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, 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.

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.