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.




Thursday, December 14, 2017

Assassin's Creed the movie - Not Good

I saw Assassin's Creed recently on TV and it was ridiculously bad. The acting was fine, the production values were fine, meaning the special effects were fine, but even so, Assassin's Creed was so bad I couldn't believe it. I like the actor Michael Fassbender, and he did a good job of acting, but the premise of the movie was nothing but ridiculous. And the plot wasn't any better. The movie had the Knights Templar as the heavies, and they wanted to control the world.

How? By obtaining the "Apple of Eden." What? Well, we're supposed to believe that the apple is some kind of alien device that was used to give people free will back in the day. So by acquiring it, you can take away said free will.

Really? So it's not really an apple then. They call it an apple, I suppose, because it's about the size of an apple. It's clearly metallic and not edible, but the thing is they never explain just how a metallic apple is supposed to give or take away anyone's free will, let alone the entire population of a planet. They do say the seeds of the apple can take away people's free will. But wait. We know that the apple is not really an apple. I suppose that's a good thing because if it was and it's been around since the days of the Garden of Eden, then it would be an awfully rotten apple.

But how does a metallic machine have seeds? And how can seeds give or take away free will? It was never explained. Nor hinted at. So the assassins are the guardians of this apple. And we get to see the ancestor of Michael Fassbender and his girlfriend kill more Spanish soldiers in this movie than Luke Skywalker and Han Solo kill Stormtroopers in all of the Star Wars movies combined.

At least the old time assassins do get killed fighting for and hiding the apple, which all takes place in the year 1492. Well that's a familiar date. It brings to mind the ocean blue and images of Christopher Columbus (who was NOT in the movie, btw.)

So using a machine that looks like a fancy bungee jumper machine makes the modern Michael Fassbender relive his ancestor's actions from back then, which allows the bad guys the opportunity to learn what his ancestors did with this "apple." And speaking of Columbus, although the man wasn't in the movie, his final resting place was, and that's where they find this "apple" which is handed over to the bad guys by whoever was the caretaker of the place.

There were so many holes in this plot it would take me too long to list them, but you get the idea that with a premise and plot like this there will be holes all over the place and there were.

I still don't get just how an ancient apple-sized machine takes everyone's free will away. And the reason why the Templar Knights want everyone's free will taken away, (they say) is to stop all violence and war. Hmmnn... Good luck with that. Like I said. the premise was ridiculous.

Needless to say, at the movie's conclusion the modern Michael Fassbender decides to assume the assassin responsibility of his ancestor and retrieves the apple from the bad guys, and he's the new guardian of the apple, or alien device, or whatever it is. They never even revealed if anyone actually knew how to work the darn thing. It did shine some when the bad guys were reveling in their acquisition of it. But heck, light bulbs shine too. So what?

None of that worked for me. I'd need to see or at least learn something from the dialogue just how a shining machine the size of an apple can give or take away anyone's free will, and then allow a secret society to control the world by preventing violence and wars from happening anywhere on the planet.

Look, I know the whole thing was a video game for little kids. I never played it. But then again, I don't play any video games. My sons do. They play Madden, and sometimes COD, but never Assassin's Creed. I think Assassins Creed came for free in one of the video-game-player boxes, but my kids never played it as far as I know.

All in all, Assassins Creed allowed for some good action sequences, special effects, and choreography, but the plot and premise were bad from the start. I mean the very start. You know how some movies will start out with some text to explain the premise? That's what this one did, and from that point I was thinking, it didn't t make any sense. Well it didn't. And it never did.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Justice League Tops Thor Big Time

I saw Justice League the other day with my son, and we both agreed. It was way better than the Thor movie that just came out. I had already described what was wrong with the Thor movie. It was slapstick comedy. Like the Three Stooges. Or Inspector Clouseau. But since when is Thor a stooge? Since never. At least not until this latest Thor movie.

But Justice League was not like that. It was serious drama. Gritty, determined drama. Which isn't to say it didn't have a lighter moment here and there. And that's fine. But turning what should be a serious movie into a slapstick comedy only ruins a movie. Like what Marvel did with Thor.

DC did not do that. It stayed serious and gritty. Particular gritty was the emergence of Superman from the grave. They explained well enough how that was possible, so okay. You can't have Superman die, so you know he has to come back. Normally I don't agree with bringing the dead back to life, but since it was Superman, well... It really would have been better if he had never died.

What was good was how they portrayed an angry Superman. If you think about it, you don't want Superman to be angry with you. And that's where Bat Man found himself. The target of Superman's anger that is. Superman's besting of Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash was well done, too. It would have completely ruined it for me if Wonder Woman fought Superman toe to toe. She didn't. It was clearly portrayed that she was no match for Superman. As it should have been.

As for the storyline and plot, well, okay. It centered on a Wonder Woman backstory, and somewhat crossed over into Aquaman's, but you had to have a story in there somewhere.

My main and only complaint was making the Flash into a dork. I guess the explanation was that he was in the beginning of his "superhero" career. Whatever. And making Cyborg's robotics malfunction was timely so as to justify Superman's attack on them, which was a reaction to Cyborg's malfunctioning system attacking Superman. Again, whatever.

Bottom line, what I appreciate is that the producers/writers/directors of Justice League did not make an effort to turn it into a comedy, like the movie Thor. I don't know why movie people seem to think that stories from comics have got to be comic. Not that all are that way. It's the one's that aren't are the ones worth seeing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Killer of Killer Sales Picking Up

I got my annual sales report from my first publisher Melange and it showed a marked increase in book sales over the past year. That was nice. I don't expect to be on the best seller's list any time soon, but it was a nice surprise to see Killer of Killers selling better than ever.

I guess it's like that sometimes. If the trend keeps up, who knows what might happen. I had the idea to send a copy of the two books to Dustin Clare's agent and see if something might happen in the film department regarding those books.

The idea behind that is it seems Dustin Clare's career really isn't taking off like I think it should. And I'm sure like he wishes it would. He's working and making films, but not like Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, or Jason Statham. I think movie producers just haven't found the right vehicle for him yet. And that's where Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes come in.

I mean Jason Statham wasn't all that famous before his Transporter movies catapulted him to stardom. Same with Cruise and Pitt. They each had a movie or a franchise that brought them fame. I'm thinking my Killer books could do that for Dustin Clare. Of course it would need top directors and fight scene coordinators. Like Corey Yuen. He was the man in charge of the Transporter movies, and many other great martial arts movies.

So I tried to contact Dustin Clare's agent, but found out you have to pay to join some website and only then you get the information you need. I passed. Why? Because it's not a sure thing. I can't see myself paying for information that will get me nothing in return. I'm not at that stage yet. If it never becomes a movie, that's fine. Trent Smith will still live on the pages of the books.

And I will get back to writing about the world's greatest martial artist soon. The third book is started, and I plan on finishing it. Some day. Someday soon.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Walking Dead Getting Dumber and Dumber

Since I compared the latest Thor movie with the Pink Panther comedies featuring the comedian Peter Sellers as the inept Inspector Clouseau, I might as well chime in on the state of the Walking Dead TV show. It's getting dumber and dumber, not unlike the movie of the same name.

I mean talk about stupid. And I understand it's the writers making the characters do these stupid things. Last night we had a dude facing a woman holding an RPG pointed straight at him. Now the dude was a member of the hated enemy gang called the Saviors and the dude knew the woman facing him with the RPG was one of the members of a community at war with his gang. Instead of surrendering or running for his life, he makes the stupidest comment. "You ain't gonna use that, little girl," after which the woman fires the RPD and blows him up.

Completely stupid writing. Another example is when Rick, the show's main character, walks alone and unarmed into another enemy camp. It's a camp that had just betrayed him, and he faces the woman who led the betrayal and had shot him point blank. How stupid can you get? This group is a committed ally to the hated Saviors, and the woman had just shot him. She even makes it clear that she had just betrayed him and she had just shot him.

But Rick only answers that she only "grazed" him so he wasn't mad. Stupid writing. I mean what was to stop her or anyone in her community to shoot Rick right then and there? There are so many more examples of just plain stupid writing in the show over the past couple seasons, it's a wonder The Walking Dead remains TV's most popular show. 

Even my favorite TV show, The Blacklist, had a stupid moment last episode. The suitcase full of bones, which the show is not letting viewers know exactly whose bones they are, only that it's a secret that Red Redington is driven to keep, is finally recovered by Red. But does Red even look inside to make sure the bones are there when he's driving off with Tom?

No. Tom had put the bones into a big black leather case, which Red doesn't even wonder why Tom suddenly has a big black leather case with him as they are driving away after Red saved him. You would think Red would wonder why Tom suddenly has that case, and what the heck was inside it. You would think Red would ask, "Say, Tom, where'd you get that big black leather case, and um, just what the heck do you have in there?"

But no. He's content to watch Tom wander off. And only then does Red check the suitcase to make sure the bones are still in there, but of course, they're not. And of course, Tom made off with Red's special bones, having just learned the secret. But again, viewers have no clue what's so special about those bones. Whose bones are they? Liz's mom's bones maybe. But that would be too obvious.

I suppose the answer will come soon enough but in the process of reaching that point I don't appreciate such dumb writing from any show I watch. Lazy writing is not good writing. Stupid writing is even worse. In Blacklist the writing is lazy. In The Walking Dead, it's just stupid. Here's to hoping the writing gets back to the quality the shows had when they began.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thor - the New Inspector Clouseau

I saw the new Thor movie, and I was shocked to see the writers get away with turning Thor into a character not unlike the infamous Inspector Clouseau. Which is not the way the "God of Thunder" should ever be portrayed.

I mean, come on. It seems the Marvel/Disney studios are just itching for comedy. The gritty drama-filled stories we saw when Thor was in the Avengers are not happening anymore. Even Thor's prior solo movies weren't this stupid. Yes, I said it. Stupid.

Not that the Inspector Clouseau movies were stupid. I mean Peter Sellers' portrayal of the inept and stupid Inspector Clouseau was brilliant. That was the character of Clouseau. He was inept and stupid, but lovable to the audience if not the other characters in the movie. It was great comedy.

But Thor is not supposed to be an inept and stupid character. He's the frickin' God of Thunder, not a slapstick clown. A Thor movie should not be a comedy. But that's what they made it into. A comedy like the Pink Panther movies. It was so wrong. And sad.

Gone was the suave, strong, near invincible, and MIGHTY Thor. Instead we get a wimp who's controlled by a coin-sized taser attached to his neck which is activated by remote control the size of a lighter. It didn't work. Thor is not a wimp.  He's the frickin' God of Thunder!

To highlight just what I'm talking about let me point out the moment Thor throws some kind of iron ball against a window expecting it to smash through the window. But does the iron ball smash through the window? No. Just like you would see with Clouseau, the iron ball bounces off the window and rebounds right back to hit Thor in the head, knocking him down like a fool. Or as I've said, like Inspector Clouseau. There were many other examples, but that was the highlight. Or more aptly said in this case, the lowlight.

Yeah, we got to see Thor fight the Hulk to a standstill. And he was actually beating the Hulk in a one-on-one fight until that taser coin attached to his his neck was activated by remote control in the hands of another goofy character played by Jeff Goldblum. It sent Thor into a seizure and subsequent coma which kept him from finishing the fight. So Thor's best scene, beating the Hulk mano y mano was cut short by the little coin on his neck. It was a major let down.

By the way, who's idea was it to show the Hulk's ass? This is a Disney movie? I guess men's asses are all in vogue nowadays. Heaven forbid the movies ever show a woman's ass again. But men's asses? Yeah. After all, Hollywood made us see Jon Snow's ass in that last GOT, but not Daenerys's ass or any other woman's ass. That's taboo now. Hey, Hollywood. I don't think your audience wants to see the Hulk's ass. I certainly didn't. But I digress.

Marvel and Disney are turning the great Marvel heroes into bumbling idiots. Gone are the cool, suave, confident heroes we grew up loving. Now we have to see fools and clowns. At least that's the way it was in the latest Thor movie. It was so wrong. And sad.


Monday, November 20, 2017

The Vase is Better than Ever...

With the rewrites, my novel, The Vase is better than ever. It has vastly improved in the prose, and that was only because I was relentless in making sure the prose is as good as it can be. Sadly that includes parts that I had already submitted. I had submitted to a couple Big Fives and some agents. But Since then I have rewritten many parts. That means, once again, I should have waited before submitting.

It's the same mistake I've made often. Which is being in too much of a hurry to submit. Patience is a virtue, and that has been said often. I tried to instill that virtue, but when it comes to submitting, I guess that particular virtue escapes me. I can only hope that at the stage of writing the manuscript was in at the time I submitted, it was good enough.

My reasoning for improving even the parts that had been submitted is that if the full is requested, then when whoever reads it, they will read an even better version. So that is my hope. I have learned also that being hopeful is almost useless. you hope for this or you hope for that, and it seems that just the fact that you find yourself hoping means that it's already a lost cause.

How many times have you hoped for something that didn't come to pass? Hoping means that something is either impossible or near impossible. And then if the impossible happens, it's more like a miracle. But, yeah, I suppose miracles do happen. So, here's to hoping.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Be Careful with Rewrites

I had finished the rewrite of The Vase, and I have started another rewrite. But I'm catching myself being too picky. I had said before that being picky was a good thing. Being picky is what makes a perfectionist. And it's true, but there comes a point when a piece of work is finished, and going back over it again and again, LOOKING for something to rewrite might not be in its best interest.

For example, I am rewriting scenes that were good to begin with. They didn't need a rewrite. But there I go, thinking it needs a rewrite. Sometimes I spend time rewriting this or that, and then I decide that it was better before the rewrite. That's called wasting time. A writer has got to be able to determine when the writing is done. For good. And when not to rewrite.

Usually I have no problem with that. It's probably that I have these months in front of me waiting for Macmillan Australia to examine my submission which was the first 100 pages. And yes, since I submitted those pages I have indeed rewritten some of those scenes. Which may or may not be a good thing. I had always believed in making your writing better. My point is that sometimes that might not be necessary.

So the answer? Once you've reached a point that you are satisfied, get busy on another work. There is always another story to tell. And even though I had thought I didn't want to write anymore books, and I probably won't, I do have other books in the works.

And there's always my music. I have so many songs that also need to be rewritten. And re-recorded. And I've been doing that too lately. There is a satisfaction in composing your own music. Even if no one else in the world will ever hear them. Or appreciate them. Is that why musicians compose music? So other people can appreciate them? Why would a writer write a book if no one else would ever read those books? I guess a writer would stop if that were the case. And I might. As for the music? I'll at least keep up with that until the songs that need rewriting are done. Then...we'll see.