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.



Friday, October 31, 2014

New Twist in Vengeance Stories

In action movies where there's a great hero seeking vengeance, and the story line is centered almost entirely on that premise, it's almost always because someone in the hero's close circle of family or friends had been murdered. I made it a point not to have it be like that in Killer of Killers. And the movie John Wick wasn't like that either. John Wick's wife had died a natural death. And even though John Wick was a former assassin, there was no need for vengeance.

But when thugs stole his car and killed his dog, (a final gift from his wife,) THAT'S when he went on his mission of vengeance. Yeah, really. For a car. And a dog. But hey, I don't have a problem with that. I mean in every other movie, or book, or story, it's because the hero's wife, or parents, or kids, or someone close to him, (or her,) had been murdered. And that's what set him/her off.

So I welcome the new twist in the action genre. It's what I did in Killer of Killers. For those of you who have not read Killer of Killers, Trent Smith, the main character, being a super great martial artist, just happens to use his skills to bring killers to justice, but not because they killed a family member, or anyone he knew. He does it because he can. And he believes it's the right thing to do.

Of course there's a bunch of other reasons sewn into the story line, but you'll have to read the book to learn them. There's intrigue and suspense, twists and turns, and romance that ends tragically. Well, I'm saying too much already. Find out for yourself. Buy Killer of Killers today.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Second Chance @ 29,000 words

Closing in on 30,000 words on my WIP Second Chance. It's a football story, and it's fitting I would write one. After all, football has been one of my favorite things my entire life. But I was really a failure at it, unfortunately. That doesn't mean I wasn't good. Actually, I was very good. I mean I was a very good football player. Many of my peers, no, most of my peers, no, all of my peers knew I was a very good football player. Some even thought I was good enough to play, well, I won't say pro, but I'll at least say college. But here's the let down. I didn't. And that's why I say I failed at it. Because I didn't try. I didn't even try. I let myself down. And that dream was unfulfilled.

When I said dream, I was speaking metaphorically. But because that dream was unfulfilled, I kept having dreams about it. About football. About playing football. From high school, to college, and even pro. No, really. I had recurring dreams that I was playing football. Real football. Organized football, in high school, college, and even pro. It was really weird, like I was dreaming the life I might have had, perhaps should have had if I didn't quit. It's like the single greatest regret in my life.

And since something as unimportant as football is the biggest regret in my life, I must have had a pretty good life. That's the way I see it, now. Maybe it's better I didn't play. I might have had a terrible injury. You never know. But the fact that I don't know, is why I kept having those dreams.

Strangely, when Killer of Killers got published, I stopped having that recurring football dream. It's like being a published author filled that "void" in my life, and was the cure to that unfulfilled dream.

Until recently. I had another football dream last May. I chronicled it here in the blog. It's the dream that inspired my WIP Second Chance. I think it's a good story. Not my best, not my second best, but a good story. A football story. I'm writing it between the revisions and edits to Killer Eyes, the sequel to Killer of Killers. I'm going back and forth on those two. It's fun, working on two books at the same time. I kind of did that with Killer of Killers and The Vase, too.

Instead of getting one book written, I get two. And there's still my John Dunn book waiting in the wings. Can't wait to get back to that one. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 27, 2014

John Wick--the Kind of Movie I Like

I finally took my family to the movies this past weekend, but it wasn't Fury we saw, because the wife went with us, and she doesn't like war movies. So we chose to see John Wick instead. And that was the kind of movie I like. It fits into the same genre that my book Killer of Killers is in. An action thriller. The main character, John Wick, even had some martial arts skills. It was my kind of movie.

Yeah, John Wick was an assassin, and yeah there was near-non-stop action, just like Killer of Killers. But in Killer of Killers, Trent Smith isn't an assassin. He is a killer of killers, however, and he is the best at it, at least when it comes to hand to hand combat. Because he's not an assassin, he doesn't use guns, or sniper rifles with scopes, or anything like that. When he kills, he's up close and personal, like I explained in an earlier blog post.

So did Keanu Reeves play a believable assassin? Well, yeah, since he used a gun. Anyone can use a gun, pull a trigger, and shoot someone. Anyone. But there were some believable hand to hand fights in there, and it was all choreographed well. I liked it. It was a good movie. My kind of movie.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why are Martial Arts Stories the Best?

Why are martial arts stories the best? Because of the conflict! A story needs conflict. That's one of the first lessons an author will learn. You have to have conflict to make a story interesting. Otherwise it will have no impact. Meaning it will be boring. Would Star Wars have been so successful if there was no conflict? Of course not. And one of the reasons it was so interesting was the conflict. You know. The Jedi Knights vs. the agents of the evil Galactic Empire.

And every great story will have its version of conflict. But with martial arts stories, that conflict is up close and personal. It's deadly, it's exciting, it's hands down incredibly in your face. And the book Killer of Killers has more of it than any story I know. Trent Smith, the world's greatest martial artist, honed his skills in the underground fighting circuits of Asia. But that was only after he had perfected his fighting skills in the Academy of Budo Ju Jitsu where he trained for over twenty years.

He's not just any guy who trained at a martial arts studio. He's particularly suited for martial arts. Take Kareem Abdul Jabbar for example. Kareem was a seven foot two inch basketball star. And being seven foot two inches tall, he was particularly suited for basketball. But he loved the Bruce Lee martial arts movies, and even got to know Bruce Lee. He took lessons from Bruce Lee, and even got to be in a Bruce Lee movie. But watching a man that tall performing martial arts was comical.

Trent Smith is five foot nine inches tall and 195 pounds of solid muscle. And that is the perfect size for a martial artist. He's incredibly fast, too. Not meaning he's an Olympic sprinter, but his reflexes, his reaction time is off the charts. And that's one of the reasons he's the best. He can react much faster than his opponents. Like a mongoose fighting a cobra.

Actually, the cobra/mongoose comparison is an apt one. As fast as cobras are, the mongoose is much faster. When the two animals are squared off against each other, the mongoose wins every time. Because the cobra will strike, but the mongoose dodges the strike, and then strikes back with such lighting fast reflexes, it scores a deadly bite, killing the cobra. It's why people in India often have a pet mongoose around. Ever heard of the Rikki-Tikki-Tavi story? Check it out.

So yeah, Trent Smith is a lot like a mongoose when it fights a cobra. As good as his opponents are, he is even better. But of course being a tenth degree black belt helps. But it's his speed, training, and experience that wins the day for him in all of his fights. And those fights are up close and personal. They're deadly, exciting, and they're incredibly in your face.

Yes, the conflict in Killer of Killers and the upcoming sequel Killer Eyes is all of that. Conflict on almost every page. But I leave enough room in there for mystery, suspense, and yes, even romance. There should always be some degree of romance. Why? Because that's the real world. Men and women coexist, and they fall in love. That's not just Hollywood. Hey, it happened to me. And I'd bet it happened to you. So why wouldn't it happen to Trent Smith, too? It does. Trent is a serious guy, and he's very sincere. He's not like James Bond, who fools around with any pretty woman he comes across. No. Trent Smith is not superficial like that. He doesn't use women. Never. Not like Bond.

Hey, nothing against James Bond, btw. Just saying Trent's interactions with women are not like that. But since women do exist, and Trent is a good looking man, then romance happens. It's life in the real world, and in the Killer Series. Check out Killer of Killers today. Then you'll be ready for Killer Eyes when it comes out. And that is going to be soon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Martial Arts Stories--the Best Stories

When I consider which movies, (or stories,) I've liked the most throughout my life, I always conclude it was movies or stories that had great martial arts action. That means great characters or great heroes taking on bad guys with something other than a gun. They use their bare hands. Or as martial artists say, empty hands. That, to me, is real fighting, or real self defense. Someone attacks you and you take them on with just your bare hands. And kick the shit out of them.

Movies that come to mind are my favorites like the Transporter movies, and the Bourne movies. There's some great  martial arts fighting in those movies. I would like to include the Bruce Lee movies, but those movies are dated, and they don't really hold up to today's standards, imo.

Which is why I wrote Killer of Killers. Trent Smith, the main character, is a martial artist. The world's greatest martial artist, in fact. He detests guns and knives. But being the world's greatest martial artist also means he's an expert in a lot of different weapons. Not guns, and not necessarily knives, either, but swords, like the katana, and a slew of other weapons used by martial artists. Even so, Trent's weapon of choice is his bare hands. Empty hands. And he's the best. No one can even compare. Not even other master martial artists. It's like he's the undisputed champion.

But to make a movie about the world's greatest martial artist, or a book, it means you have to have a great story. Which is why I worked so hard on Killer of Killers, and its upcoming sequel, Killer Eyes. Can't wait for that one, but I'm making sure it's as good as it could be. It has to be flawless. Not just the spelling, or the grammar, but the story, the sequences, and the prose. Everything. I'm trying harder than ever. And it's working, because I've learned so much about writing since I began writing books. It's like anything. The more you do it, the better you get. And I'm better than ever as a result. Stay tuned. Killer Eyes is coming soon. But if you haven't yet, start with Killer of Killers. After all, that one is Book One in the Killer Series. Killer Eyes is Book Two.

Monday, October 20, 2014

No, Didn't See Fury

Well, I didn't get to see Fury. I was busy watching my sons' football games. One on Saturday and one on Sunday. One a college game, and one a Pop Warner game. One was a loss and one was a victory. One looks like it will be in the playoffs, and other no. But still, a proud father was two great sons.

As for Fury, well, we'll see when I see it. Will keep you posted.

Friday, October 17, 2014

WWII Movie--Fury

I saw a trailer for this new WWII movie called Fury, and it looked good. I've always liked WWII movies. Battle of the Bulge and The Longest Day are classics, and then there are my personal favorites, starting with To Hell and Back, which is the true story of Audie Murphy, starrring the real Audie Murphy. Next, I have a sentimental favorite called Attack! starring Jack Palance, and then there's my all time favorite WWII movie, which is Cross of Iron, starring James Coburn, Maximilliam Schell, David Warner, and James Mason. (All of whom have a place on my favorite actors list.)

In case you're wondering, Saving Private Ryan didn't make my favorites list. Yeah, it was a good movie, but I had too many problems with that one.

When I first heard of Fury, I thought it was about Nick Fury, and his WWII experiences. Nick Fury was the sergeant leading the "Howling Commandos" and it was a Marvel Comic Book called Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. And with the slew of Marvel Comics heroes being made into movies over the past ten years or so, I was sure I was right.

But it's not Sgt. Fury from the Marvel universe. Not even close. It stars Brad Pitt as a WWII tank commander, and from what I've heard, they go behind enemy lines on some mission. I plan on seeing the movie, maybe this weekend, but from that basic information about the plot, it reminds me of the plot from Cross of Iron. Cross of Iron was told from the German perspective about a squad of German soldiers led by James Coburn who are also sent behind enemy lines. But that story is on the Eastern Front, and the Germans are fighting the Russians. But it really was a great movie. Director Sam Peckinpah was at his best.

As for Fury, well, we'll see how that one compares. Will let you know.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jack Reacher withTom Cruise--Good Movie

I was looking for a movie to watch on Netflix the other day, and decided to watch Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise. It was a good movie. Jack Reacher turned out to be a pretty cool character. And that's what I like in movies. A cool main character who's a great hero. That's why I liked most (but not all) of the James Bond movies, the Clint Eastwood Man with no Name movies, and the more recent Jason Bourne movies with Matt Damon, and the Transporter movies with Jason Statham. They all have a cool main character who knows how to fight and how to be cool. They're great heroes.

I did like Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible movies, but Jack Reacher isn't a spy. He is an ex military man, though, and uses those military skills to get to the bottom of murders which he at first thought were committed by someone he knew in his military days. He hooks up with a defense lawyer whose father is the prosecutor, btw, to uncover the facts in the case. And wouldn't you know, this defense lawyer is a real hot chick. No, really, she's beautiful. A very beautiful blond woman. But that's okay. Who said a woman can't be a good defense lawyer, and also be a beautiful blond woman? I say it's possible, so let's run with it.

And run with it Tom Cruise does. Sure there's romance brewing between Jack Reacher and the defense lawyer, but why shouldn't there be? After all, the blond lawyer is young, single, and did I mention very beautiful? And, of course, Jack Reacher is the perennially eligible bachelor! So, there you go. A perfect setting for a romance. BUT--the movie does not focus on romance. It focuses on the case, which is getting to the bottom of the murders. Jack Reacher does, and that's the plot of a very well written story.

Btw, I'll admit to envisioning these two actors playing the roles of Trent Smith and Samantha Jones in my book Killer of Killers. They may not be perfect for those roles, but the way they handled the roles in Jack Reacher proved they would have worked well in Killer of Killers, too.

As for the movie Jack Reacher, it's intriguing, engaging, full of action, and never boring. I liked it, and I might even put it up there on my favorite movie list which includes Transporter, Bourne, and Bond. Yeah, it was that good. At least to me. Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise--good movie.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dracula Untold-a Different Take

Took my sons to see Dracula Untold last weekend, and we liked it well enough. It was a different kind of Dracula movie, the kind that I wanted to see, too. It dealt with Dracula's origin, back in the Vlad the Impaler days. Don't remember the years, exactly, but it was when the Ottoman Empire was at its height, and was threatening Eastern Europe. Of course, as we all know, the Ottoman advance was stopped at Vienna, and the Turks were never able to conquer Europe. Kudos to Europe.

Dracula Untold focused on Vlad's story, but of course, fictionalized to include the vampire element. In Dracula Untold, the Romanians, being a smaller and weaker European country, and being in close proximity to Turkey, were subject to paying tribute to the Turks, and even providing the Turks with boys to be trained as soldiers to fight for the Turks. And this is the crux of the story. When one of those boys was Vlad's own son, that was when he drew the line.

Now from what I know of history, Vlad the Impaler got his nickname from impaling Turks. I read a story of how the Turks were marching on Vlad's domain, but when they came across a "forest" of their impaled countrymen, they were so grossed out, they changed their minds and turned around. In this movie, it was Vlad's vampire powers, that won the day. I don't mind the fictionalized account. It's a movie. A vampire movie. So what do you expect? Vampires, of course.

But it was a unique angle on the vampire myth, and even though this angle, (going back to the Vlad the Impaler days) was touched on before with Gary Oldman in the lead role, this movie focused on that period for the entire story, (until the last couple minutes, anyway.) Which was fine by me. I would like to see a historically accurate movie based on Vlad the Impaler. Without the vampire element I mean. That would be a cool historical drama, no?

Friday, October 10, 2014

What Do People Read?

When it comes to books and reading, just what do people read?  I keep hearing that women read more than men. Thus, the popular women's books, like Romance, Chick Lit, and even women-targeted erotica. Every time I research publisher's websites, it's very common to find large sections that feature books with shirtless men on the covers. I've mentioned this before, because it seems ridiculous to me. I'm an artist, myself, although I never focused on book covers as my subject matter. Still, if I were to be a book cover artist, I would like to believe I could be more imaginative than to have shirtless or naked men on every single cover. Is that what draws a woman's interest to read a book? Shirtless men? I can't believe that. I just can't.

But whatever, the point is that women read books. More than men. That is something I do believe. Because most of the male friends I've had, in the past and even now, don't read books. Not even one. Not even if their life depended on it. Maybe one or two read books. One or two out of twenty. That's not a lot. But women? That figure would rise to ten or more. Significantly more. So... What does an author do? Write books that women would read. What else? I write books that women would read, but I don't target women as readers. So I don't write Romance, Chick Lit, or erotica for women. My books are action and suspense oriented. Yeah, there's some romance in them. In all of my books there's romance. Not erotica, though. Although in a couple the romance scenes do get a little steamy. But not too steamy. Nothing graphic. But I think women will like my books. Those women who have read them have told me that they like them. Some said they even "loved" them.

And why wouldn't they? There are strong female characters in all of my books. Even the Killer series. Samantha Jones, for instance, in Killer of Killers is a strong-willed police detective. Sure, she is beautiful. But who said a woman can't be both beautiful and strong? I can think of a lot of women in real life who were both beautiful and strong. In the sequel, Killer Eyes, the main antagonist, Ming Sang, is a very strong woman. She is evil, but she is very, very strong.

In The Vase, there are a couple of strong women. Mary Levin is an Israeli woman who works for Shin Bet. You don't work for Shin Bet, whether you're a man or a woman, unless you are strong. And in the John Dunn story, John Dunn's wife, Catherine Pierce, is a very strong woman. She had to be. Otherwise, how could she deal with 49 of her husband's other wives?

John Dunn is a Historical Fiction novel. I've heard women do read those kinds of books. And there is romance in there, with Dunn's fifty wives. Clearly I can't document all fifty of his romances, but I do touch on a few of them. The focus, however, is his first wife. Catherine Pierce.

But when it comes to what women read, I remember when a female friend asked me what I was going to write next. It was when I was planning the John Dunn story. I told her I was going to write the story of John Dunn. I explained he was the best friend to the Zulu king Cetshwayo, and how he had fifty African wives and a hundred and fifty children. She seemed taken aback by that. She countered with a suggestion. She suggested that I write instead about an African queen who had fifty husbands. It was like...really? I told her she could write that book.

Look, I said that the John Dunn story is based on REAL HISTORY. REAL LIFE. If you want to write some fantasy about a woman with fifty husbands, be my guest. But that's fantasy. John Dunn, and the African kings really did have fifty wives. EACH. Some had even more. Does that offend women? Maybe it does. And if it does, don't blame me. I've only got one wife. I've only ever had one wife. So let's move on, shall we? The point is that in this real life historical event, there was  real romance. Albeit with a lot of wives. That's not the point of the story. The Zulu wars are. And it's an exciting book. Can't wait to get back to it.

But first, I've got to finish revising and polishing Killer Eyes. Every time I get to that book, I'm reminded just how strong a woman can be. But the woman in Killer Eyes just happens to be evil. Now don't tell me women can't be evil. They sure can. And Ming Sang is one of them. Stay tuned. Killer Eyes should be out soon. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Martial Arts Books--The Killer Series

I think martial arts books, specifically martial arts novels, are becoming more popular. You have some popular ones already out there, like the Jason Bourne series, which became successful movies. And you have a lot of martial arts books in China, which Chinese movie makers have made into some pretty good movies, too.

One of my favorite Chinese movie makers is Corey Yuen, who had a hand in the Transporter movies, with Jason Statham. He's made many other movies as well. I have one wish when it comes to the books that I've written. And that wish is for Corey Yuen to read my Killer martial arts novels, and then make them into movies. I have no doubt that Corey Yuen would make those books into great movies. Starting with Killer of Killers. Then the soon to be released Killer Eyes. And finally, the as yet unwritten series finale, The Killers Guild.

No one does martial arts movies better than Corey Yuen. He's the best. But how do I get Killer of Killers into his hands? How can I get the word out? An agent? How do you get a movie or film agent? When I Google 'Film Agents,' all I get are agents who want to represent actors. Not agents who want to represent authors. This is my quandary.

Maybe if I just say, "Hey Corey Yuen, check out my book Killer of Killers! It will make a great movie. Read it and decide for yourself." Then he will hear me and read it and decide for himself. Does it work like that? Somehow I don't think so.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Vase-Crisis in the Middle East

I'm very sorry to see so many problems in the Middle East. It's as if the problems over there will never be solved. The problems seem to only get worse. In fact, the problems seem to be spreading--to Africa, to Europe, and even to America.

I remember when Islamic terrorists captured Russian children at a Russian school a few years ago. I also remember that the Russians killed all the terrorists and buried their bodies in pig skins. I see Islamic terrorists capturing American journalists and cutting their heads off. I heard that when terrorists captured Russian diplomats, the Russian response was so quick and so effective that their diplomats were released unharmed and returned safely to Russia. It seems that the Russians have more effective means of dealing with those terrorists than Americans do, since their people didn't get their heads cut off.

But this is not a political blog. It's a writing blog. And I only mention those problems because my book, The Vase, deals with some of those types of problems. Islamic terrorist problems, that is. The Vase takes place in Israel, and the Israelis are dealing with it. That means the Israel Security Agency, AKA Shin Bet, is dealing with it. Captain Benny Mathias is the head of Kidon. Kidon works for Shin Bet, Mossad, and even Aman. Those are the Israeli institutions that deal with terrorism.

At the center of the story is a humble Palestinian potter. And his vase is the catalyst. It's a very special vase. How special? Well, it has ancient images recorded into its grooves, which are projected when he spins it. Check out the first couple of chapters in a sample on the publisher's website or on Amazon. I think you'll be intrigued enough to buy an eBook. It's only $2.99. Thanks.