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, July 18, 2018

The Vase, Second Chance, and Heart of a Zulu

Since two of my publishers have gone out of business, three of my books are out of print. The Vase, Second Chance, and Heart of a Zulu are no longer available with two exceptions. On Amazon, there are two more books left of Second Chance, and one more book of Heart of a Zulu.

Because of that, the price of Second Chance has skyrocketed. Two hundred forty-nine dollars. That hasn't happened with Heart of a Zulu yet. So if you're inclined to read a true story that takes place in South Africa during the nineteenth century, you'd better jump on that. It's still listed at 14 dollars.

As for Second Chance, well, I don't expect anyone to pay over two hundred bucks for a book. Even if there are only two copies left. I am, after all, trying to find new publishers pretty soon. Unless some collector wants to get the now rare copies of first editions. There are collectors who do that. Usually they are well-to-do people who have the money to spend on thing like that.

The first issue of Superman sold for over a million dollars. And that was a ten cent comic book. So you never know. In fifty years, or a hundred years, anything goes.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Agents? I Wonder

Trying to land an agent again. My first effort resulted in finding an agent but that was short-lived. And nothing happened as a result. I went straight to publishers after that, and had some success. The Vase was seemingly the most popular. It was accepted by five publishers. I went with the publisher I thought would be the best, and it was in several ways. They taught me a lot about writing a novel. And I took that knowledge and applied it to all of my novels, and they are all better for it.

Killer of Killers drew a lot of interest as well. Not just from agents but from publishers. Although only one publisher offered a contract, compared with the five contracts offered for The Vase. But that publisher is still kickin'. Two of the publishers who offered contracts for The Vase, and with whom I signed, folded. Thus the rights are reverted to me. Another publisher with whom I signed had internal trouble, including lawsuits by former staff. I chronicled all of it on the blog here, so I don't need to get into it again. It was a frustrating experience

The bottom line I discovered is that people don't really care about you, or your contracts or your money. They only care about themselves. Of course, I knew that already. So it was no surprise. You can't really trust anyone. Not in the publishing business. Not in any business. It's what I teach my sons. As a matter of fact, my youngest son asked me recently what my most important advice to him would be. I said without hesitation 'Don't trust anyone.' I've told him before. Both of my sons. Many times. You just can't trust anyone is this world and it's a shame really.

Which means being an agent is an oxymoron. An agent is supposed to be someone you can trust. But you can't trust anyone. Still I'm seeking an agent. It's the best chance to make the Big Five. And I do want that. So I have no recourse. We'll see how that goes.

For me, it wasn't an agent, but a publisher who became an untrustworthy entity. Here's a lesson I learned and I did apply it the second time. You cannot trust a publisher who doesn't sign his own contract. I chronicled the happenings here on the blog some years ago. And when a later publisher tried to do the same thing to me, I told them that.

Here's the trick. A publisher will send you a contract unsigned by them. A first time author will sign it and send it back, thinking the publisher will then sign it and send you a copy. But that didn't happen. So I learned a lesson. Then when a second publisher did that to me, this time I knew better. I told them that publishers who don't sign their own contracts are publishers who cannot be trusted. I said that. Straight up. So then they got on the ball and signed it and sent it back to me.

See? Lessons learned and applied. But sadly three of the other publishers who offered contracts for The Vase simply folded. So that's another reason I'd prefer the Big Five. They won't fold.

But you take what you can get. When will I give up? Who knows. You keep trying. The Vase, Heart of a Zulu, and Second Chance will find homes again. We'll see which homes. Soon I hope.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Homeland - Done - Okay

All right. I'm finished watching Homeland. Not because I didn't like it anymore. I'm done because I've watched the final episode of the final season. Or at least the final season that had been aired. Is there going to be a season eight? I don't even know. As far as I'm concerned, it's okay if there is. I'll probably watch it if there is. As for the season I just finished? Season seven? It was okay. A bit better than season six at least. Well, the two seasons were really one big season, meaning the story arc covered seasons six and seven.

It was about the first woman president more than anything else. Don't know if the producers and writers of the show expected Hillary to win and made their show a parallel story for that scenario. My guess is they did expect Hillary to win, because everyone did. But whatever. The show was on the decline, and even though it leveled out for season seven, I was not much interested anymore.

And that's because of what they did to Peter Quinn. He was a great character, and like I said before, was half the show. Carrie is able to carry the show by herself, but like I said before, without Quinn the show was only half as good. Which was still good, though. And like I said it ended okay.

That is if it is the end. My guess is there will be a season eight, and will pick up where they left off. With Carrie being returned to America in a prisoner exchange with the Russians. After seven months of imprisonment and no meds for her bipolar condition, she looked like a wretch there at the end. Totally off her rocker. Again, Claire Danes is a fabulous actress. I don't think anyone else could have been better for the part.

So now what? Flash? Arrow? Or another show that's been out for years that I haven't watched? I didn't last more than a couple episodes of Empire, nor did I last for more that two episodes of Westworld. And I ended up hating Counterpart. I absolutely loved Limitless, but it was canceled after one season, so there you go. Not much more in the TV world for me, it seems. Not when the shows I love are canceled. Or they just run out of gas like The Blacklist did.

Maybe I'll go back to writing my own stories. But probably not. I'm still trying to find new homes for The Vase, Heart of a Zulu, and Second Chance. And while I'm doing that I'll be improving the prose for them at the same time. Might as well. A book can always be written better, I've found. So I will keep making them better until they are published again.

At that point I may go back to writing new stories. Or maybe not. But I probably will.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Homeland Still Not Predictable

I'll say this much for Homeland. It may not be as good as it used to be, but it's still not predictable. That's a good thing, btw. It seems that that Wellington dude is not the guy who made the murder of the general dude happen. It seems he was set up. And it seems to be a good story arc after all.

But so what. The show still blew it with the demise of the Quinn character. He was half the show. And without him, as I said before, the show's quality has been halved. It seems that this Wellington dude is a good guy, but a sappy good guy. He was "played" by a Russian spy to take the blame for the murder of that general who was sent to prison.

So, Wellington, although amiable, is more like the sap I had called him. He was duped by allowing the Russian spy to make it look like he was abusing her, when he wasn't.

Right now I'm about half done with season seven, and once I'm finished with season seven I'll be done with the series. Unless there's a season eight. Not sure if there is. If there is, I may watch it. But I won't miss it if there isn't. That's what happens when you ruin what once was a great show. People stop watching. So whatever. Still have to see the latest seasons of Flash and Arrow. Let's see how they turn out. Haven't been so pleased with them lately either. We'll see.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Homeland-First Two Episodes Season Seven

Well, after watching the first two episodes of season seven of Homeland, my theory of the new president being drugged seems to be wrong. This Wellington dude does not seem to have taken control and I'm not sure this makes the show better or not.

It's turning out that the other option is what is happening. The new president turned loony. Ultra paranoid might be a better description. And as far as Wellington is concerned, he might be the loony one. Well, insofar as he was willing to murder someone to keep his job.

But none of that matters. My biggest complaint is that the show has turned America, and/or Americans into the bad guy(s). So since season six and now into season seven, we have Americans fighting Americans. It's all a domestic scenario now instead of an international one.

And again, it's not what I signed up for when I started watching the show. One of the reasons I liked the show so much was that Peter Quinn was a bad ass assassin. But now that he's gone, the show seems one dimensional. It's now only about Carrie.

At first Carrie was good enough to "carry" the show. With Quinn's addition, it made the show twice as good. But the character of Quinn was so good, he was stealing the show as I've pointed out before. So they get rid of Quinn and we're back to just Carrie. It was like they tried to improve the show through subtraction. That only works when you had a character who was a detriment to a show. And that was NOT the case with Quinn.

He was an equal hero to Carrie's hero, and now the result is the show's quality has been halved. Add that point to the point that they are changing gears as to the show's antagonists it makes for a huge disappointment to a show about which I had been raving.

No more raves seem to be in store for Homeland. But with seasons one through five, I suppose it had a great run. It seems most TV series tend to run out of gas eventually. It happened to Blacklist after its third season. So there you go.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Homeland Season Six

It sucked. Really. They ruined my favorite character and then killed him off. Yeah, yeah, he died as a hero saving the lives of Carrie and the president-elect, but so what.

To me it was like this. Carrie was the star of the show. No doubt. From the beginning. And Claire Danes did a fantastic job of acting. I believe no actress could have done better. She was tops.

Rupert Friend as CIA assassin Peter Quinn
But then they introduced a new character. Peter Quinn, played by Rupert Friend from Hitman Agent 47 fame. And just like he was in Hitman Agent 47, he was a hitman. An assassin. For the CIA. Rupert Friend is a great actor too. He was great as Agent 47, and he was great as super assassin Peter Quinn. I was thinking he might be great as Trent Smith from my Killer Series. (But no, he's too tall: six foot one.) But the character of Quinn was so great that he was stealing the show from Carrie, (Claire Danes.)

But of course we couldn't have that. Meaning we couldn't be allowed to have someone steal the show from Carrie. So what do they do? They turn him into a brain-damaged, handicapped, near crippled sideshow. And then they finished the job and killed him.

Right. So there goes my interest in the show. The entire Season Six sucked. From start to finish. All twelve episodes. In Episode One we saw Quinn's disability, and in Episode Twelve we saw him die. Just great. Not my cup of tea for a fictional story that had a great hero.

Make no mistake, I still believe Carrie is a great hero. Sure she makes mistakes. It was her mistake that turned Quinn into the brain-damaged person he became. And that was not what I ordered. I don't mean any disrespect to any brain-damaged persons out there, but watching the antics of a brain-damaged person was not very appealing to me.

So the two characters who were there from the beginning and are still there going into Season Seven are Carrie and Saul. And what does Season Seven have in store? It seems this new president is going loony. At least that's the impression the final shots of Season Six's finale implied. We see her sitting at her desk with this loony look on her face while everyone who had helped her avoid assassination, including Saul but not including Carrie, is being arrested. It could be she was drugged. No further clues were given.

My feeling is this: There's a new character by name of Wellington. And I predict it's this Wellington guy who is taking over the presidency while keeping the president in a drug induced haze. It's not original. It's been done before. Sheesh, it was the plot of a Star Trek episode from the original series. It was the episode when Captain Kirk and the Enterprise visited a planet that had copied the Nazis. A Federation guy had implemented the Nazi system of economic growth to bring stability to an otherwise floundering native population. But then the Federation guy's chief of staff drugged him and kept him in a drug-induced haze while he took over and proceeded with the original Nazi "policy" of extermination and war.

Yeah, it's a plot that we've seen many times since. So is that what's going on? Is the president drugged, or is the president really going loony? My guess is the former. Will it be worth watching? Don't know. Season six wasn't. That's for sure.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Homeland Peaks, then Flops

I watched through season five of Homeland, and as good as it already was, it was only getting better and better. By the time Season five ended, I really thought it was better than ever. Then came Season Six. Just like Blacklist, it flopped. I've watched the first two episodes, now, of Season Six of Homeland, and....BORING! BORING! BORING!

Sheesh, what a let down. I had been raving about Homeland ever since I first started watching it. And I was all set to continue raving about it after the last episode of Season Five. But now.... YUCK!

First, the star and heroine of the show, Carrie, is no longer working for (or with) the CIA. It's been an on again off again thing the last few seasons, which was frustrating, but they made it work. But now, not only is she not working for or with the CIA, she's working against them. And the show has actually made the CIA and the FBI the bad guys. And to me, that's a load of crap.

Why? Because that's NOT what I bargained for when I signed up to watch this series. But wait. It gets worse. Yeah, you guessed it. The MUSLIMS are the good guys. Or let's put it this way. They are the aggrieved party now. They're the victims.

Look, I know full well there are good Muslims. They are human beings like any other group of people. Good, bad, wonderful, horrible, and everything in between. Like any other people. I've known quite a few myself. But the premise of the show was fighting the radical ones. The ones who are the TERRORISTS. It's no secret that there are radical Muslim terrorists who kill and brag about how they want to kill Americans, and Jews, too, and anyone else for that matter who doesn't subscribe to their version of Islam. Even other Muslims!

And through Season Five, those were the bad guys. And by the way, kudos to  Homeland for including in their story-lines, not only the radical bad ones, but the good ones as well. There was a doctor who saved Quinn, for instance. A good man. A good Muslim man. I had no problem with that. But now to turn everything around? For what? For (god forbid,) political  correctness? Just like I said with Blacklist and Taken, when they did that, it's BULLSHIT. Why can't we do away with this political correctness crap? It ruins everything, and we didn't need it.

Why? Because Homeland had already established that there certainly are good Muslims out there. Good ones who help America fight the bad ones. Remember Fara? She was a Muslim woman who was also a CIA agent fighting the bad Muslims. Until one of those bad Muslims murdered her. Which I was saddened to see. I really liked Fara. She was one of my favorite characters. Yeah, a Muslim woman was one of my favorite characters. But in Season Six they've made the Muslims the victims and made the CIA and FBI the bad guys! I don't buy it.

Can it get worse? Yes. Another of my favorite characters was Peter Quinn. A total bad ass, who was a great fighter, and a great killer of bad guys. And that doesn't just include Muslim bad guys. One of my favorite scenes was when he had sneaked into the CIA director's personal residence, and warned him that if anything happened to a particular someone, the director would find him in his residence again. Because he "kills bad guys!" You see, Quinn was supposed to kill that particular someone until he realized that that particular someone WASN'T a bad guy.

Of course I loved that scene and that line. It was almost a scene straight from my own book, Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes. Trent Smith could had said the same thing word for word.

But now, in Season Six, Quinn is reduced to a brain damaged, handicapped, drug addict. And it is very annoying to see him in the scenes they have written for him now. It's more than annoying, actually. They've reduced Quinn from a terrific character who was very close to stealing the show from Carrie, to an uninteresting sideshow. It makes me want to stop watching the show.

So, like I said. I'm only two episodes into Season Six. And there's a Season Seven as well. So will I make it that far? At this rate, I'm not sure I'll finish Season Six. They better fix Quinn. And fast. Or I'm done. And they better stop trying so hard to convince me that Muslims can be good guys. Because I already knew that. They had already established that. All they're doing to the show now is turning it into bullshit. And that's a shame. It was so good.