think it's a good title.

The story will end with Trent becoming the world's greatest killer, but that's kind of anticlimactic. The plot is not to become the world's greatest killer. It's not his goal. But he gets involved with organized crime, not willingly, it was more like as part of his vengeance thing, and it just leads to that, and it happens. But the syndicates want him on their sides. But of course, he's not for hire, thus the title. Once you read the story it's more understandable. Well, I've got to write it first. Time to get busy on that. it should be fun.

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.