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.



Saturday, November 29, 2014

Polishing Up-The Slowest Process

You'd think the first draft would be the slowest part of writing a book. Or the second draft revision stage. Or the third draft revision stage. Nope. It's the final stage of polishing your prose. I've learned this over and again. And the reason is because each time you do that you think it's going to be your last time.

I've said it so many times. It goes like this. "Okay, now that I've got all the POV issues corrected, all the timeline issues corrected, all the event sequences corrected, all of everything corrected, THIS will be my last read-through, to improve the prose here and there, just to make sure it's good to go.

But every time I do that, I improve the prose so much, that I feel I'd better read though it one more time. And the same thing happens. I improve it so much more that I say, well okay, maybe one more time. And then again. And again.

Yeah, you get a better written book doing that, but it's frustrating, because you thought it was going to be the last time. And it wasn't. And then you think the next time is going to be the last time. But it wasn't. And that's where I am with Killer Eyes right now. It's so ready for submission, but I can't bring myself to submit it. I know there's more I'll improve, so I have to wait.

You see, I've learned this lesson twice now. First with Killer of Killers, and then with The Vase. For both of them I thought I had a great, polished manuscript. But after submitting them, the manuscript had to be improved and improved and improved. Now for those, being my first two manuscripts, it was BECAUSE they were submitted is why they were able to be improved. I had EDITORS who pointed out to me the things that I had overlooked while improving them on my own. For those two books, I had experienced editors, and it had to happen that way.

And yeah, I'll still have editors when I submit Killer Eyes, but I do not want to go through multiple edits again, nor will I want to resort to a second edition release again. I want Killer Eyes to be submitted, go through a round or two of edits and then Bingo, it's released. And it's as it should be. Being my third published novel, of course, it makes sense.

So I'm not submitting Killer Eyes until I myself and completely satisfied based on all I've learned from submitting those first two times around. It's called experience. And I have that now.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Now, The Vase Accepted, too

Well, that was fast. The Vase has just been accepted into the list of books available from The Conservative Bookstore. Here's the link: http://www.conservativebookstore.com/fiction/119/the-vase.

It took several weeks for Killer of Killers to be accepted, but The Vase was accepted just one day after I submitted it. Maybe things are flowing faster over there at this point, or something. Whatever. Here's hoping that browsers discover the books and buy them. That's all.

Like I said yesterday, I'm not a political person. I just want people to buy the books. Pretty soon, Killer Eyes will be published, and I'll want people to buy that one too. But I would think readers should read Killer of Killers first. Then Killer Eyes. And that's because Killer Eyes takes up right where Killer of Killers leaves off.

As for The Vase? It's a stand alone story. It doesn't mean there can't be a sequel. Right now I'm not planning a sequel. But if I did, which character would I follow? From the list of main characters in there, it would be a tough choice. There's the Palestinian potter, Muhsin Muhabi. His son, Naji. There's the university art professor, Hiram Weiss. And there's the Shin Bet operative/IDF captain, Benny Mathias. And don't forget the American ghost hunter, Harvey Holmes.

Maybe I could write another story where they all come together again. Hhmmnn. Right now, it's all about finishing Killer Eyes, John Dunn, and Second Chance. And there's also my MG/YA novel, Inside the Outhouse that's still on the backburner. We'll see.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Killer of Killers Accepted By Online Bookstore

There's an online bookstore, which I don't even remember how I became aware of it. It's called The Conservative Bookstore, and I don't even know why it's called that. The word 'conservative' can have several different meanings, and I'm not even sure which of those several meanings would apply to this bookstore. It could range anywhere from a book's content to a person's political agenda.

I'm not a political person myself. In fact, arguments about politics, race, and religion disgust me. All I know is that I want to get my books into as many different bookstores as possible to promote sales, so I asked them if they would make Killer of Killers one of the books in their bookstore.

Well, today they did. Here's the link: http://www.conservativebookstore.com/fiction/114/killer-of-killers

I will put it up for a permanent link somewhere on the blog, as well.

Next, I'll tell them about The Vase, and see what they say. Don't know if the events in The Vase would qualify it for a book on their website, but I didn't know if they'd take Killer of Killers either. Since they did, maybe they'll take The Vase, too. We'll see.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Killer Eyes, John Dunn, and Second Chance

Talk about Works in Progress. I have three WIPs going on right now. All at the same time. Killer Eyes, John Dunn, and Second Chance.

Killer Eyes is on its last read-through. I said that a million times already, I know, but this time has GOT to be the last read-through. But who knows. I might end up saying that a million more times. The thing is that the more you read through it, the more you improve it, the better it turns out to be. It happened with Killer of Killers and The Vase. And it's happening with Killer Eyes, too.

And there's my other book called John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu. That will probably take until summer to complete. And then there will be more read-throughs, of course. There's one scene I didn't write that I should probably put in there. It's when the Zulu warriors are getting so itchy for a fight, that they attack another Zulu regiment. That's how bad they wanted to fight. And there's two reasons why I should put it in there. One, it reinforces one of the reasons why the Anglo Zulu War erupted.

Yes, the English pushed the war onto the Zulus, but the Zulus themselves WANTED to fight. War was the Zulu culture. And they had already had wars with pretty much all their neighboring tribes. The English were pushing for war, and the Zulus were not a people to back down from any war. Not even against the white men, who had already demonstrated superior fighting power by then. But what the Zulus had experienced in fighting white men was no modern army. They had only fought bands of Boers, (Dutch descendants who had colonized South Africa centuries before.)

But even the Dutch ultimately got the better of the Zulus. Still, the Zulu didn't back down. Not to the Dutch, not to anyone. Not even the British. Now, King Cetshwayo was a smart king. He knew that fighting the British army would be a bad idea. But the factor that I eluded to was ever present. That factor was the Zulu ritual called the "Washing of the Spears." Young Zulu men needed to prove their skill in battle. They called it the "Washing of the Spears." As in washing their spears in the blood of their enemies. It's one of the reasons they had that fight break out between the two Zulu regiments. They were itching to fight, because they hadn't had a fight since the Zulu civil war twenty years prior to that. They were pretty much demanding for their king to send them to fight someone.

And the second reason why I should put that scene in my John Dunn book is because John Dunn was present when that fight broke out. He was an eye witness to it. He documented the event in his autobiography, which I have. It's called John Dunn, Cetswayo, and the Three Generals. I used it as one of my sources for my John Dunn book. So when I get back to it, I'll see to all POV issues of course, like I was doing last summer, and then see to putting that scene in there.

And my third WIP is my football story, Second Chance. I'm writing that because I'm inundated with football right now. Both of my sons are on football teams. My younger son's Pop Warner football team just went to Spokane, Washington for a regional championship. With so much football in my life, I had that dream about football, so I'm putting that into a novel called Second Chance, a Football Story. Wow, three books at once. That's a full plate right there. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cartoons Have Evolved

When I was a kid, I liked to watch cartoons. Like any kid. Didn't have any particular favorite. But I remember watching the Disney cartoons and a slew of other cartoons like Popeye, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, Bugs Bunny, Quick Draw McGraw, and the like. Yeah, when I was a kid, cartoons, with very few exceptions, were for kids. Even Betty Boop was for kids. Sure Betty Boop had an element of adult sophistication, but those elements were very subtle. Betty Boop still targeted kids, and kids made up the vast majority of cartoon audiences back then. But that was then. It's not like that anymore. At least not for a lot of cartoons. A lot of cartoons are now for adults.

The evolution of cartoons for adults, I think, began with Japanimation. Which of course originated with cartoonists in Japan. I remember Marine Boy, Simba the White Lion, and Johnny Quest. There were others, of course, and they came out in what I would call the transition years. They were still for kids, but the transition to an adult audience was certainly beginning. Cartoons had become more mature. They featured a more adult-like story line. A more adult-like appeal. Nothing to do with sex, mind you. (Not like Betty Boop's subtle imagery.) They just had a more gritty nature, so to speak. They weren't goofy and silly. They had a serious effort of storytelling targeting more mature audiences. Still kids liked them. But adults could, too.

Then came the superhero cartoons that were originally comic books. Superman had already had a series come out in the early years, but Spiderman made it to the small screen, and eventually Bat Man, too. A few years later superior comic book cartoons debuted with Bat Man again, and then The X-Men, along with another Superman and additional superhero cartoons. Kids loved them, and adults did too, since the kids that bought the comic books were now adults, and the cartoonists kept that fact in mind.

Of course, at this time Japanimation was also evolving. By this time Japanimation was putting out feature length films. Sure Disney was already doing feature length cartoons, but the Japanese versions had stories that were geared solely for adults. So much so that they would be rated R. These cartoons were not for kids. I know Ralph Bakshi had a few adult cartoons already. Fritz the Cat, and his attempt at Lord of the Rings, among others were notable. But he was nothing more than a drop in the bucket. And by that I mean the bucket that was Japanimation. Japanimation came to dominate feature length and TV series cartoons.

Which brings me to today. American cartoons on TV have never stopped being goofy and silly. But they now include another ascpect. Sex. Raunchy, dirty, and nasty sex. Not porn. But sex jokes, the likes of which used to be in locker rooms or bars. Despite the goofy and silly antics of the goofy and silly characters, they are not for kids. Surprisingly these adult cartoons are on prime time TV. It started with The Simpsons, although The Simpsons is very tame compared to the dirtier ones like Family Guy, American Dad and South Park. For me, personally, I can't stand those cartoons. Simpsons, again, is tame. I can handle that one. In fact the humor is often clever.

But South Park, Family Guy, and American Dad seem to depend on dirty jokes for their success. And they certainly are successful. They've been on prime time for years now. They seem to have a much better longevity than their live action counterparts. It's amazing. I can't stand those shows, but their popularity is unquestioned. They are here, and they are here to stay.

So do I watch any of these adult cartoons? Well, not the American ones. But I do enjoy a good Japanimation film now and then. There's a lot of talent out there. And talent doesn't need sex jokes to be successful. In fact, imo, the raunchy sex jokes reduce a show to gutter level trash. Clearly, a lot of people like gutter level trash. It's why sex jokes prevail in the locker rooms and bars. And it's why those types of cartoons are prevailing on TV. But Japanimation doesn't rely on that. And that's why Japanimation stands out as the best cartoons today. Imo, mind you. That's all.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Okay--Finally Saw Fury

Had the day off yesterday, so I took one of my sons to see Fury at the matinee. Overall, it was a good movie. But I did have problems with it. It started off with a stupid scene. Like right from the get go. Well, the entire opening scene wasn't stupid, just the very start of it. A lone German officer is riding a horse through what looked like a battlefield. Then Brad Pitt jumps out of his tank, knocks him off his horse, and stabs him to death. I mean, it just looked stupid. Right. A lone German officer, all by his lonesome, riding a horse through a battlefield. Then he gets jumped and stabbed to death.

Well, I won't give any more spoilers, it's just that that one was in the first minute of the film. But I did have other problems with this movie. Not that it ruined the movie. I'll just say that a lot of things in there were realistic, and a lot of things were not realistic. Some were even clichéd, but that's all right these days. I believe that some things, in even real life will be or appear clichéd.

The production was top notch, the acting, the special effects, et al, were great. Nothing wrong with any of that. Just the sequence of events, the storyline, and the writing had some unrealistic things going on. But then again, it's a movie. Was it entertaining? Overall, yes. Would I recommend it? Only for those WWII buffs who enjoy war movies. And if you fall into one of those categories, then I don't think you will be disappointed. Was I? Not really. I still liked it. Did it make my list of top war movies? No. But it didn't have to. I came away having enjoyed a good movie. Can't ask for more than that.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Never Saw Fury

As it turned out, I never saw the movie Fury. I wanted to. But I can't seem to get my family all on the same page when it comes to going to a movie. My wife doesn't like war movies. My sons are split on them, and I've always liked them. The most recent war movie that I can think of, Private Ryan, to me, was only okay. Yeah it had some gory moments to it, which is one of the many things war is, but it just wasn't a good story line, imo. I didn't buy into it because I had too many problems with it.

I didn't really like Full Metal Jacket either. I had too many problems with that one too. Ditto with Apocalypse Now. Way too flawed of a movie. Which makes me wonder what the heck these movie makers are thinking. Just put out a war movie without much thought for the story line? I guess.

I think the most recent war movie I thought was a good war movie was Cross of Iron. Of course, having such great actors in it, like James Coburn, James Mason, Maximillian Schell, and David Warner made it even better. All were perfectly cast.

Violence equals tension. It's one of the reasons Killer of Killers is such a good book. And what kind of movie will have more violence than a war movie? But violence alone cannot make a good movie.  You have to have a good story line. That's what makes it a good movie. That and good characters, good events, and a good plot. Apolcalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket didn't have good plots, didn't have good characters, and for me, that's why they had problems.

As for Fury? Well, I'll let you know when I see it. But who knows when that will be. I think it's already gone from the theaters. I'll have to wait until it comes to Netflix.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Heroes of a Different Sort

I was talking about great heroes yesterday, and I included Trent Smith in the Killer Series, from which Killer Eyes, my third book, is due to come out soon.

But what about my second book, The Vase? It has heroes, too, but I would say heroes of a different sort. The heroes in The Vase are not great martial artists, or assassins, or people who go around beating up other people. Instead, the heroes in The Vase are fathers, mothers, and sons. There's a college professor, too. Sure there's the leader of Kidon. And yes, he can be called an assassin. But it's ironic that in this story, the character who is the assassin is not the featured character. In fact, he botches his "assassin" assignment.

So I guess that could mean that the assassin character is not the hero. At least not in The Vase. Yes, he has a major role in The Vase. But I would call him more of a supporting character rather than a main character. I would say the main characters are a meek and humble Palestinian potter, and a meek and humble university art professor. Note that both are meek and humble. And they are on opposite sides of the fence so to speak. I say that because one is a Palestinian and the other is an Israeli.

But they have more in common than you would think. For starters, each has lost a son in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. And both sons were only fourteen at the time of their deaths. Both fathers have suffered this horrible tragedy, but they respond very differently.

You would think the Palestinian would join the Islamic call for Jihad against the Jews as his reaction to the death of his son at the hands of the IDF. But he doesn't. He doesn't want any part of rebellions or dissent. All he wants to do is run his pottery shop and keep his surviving son safe.

But the Jewish art professor reacts the opposite way. He joins Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency, and helps them in their counter-terrorist work. He wants revenge for the death of his son. It makes an interesting story. Especially, since it all revolves around a vase in the potter's pottery shop. And the Pope's visit is another instrumental factor in the story.

So what does the Pope, or even a vase have to do with the story? Actually a lot. It's what makes the story a great one, imo. It's a very unique story, too. See for yourself. Buy a copy of The Vase today. But don't expect a sequel to it. It's a stand alone story. If you read it, you'll see what I mean.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Top Three Heroes

One of the reasons I wrote Killer of Killers was I always liked stories that featured a top hero. A top hero to me is a cool character. A person who is the best, or one of the best at what he does. Take James Bond, for instance. He's one of the best secret agents of all time. Take Conan, too. He's the best warrior of all time. Take Captain Kirk. He's the best starship captain of all time. And those three characters are my top three heroes of all time.

Sure there are others. In the comic book world, there's Bat Man, Superman, Spider-man, and dozens more. In the movies, you have the Clint Eastwood characters from just about any of his earlier movies. In TV, you've got a bunch more, like James West, Napoleon Solo, Sgt. Saunders, and that list goes on, and on.

In books, well, that's where James Bond and Conan got started. Jonathan Hemlock, too, from Eastwood's The Eiger Sanction. But in books, I would like to add Trent Smith to that list. He's the best at what he does. I'm not talking about a seeker of vengeance. That list would have to include a slew of others. I am talking about a seeker of justice. And in that, he's the best.

It helps to be the world's greatest martial artist, but Trent Smith is not just a martial artist. He's a driven man. When the courts fail to deliver justice, he doesn't fail. He will deliver justice. Yes, add Trent Smith to that list of great heroes. Read Killer of Killers, and let me know if you agree.