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, December 30, 2016

New Star Wars - Ho Hum

So I saw the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One. I mean, I suffered through it. It's the story that takes place between episodes III and IV. Hollywood is hurting for female heroes it seems, so of course the hero is a woman. Hey, I've got nothing against women heroes. Let me make it clear there are many women heroes in the world. But this story is not in this world. Not earth. So what? you might say.

Well, the first Star Wars movie had one woman in it. Princess Leah. She was brave and heroic, but she was the only woman. And then it was noticed that there were no minorities in it either. And the Star Wars people were skewered for it. So they got Billy Dee Williams to play Lando Calrisian, and then they made sure the next movies had plenty of women in them. Okay. By then I couldn't stand Star Wars anymore, so whatever.

But now that Disney has the rights to Star Wars, thanks to a four billion dollar payday to George Lucas, they are going out of their way to make the main hero of the new Star Wars movies a woman. At least so far. (Two for two, anyway.)

Again, I know women can be just as heroic as any man. They can be just as brave. And they can be just as strong-willed. But I ask again the question I've asked many times. Do women want to fight people? Do women want to hurt people? Do women want to kill people?

I have another question. Do women want to see other women fight, hurt, and kill people? Do they? I mean, that's what Hollywood is having them do. Time and again, in the movies and in TV shows, we're seeing women "heroes" take the roles of fighters and killers. Is that what women want? I can't believe women want to fight, to hurt, and to kill people. I can't believe women want to see other women fight and kill people. I don't believe it.

But Hollywood seems to think that to be a hero, you have to physically fight, hurt and kill people. It's laughable if you think about it...just how shallow-minded Hollywood is. And I remind you that to be a hero, you don't have to be a super fighter and killer of other human beings, even human beings who deserve it. Again I would like to use Downton Abbey as an example. In Downton Abbey you have many women heroes. They are brave, they are strong-willed, and they are heroic. But they don't go around fighting, hurting, and killing anyone.

Mary, Violet, Sybil, Edith, Cora, Isabel, Anna, Mrs. Hughes, and the list goes on. They are wonderful, strong, brave characters. They are real heroes.

It is refreshing to know that at least ONE show has it right. I'm sure there are others. I just haven't seen them yet. So the next time Star Wars has to resort to a fighting, killing woman to be the hero, let me point to Downton Abbey. Those are real women heroes. And by far the superior heroes.

Star Wars has fallen into the shallow minded notion that a hero has to be a super fighter and kill. And since they want their heroes to be women, then the women have to be super fighters and kill. To that I say meh. That's all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Martial Arts Stories Rule

I've always loved stories about martial arts experts. More to the point, I've always liked characters who have displayed unusual talent in many different areas. But they have to be tough. Like the typical Hollywood tough guy from years ago. When I was a kid there were a lot of them.

Clint Eastwood was terrific as "the Man with No Name." Yeah, I'm talking about the spaghetti westerns. He was cool as Dirty Harry, too.

But the list goes on when referring to tough guy actors from the sixties. Sean Connery was tops as James Bond, of course. William Shatner is the one and only James Kirk, and hands down the best ever starship captain. Robert Conrad is the only James West.

Robert Mitchum was a tough guy's tough guy, as was Anthony Quinn, James Coburn, Charlton Heston, and Charles Bronson. These guys make today's wannabe tough guys look like cupcakes.

Of course, you have the classic tough guys like John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Kirk Douglas.

Then you have the suave tough guys. Sean Connery would be in this category too. (He's the only one who makes both lists.) But included in this list you have guys like Robert Vaughn, Robert Redford, and Yul Brynner.

 These guys are tough guys that actually LOOK like tough guys. There are other guys who've PLAYED tough guys, but in my book they don't cut it. This might offend some people, but to ME they don't look so tough. They include Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Richard Widmark, and Edward G.
Robinson. Those guys don't look like they can beat up my mother-in-law. But the other dudes? Those guys are badass dudes. I didn't list them in any particular order. It's just that the good old days of real tough guys is over. Today you have softies pretending to be tough guys.

Sometimes they can pull it off. Brad Pitt made a decent Achilles in the otherwise horrible movie Troy. Vin Diesel makes a good tough guy in his movies, and Jason Statham is an authentic tough guy in his movies, but that's about it. I'm hoping Dustin Clare can be a tough guy, too. He was the best actor in the recent Spartacus show, and I've blogged often that he might be a great Trent Smith in my novels, Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes. What does the future hold?
We'll see.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

John Dunn Book Still In The Works

Just want to let everyone know that the John Dunn book is still in the works. I mentioned in an earlier post that my publisher has fallen behind in their publishing schedule, and I also noted that that was a good thing as far as my John Dunn book is concerned. You never want to rush a publication. Never. I felt Second Chance was rushed a bit, even though it got delayed a couple weeks itself.

But there were a couple minor errors in it and one somewhat major continuity error. It's weird how that happens. I must have read it twenty plus times, and it was edited, as well, but still that one continuity error went unnoticed until after publication and my brother bought and read the book and pointed it out to me. How he could catch it in a single reading and I couldn't after twenty is baffling to me to say the least. Ultimately, it's still a great read, and the one continuity error doesn't ruin the story.

For my John Dunn book, this current delay has proven to be a boon, because I've caught some errors and fixed them, right up to yesterday. I found two misspellings of the mission station Eshowe. Anyone who knows anything about Zululand and the Zulu War knows about Eshowe. But yesterday, I found a place where it was spelled Eschowe. Ouch. Of course I fixed it back to Eshowe, but then I used the "search" app to see if there was anywhere else where I might have spelled it Eschowe, and there was one more place it was misspelled. It's fixed now.

And the usual improvement in prose continues every time you read through it. Needless to say, the writing is tons better at this point. It ranks up there with the finest writing I've ever done, and I think it will hold it's own for all stories concerning the Zulu War and any Historical Fiction book for that matter. It's a true story, after all, and hopefully the editing will begin soon. I'm thinking it will be released early in 2017. Which is right around the corner. Can't wait.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dr. Strange - Good Movie

I haven't been a big fan of comic book movies, even though as a youth I had read and even collected some of the comic books, especially those from the Silver Age, which was basically the comics from the 60s.

My main problem with the comic book movies is they usually cast the wrong actors to play the parts, and the movie producers almost always believe they have to change the story lines, or even the premise of the characters that made them popular in the first place.

After Richard Donner's Superman movies, there seemed to be a lull in the comic book movie production until Tim Burton put out Bat Man. The problem with Donner's Superman wasn't the casting, it was that Donner made the movie tongue-in-cheek, or just another kid's show/comedy. It had it's moments, but again, it wasn't really for adults. And as an adult, I was disappointed.

Then when Bat Man came out, Burton, again made it a tongue-in-cheek movie, and of course miscast the main character. Nobody and nobody agreed with his choice of casting Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Bat Man. It was unthinkable, but Burton didn't care. He wanted his pet actor.

And unfortunately, Burton set the tone for the following Bat Man movies, meaning they were also tongue-in-cheek and therefore stupid and complete failures. (Until Nolan's Bat Man, that is.)

Then when Marvel finally got into the action, with the X-men, Spider-man, Avengers, etc, they had the same casting problems and the same story line problems, but Marvel got at least one thing right. They were no longer tongue-in-cheek movies. Which for that reason alone, made them far better movies than the DC comics movies.


Dr. Strange from the comics
Which leads me to the most recent comic book movie release. Dr. Strange. Good movie. I enjoyed it. Maybe I enjoyed it more than any other comic book movie. It was that good. The actor Benedict Cumberbatch nailed the part of Stephen Strange/Dr. Strange, meaning he was well cast. And it was nothing close to tongue-in-cheek. It was pretty much right on as far as the story line. I couldn't see anything that had strayed, except for giving the "Ancient One" a sex change.



Dr. Strange from the movie
So, yeah, there they go again. For this ridiculous notion of "political correctness" I suppose, like changing traditionally white characters into black characters over the years, and there are several examples of that, (in Dr. Strange, too, Mordo was a white dude in the comics,) but in Dr. Strange, they also changed a character's sex. In the comics, the Ancient One, from whom Dr. Strange learned the mystic arts, was an older looking Asian man. For this movie, they not only changed his sex, they changed his race. In the movie, the Ancient One is a young looking white woman.

But since the Ancient One dies in the end, I suppose it doesn't matter. And the Ancient One really does die in the comics. So they didn't change that story line. Which means I'm still on board with the Dr. Strange story in the movie.

Can't say the same for the Walking Dead. That show is dead. Don't think it will last another season, if it continues to be as boring and dumb as it's become this current season. But we'll see.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Person of Interest Still Not Better Than Blacklist

I had blogged about how I started watching Person of Interest, and I was lukewarm to it. I still am, but I'll admit it's getting better. I'm nearly through season two now, and the story is getting more and more complicated. I did not like the super-girl spy, however. I mean, the bad guys are trying to kill her, but instead of shooting her, like everyone else does when they want to kill someone, they keep trying to inject her with some kind of poisonous serum. But of course, the serum has an antidote, so she doesn't die. Meanwhile, she outfights, outmaneuvers, and outsmarts everyone else, including our heroes, John and Harold. It makes for a boring and stale story line. Not fun.

I've mentioned before that I do believe in strong female characters. But to be a strong female character, that doesn't mean the female character goes around beating everyone up. I'm sorry, but actually, I'm not sorry. I'm not a chauvinist, or a misogynist, or whatever you want to call men who think like I do. It's not an opinion, really. Women just don't go around beating everyone up. And I refuse to believe that women want to see other women going around beating up people or killing people. Is there a woman out there who really wants to see that? I didn't think so.

Being a strong female character is a lot more complicated than going around beating up and killing people. And there are plenty of examples of strong female characters who don't go around beating and killing people. I can think of one woman right off the top of my head who doesn't go around beating up and killing people, yet she's as strong as anyone. Violet Crawley, from the TV show Downton Abbey. I mean this woman is 90 years old, and yet no one gets the better of her. She is smart, and although sheltered, never let's anyone get the jump on her in any way.

I know that TV and movies, or any fictional story, reality is stretched. But the reality is that there are no women anywhere, ever, that go around beating people up and killing them. That doesn't mean there haven't been women murderers or female assassins. And sure, I'm willing to believe that some women can be proficient in martial arts. But that doesn't mean a top female martial artist can defeat a top male martial artist. Ever. Maybe a top female martial artist can take out a dude who's a bookworm and knows nothing about fighting. But against a man who's 6' 4" and weighs 250 pounds and in his prime? I don't think so. Not reality. Not believable fiction. Ever.

So this superwoman spy is going around beating up professional soldiers, guards, fighters left and right, and it's boring, if only because it's so unbelievable. And then she goes around killing everyone to boot. Yeah, she was supposed to be a good guy, I mean, um, gal, but it was so hard to watch. Look, if I want to see a supergirl or a superwoman, I'll read the comic books.

So if this chick in POI is made out to be a better fighter than John, I'm done. Back to Blacklist. It's the better show anyway. Elizabeth is a strong character, but she's not a superwoman. She doesn't go around beating everyone up. She doesn't go around killing everyone. She's a much better character. She's a strong female character, and she's believable. Yes, it's true. Blacklist is the superior show. It has a superior cast, and it has superior characters. Hands down.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

John Dunn Release Delayed

My publisher has sent out notice to all of its authors explaining that due to the growth of the company, the release of their current publications is delayed. And for me and my John Dunn book that's a good thing because I'm finding more to improve, correct, and simply polish up before that book is released. I've made the map better, I've found a couple more typos, and I've improved the continuity.

For example, John travels into Zululand, and there's an incident at the mission at Eshowe. But before that, there's a scene where Catherine went to Pietermaritzburg. So what's wrong with that, you might ask? Well for one thing, Pietermaritzburg is twice as far away from where John and Catherine lived at the time, than Eshowe. I should have the scene at Eshowe take place before the scene at Pietermaritzburg. Clearly John would reach Eshowe before Catherine reaches Pietermaritzburg, especially since he departed before Catherine did.

So it's fixed. A few more things were fixed. It's a near perfect manuscript now. Adding the Mangeni River and Isipezi hill and the town of Stanger were major improvements to the map as well.

I figure to submit the final manuscript by Monday, and then wait for edits to begin before I submit any further improvements. Hopefully, the book can still be released in time for Christmas. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Improved Map of Zululand

I've made some improvements on my Zululand map. I made the locations of iSandlwana and Rorke's Drift more accurate for one thing. And I positioned the text for the Buffalo River better. I also added the location of the Mangeni River. No other map that I've seen had that river on it. I thought it was important to include the Mangeni River, because it played a role in the famous battle at iSandlwana.

Major Dartnell had his mounted division patrolling in the vicinity of the Mangeni River when he located a regiment of Zulus. It was then Lord Chelmsford divided his 3rd Column to reinforce Dartnell, and of course as any Zulu War enthusiast knows, that's when the Zuluas attacked the British camp at Isandlwana. And then other Zulu regiments attacked Rorke's Drift.

So all three changes to my map are directly related to the Battle of iSandlwana, and the subsequent battle at Rorke's Drift. So here's the  map. Can't wait to see how it looks in the book.



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Not Errors-but Optional Revisions

My last submission of John Dunn to my publisher for editing was the best, of course, but I'm still improving that MS. But these improvements are not corrected errors. For instance. I italicized the word Egads in Captain Walmsley's exclamation when he responds to John Dunn's informing him that he was moving to Zululand as a Zulu chieftain. I didn't have to italicize it. But since I want the reader to know it's a word being stressed, I chose to italicize it.

Also, I moved the text that labeled two rivers on my Zululand map. Moving the text wasn't correcting any errors, but I think where I placed the text now is better than where I had placed the text before. Again, an optional thing.

Also I deleted a word in another sentence and replaced it with a semicolon. It wasn't an error, but I think it reads better now.

And today, I decided to make Bantu plural instead of Bantus. Since the Bantu in my book refer to themselves as Bantu, singular and plural, I decided to go with the narrative mention of the word to match the way it's used in the dialogue. It's not an error being corrected, I think, it's just optional, and I chose the best option.

But that's it so far. Is it enough for me to send another revised MS, even though those above revisions are very minor? And very, very minor, they are. That remains to be seen. I suppose if I make any more revisions, come Monday, or Sunday night, I will send the latest MS on Monday, like I've been doing. And why not? It's not like I'm sending three per day. It's only one per week.

So yeah. Every Monday, I'll just keep sending the improved MS every Monday until, either it's published, or until I've got no more improvements to make. Either one is logical, of course. And at the rate I'm revising at this point, this next Monday may actually be the last revised file.

And then I do believe the edits will begin, since the proposed release date is November 8th. I suspect it will bet pushed back some, like Second Chance was. If it does, that's okay. We'll see.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Final Revisions Submitted

It's been about a month since Dana, my publisher at KRP wanted my John Dunn manuscript for editing to begin. Sure I sent it, but that didn't mean I was going to stop improving it. I learned long ago...revise, revise, revise...until it is actually published. Keep improving the ms while you can. And until edits begin, that's just what I aimed to do.

And it's a good thing. I corrected the whiskey vs whisky thing. I also learned Dunn was full Scottish not just half Scottish. I found a few typos, and spelling errors. And this past weekend I learned that the son of Henry Francis Fynn was not an adult when he accompanied his father to see King Mpande. (He saw Cetshwayo instead.) But the son, whose name is the same as the father's was only ten at the time. So I changed that part of my manuscript from his "adult" son to his "young" son. I suppose I could say his "adolescent" son, which would be more accurate than just his young son, but it's still accurate to say young son.

And the way I made this correction was by going over the ms again. There's a part where Captain Walmsley is toasting Fynn, and he pours two glasses of brandy. But I thought maybe he should pour three glasses, which is what prompted me to go on the Internet to see how old the son was. I searched for his birthdate, which was November of 1846. So that meant in January of 1857, which was when this scene took place, he was only ten years old. So no brandy for him

I also found out just where the Mangeni River is and put that and Isipezi Hill on the map I illustrated for the book. My map, so far as I know, is the only map of the region that has this river labeled. It's also the only map that has Cetshwayo's Mangweni kraal on it, and his original Ondini kraal. No other maps or books that I know of even make the distinction between the two separate Ondini kraals. (One of which is also called Ulundi.)

Things like this are important. Especially when it's real life people. There's going to be a lot of readers out there who will expect the writer to get this stuff right. And you've got to get it right the first time. I've learned that over and over again. So the truck keeps rolling.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Long Road to Publication (and Perfection)

It's been about ten years now, since I began writing novels. I started with Killer of Killers. I was a good writer, but I wasn't "there" yet in regards to how novelists of the 21st Century are supposed to write novels. I wasn't hip to the POV requirements of today's writers, and although I was a good linguist in regards to vocabulary and word usage, I did have some flaws in regards to transitive verbs and dialogue tags. But that was ten years ago.

I followed Killer of Killers with The Vase, which was a totally different story, and then I wrote Killer Eyes, which was the follow up to Killer of Killers. I didn't focus on publication yet. I had always wanted to write the John Dunn story, so I went ahead with that.

Then came publication. And with the editing that followed, I learned the right way to use POV, especially third person limited. I learned the omniscient version of third person is taboo these days. So I rewrote all four of my books and made them third person limited. I also learned the correct way to use dialogue tags and transitive verbs. Those were my weaknesses, and now, well, I don't think I have any weaknesses. It's all been corrected.

It doesn't mean a typo or two, or a continuity flaw won't escape the notice of an editor. Any writer might miss mistakes, too. I've heard of how even the best writers miss errors, and these days, the editing process is more streamlined, which means errors might go unnoticed even until after publication. So you grin and bear it.

I learned that my recently published book Second Chance has a couple errors in it. My brother, also a writer caught them. But it's too late now. It's published. If  anyone buys it, don't worry. The errors won't ruin the story. It's still a great story. If you like football, that is. There are no errors in the writing of any of the football action, at least.

At this time, it's my John Dunn book on tap. It's due to be released in November, and as you know, November is imminent. That's why I've been working extra hard making sure there are no errors in that book. I've made many corrections lately, too, so that hard work is paying off. I already mentioned the one about "whiskey vs. whisky." And just as recently as yesterday I corrected another error. There's a dude on a horse, and later I say he leaps back on his horse. But the part where he had dismounted had been left out. So I fixed it. I put in there that he had dismounted. Now when I write that he remounted, it makes sense.

That would have been a minor error, but to be a great artist, or a great writer, or a great anything when it comes to creating art, you've got to be a perfectionist. That's what separates the great artists from the mediocre ones. That's not to say I'm a great artist. But if one doesn't try to be a great artist, then for sure one will never be a great artist or writer or whatever. So you try. And being a perfectionist is how you start.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Walking Dead - Dead to Me

Walking Dead is dead. Too much is too much. It's not pleasant. It never was. But it used to be fun to watch. Well, it's not fun to watch anymore. Of course, it's been a gory show. Bashing in skulls of zombies is one thing. But bashing in skulls of living, breathing, fan-favorite characters is another.

Okay, so for six months, the fan base had been warned that one of the main characters was going to get his/her brains bashed in. So the fan-base had time to prepare. But then the villain, Negan, played by Jeffery Dean Morgan, whose best role remains The Comedian from The Watchmen movie, bashes in not just one skull, but two. Abraham and Glenn. Both characters were well-liked characters, good characters, characters you would not want to see get killed.

Abraham was in the midst of forming a relationship with Sasha. A black woman. Abraham was a white man with red hair and had just left a relationship with a Hispanic woman. He chose the black woman. But before the relationship could get going, he's dead. Hmmnnn...

And Glenn. He's Asian and is also involved in a biracial relationship. His wife, Maggie is white and she is pregnant. So more than Abraham, Glenn had a lot to look forward to, meaning he's going to be a dad. But now he's dead. But these guys are more than just dead. The audience had to look on as both characters get their brains bashed in. Yeah, I know it's just acting. They're not really dead. It's all special effects and make up and whatever. But we're talking story here. In this story, they are brutally killed, mutilated, even. And even worse, the audience had to watch as Negan goes the extra mile to break Rick's spirit. How? Well, by having him chop off his son's arm. This was too much.

I guess the writers realized it, too, because at the last minute, Negan relents, apparently satisfied that Rick's spirit was broken. So no arm gets chopped off. But the whole build up was nasty, gross, unpleasant, and too much. Way too much. Many people are done with this show for that reason. I may be too. We'll see. Look. Too much is too much. I know I have killing and blood in my books, particularly my two Killer books. But rest assured potential readers. It's not too much.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Whisky not Whiskey - if you're British

So in my John Dunn book, John drinks whiskey with Captain Walmsley, almost like a nightly ritual when the rest of the family had retired for the evening. Except in my research I discovered it's not whiskey. It's whisky. And that's because they're British. At least Captain Walmsley is British. John of course was born and raised in Africa and had never been to Britain. But he is Scottish descent, and the South African colonies in the story are British colonies, so that means the whiskey they're drinking is whisky. And more to the point, it's Scotch Whisky.


Yes, whiskey is made in America. So if this were a story taking place in America or about Americans then, maybe they would be drinking whiskey. But it's not in America, and they're not Americans. Again, it's all taking place in British South African colonies and Zululand, so the whiskey they are drinking is whisky. Scotch whisky.


So I am glad I made that distinction before my John Dunn book was published. I'm no whiskey connoisseur. I'm not much of a drinker at all, actually, so I didn't know about the difference between whiskey and whisky. Fortunately, I continued my research, and when I researched the "whiskey" that British people drank, I learned it was "whisky" made in England or Scotland.



I also learned that bourbon is an American whiskey, and for that very reason it was probably not served in South Africa where the British had established their colonies. So I changed all scenes that had bourbon or "whiskey" to scenes with Scotch whisky. And I made these corrections in time, thank goodness, so that my story, John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu will be more authentic.


Btw, brandy is okay. The British did drink Brandy. Brandy and Scotch whisky. So I sent the new file last night, and hopefully, I won't be finding any more errors. But if I do, I'll fix them. Just want to make sure I fix them in time. Stay tuned. John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu is coming soon!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Edits Haven't Started

Edits for my John Dunn book haven't started yet, but that doesn't mean I haven't been taking every opportunity to make the writing better. I blogged about a couple things I've made better already, and twice now I've sent an improved version for editing.

I decided rather than sending every version at the time of improvement, I will send the revised version every Monday. That way I won't inundate my publisher with a new manuscript every day. I figure once a week is not too often. And besides, everyday would be too much work for me, too.

But weekly improvements until the editing begins sounds reasonable. At least it does to me. I don't know why anyone would have a problem with that. I've already learned to make the manuscript better while you can. You do it before it's published. And for my John Dunn book that means now. I have less than a month before John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu is due to be released. So that's enough time if I use the time well. It's so close to being ready, I believe it's going to be a great book.

And even at the point of editing, I'll still get another chance to make it better. That's what editing is all about. Dana let me know when she was getting ready to start the editing for Second Chance. I'm counting on her doing the same for John Dunn. Hopefully, it will be on a Tuesday, the day after I send the next improved version. We'll see.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nineteenth Century Muskets and the John Dunn Story

During the 1800s in South Africa, there were a lot of muskets used by the Natal colonists, the British military, and even the African natives. During my research for my John Dunn historical novel, I did not pinpoint the exact brands and makes of the majority of those muskets. But I did find a lot of information about guns and muskets of the time. For example, the Enfield 53 was a state of the art musket being used at the time. The Enfield 53, (named that because it came out in 1853) was one of the first  "rifled" barrel muskets. That was a revolutionary improvement. In addition to that, it used the "Minie Ball" but that name is misleading. You see, the Minie Ball wasn't a ball-shaped projectile, like the lead balls which muskets usually used.

The Minie ball projectile was called a Minie ball for its inventor, a dude named Minie. It was cone shaped, somewhat like a modern day bullet. And because of the cone shape and the grooves in it, along with the rifled barrel, the Enfield 53 could shoot farther and with more accuracy than the muskets used prior to that. Of course, shortly thereafter, the breech-loading guns came out, and one of the first of those types was the Holland & Holland double-barreled rifle, which John Dunn had written about in his autobiography, John Dunn, Cetywayo, and the Three Generals. That was, of course, one of my main sources for my book. Dunn also wrote about his Snider, which was another breech-loading rifle he used and wrote about.

So in my book, John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu, which is due to be released next month, I made note of the Holland & Holland rifle Dunn used, and I made note of the Snider. But beyond those two rifles, Dunn didn't name the guns he used. Sure all the historians wrote about the Martini-Henrys, which was the British military gun issued to British regulars. It was the rifle the British used during the Anglo-Zulu War and a state of the art gun at that point.

So the book is good for now as far as editing is concerned. I sent my latest revisions yesterday, and I'm just waiting for the edits to start. And when they do, I'll be sure to let you know. All in all, I'm thinking my John Dunn book will be my best. It's the longest, the most involved, and it's based on a true story. Yes, I added some fiction. I gave Catherine Pierce a larger role in my story. No other writer or historian had much to say about her. Not even John Dunn in his autobiography had much to say about her or any of his other 48 wives. Still, I wanted a strong female character in the story, and I figured she was the right person for the part.

It was noted by several historians that Catherine Pierce was not happy about Dunn taking those additional wives. So there's some true life conflict right there for the story. Not that a story that spans the years between the Zulu Civil War and the Anglo-Zulu War is in need of any more conflict. It's already overflowing with conflict. But hey, there were no women involved in those conflicts, other than the 20,000 women and children Prince Cetshwayo and his army slaughtered in the Battle of enDondakusuka. Nevertheless it all makes for a very rounded and intriguing story. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

John Dunn was 100% Scottish Descent

Paying extra attention to improving the John Dunn manuscript has paid off.  I had referred to Dunn as being half Scottish and half English, which was wrong. He is 100% Scottish descent. I had read during my research that Dunn's father immigrated to South Africa from Scotland. But I found no reference to his mother's origins. Until yesterday. I read on some Internet website that both of Dunn's parents were Scottish immigrants.

At first I thought the writer of that article had made a mistake. Dunn's mother's name was Anne Harold Biggar, so to make sure I Googled the national origin of the surname "Biggar" and sure enough, it's a Scottish name. With further research I learned Dunn's mother was born in Scotland and immigrated to South Africa with her parents in the year 1820. So there you have it. Both of John Dunn's parents were born in Scotland.

I've made all the necessary corrections in the manuscript now. There were only two references in there regarding Dunn's parent's ethnicity. The first reference is when I introduce the main character, John Dunn early in the story, I had referred to him as the son of a Scottish immigrant. I've changed that to the son of Scottish immigrants. And later on, when Dunn meets with Lord Chelmsford, (he had two meetings with Chelmsford in real life, and they are both in the story,) Chelmsford inquires to Dunn's British ancestry, after which Dunn now says, "My parents were born in Scotland." Before I had Dunn say that his mother was English, his father a Scot. But it's all corrected now and good to go, at least insofar as that particular point.

I will still improve the manuscript daily and send the improved version every Monday until Dana advises me that edits are underway. Until then, I'll use the time wisely. While I can.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

John Dunn Submitted for Editing

Here's the latest news on the publishing front. Last Monday, my publisher, Dana, (and also my editor, at least for Second Chance she was my editor,) emailed me, requesting I send the revised manuscript of John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu for editing. Well, I wasn't quite finished with the revisions. I had been busy revising Second Chance over the summer, putting only intermittent time into the revisions for John Dunn. And it's as I should have, because the release date for Second Chance preceded that of John Dunn. But the John manuscript is a lot longer than the manuscript of Second Chance, and therefore takes a lot longer to revise. In addition to that, the fact that John Dunn is historical fiction based on a true story, it needed a lot more checking for accuracy regarding dates, distances, and characters, both real and fictitious. There was more effort involved in that one.

Which is one reason why I think it's my best book ever. Well, I still hold Killer of Killers as my sentimental favorite. But the John Dunn book should make a splash in sales if for no other reason than there are a lot of Zulu War enthusiasts out there, and the book deals with the Zulu War in no small way. In fact the latter half of the book is almost all about the Zulu War. Four of the six major battles of the war are depicted in the story. Fortunately, my story follows more than just the John Dunn character, as other characters who were in the battles are featured. John Dunn did fight in one of the major battles of the Zulu War. The Battle at Gingindlovu, in which he contributed in a big way.

So I look forward to the edits Dana, or whoever it is this time, will suggest. I was pleased overall with the edits for Second Chance, so no reason to think I won't be for John Dunn. Can't wait.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Black Sabbath Live

Ozzy Ozbourne and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath performing in Oakland last night
For more than forty years, the heavy metal rock band Black Sabbath has been my favorite band. So much so, that Black Sabbath is the only rock concert I care to attend. And last night, in Oakland, they performed what might be their final appearance in the Bay Area. I was there with a friend. Black Sabbath is his favorite band, as well. And it was a great night. This poor quality photo I took with my cell phone shows how close I was to the stage.

I remember my first Black Sabbath concert I attended back in 1975 with another friend. I also remember it cost five dollars. I won't say how much I spent this time, but it was far more than five dollars. Suffice it to say being in the third row was worth it. I would have preferred the first row, but that would have cost 2.5 times more. And the cost was already prohibitive.

But I never miss a Sabbath concert. Black Sabbath invented the sub-genre of rock since dubbed Heavy Metal. Tony Iommi invented the new sound that instantly reeled me in as a fan. And a fan I have remained ever since. I'm not really big on going to any concerts, but sentimentality is strong in my appreciation of this band from England and their personal stories. No need to relate them here, as most people already know about Ozzy. But Tony and Geezer Butler, (the bassist) have equally compelling stories, and Bill Ward, (the drummer) has one of his own, as well.

Unfortunately, Ward was not present last night. I had relayed that point in my posting last February. A founding member of Sabbath, Ward belongs on the stage with the other three. And as I expressed last February, I still hope Sabbath will go on tour with Ward even it's one final time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Second Chance Released Today-Now Available for Purchase


It's true. Second Chance is now listed on Amazon.com and is available for purchase. Don't wait. Click here and buy your copy today. Hopefully, it will have a good first day, a good first week, and a good first month.

You don't have to be a football fan, After all, my publsiher, Dana, is a woman, and isn't a football fan. She told me as much. But she also told me she enjoyed the story, that she was caught up in the action of the games. And it must be true. Otherwise why did she offer me a contract to publish it?

Buy a copy, not just for yourself. The holidays are coming. It'll make a good gift for a husband or wife, a brother or sister, a cousin or friend, male or female. Women like to read, so here's a story they will enjoy. Men like football, so, of course it's a story they will enjoy.

Buy Second Chance; a Football Story. And I will thank you. Thank you.

Monday, September 12, 2016

More on Person of Interest

I'm seven episodes into PoI now, and I think more qualified to comment on how it compares to The Blacklist. It really doesn't. The premise is good. I like Michael Emerson and Jim Caviezel as actors, but for some reason their good acting ability doesn't translate onto the episodes, meaning the acting has not impressed me. It must be the directing. It's not good. And the stories? They have potential, but they don't seem to be maximizing that potential. It could be that the stories are contained in single episodes. There's nothing wrong with that, if it's written well enough. Maybe that's the problem. The stories aren't written well enough. But like I said, I'm only seven episodes in. There are at least five seasons, so I do have a lot more episodes to watch. It could be they'll keep getting better. If they do, I could be sold on the series.

As for The Blacklist, I was sold by episode one. I mean by comparison, so far, the acting is head and shoulders above what I've seen on PoI. It could be the directing as I noted above. I understand directors do have a lot to do with how well the actors perform. And the episodes are so intriguing, so involved, so complicated, but not too complicated, and they stretch story lines over several episodes while at the same time wrap up an episode into a single show. It all works so well. Maybe the actors do have a lot to do with it. James Spader makes the show, to be sure, but I love Megan Boone. Strangely, I have read some unflattering comments regarding her acting. My take on that is the directors have been terrific at masking whatever shortcoming her acting has. Or the show just works so well, even her lack of talent is such that it can't affect the overall greatness of the show.

Buy hey, I'm not so critical of her acting. I was just relaying what I've read out there on some forums and comment sections. Some people don't like her. I like her. So whatever. I only wish the writers would once and for all reveal that Red Redington is her biological father. When that happens, I'll be happy as a lark. Strangely, I never use that phrase. I picked it up from writing my John Dunn book. There's a Captain Watson in there, a real life friend of Dunn's who used that phrase in the book. Speaking of my books, Second Chance should be released as early as tomorrow. John Dunn will be released in November, so there's still time to polish that one a little more. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Person of Interest vs Blacklist

James Spader and Megan Boone as Red Redington and Elizabeth Keen
Now that I've finished watching season three of Blacklist and waiting for a way to watch season four, I started watching Person of Interest. I saw on the Internet there's a debate about which show is better. Fans seem to like both shows, and they also seem to like to argue about which show is better. Reminds me of the Star Trek vs Star Wars debate.




Well, I really liked Blacklist, and I don't know if it's fair comparing it with Person of Interest yet because I've only seen two episodes of PoI. But from what I've seen, at least right now, I do like Blacklist better. Probably because of James Spader. He carries the show, and if it comes down to James Spader vs Michael Emerson of PoI, it's hands down James Spader every time.

Not that Michael Emerson is miscast. He isn't. He's well cast for the part of Harold Finch in PoI. But when comparing the roles of Red Redington vs Harold Finch, the nod goes to Red Redington. Spader is great in that role. As for PoI's Jim Caviezel, he's good as the tough guy John Reese, but that's about where it ends. Meaning Person of Interest is pretty much a two man show. Yeah, there's Detective Carter played by Taraji Henson, and a couple other secondary characters, but they are minor roles that don't impact the show at all. Or at least they haven't yet.

Blacklist contains a slew of secondary characters, all of whom impact the show a great deal. The character opposite MC Red Redington is Elizabeth Keen, a rookie FBI agent, who is brought along pretty quickly in the field by Red Redington. And the other FBI characters, of which there are many, get major airtime throughout the three seasons that I've seen. It really fleshes out the show.

So again, maybe I can't assess PoI yet, after only two episodes, but based on those two episodes, it's looking like a two man show. Which is all right, really, if those two characters can carry the show. It's been done before. Wild Wild West was a two man show. It worked very well. So we'll just have to see how PoI pans out. I can't watch Blacklist anymore, so PoI is  on tab right now. I do like it, but just not as much as I liked Blacklist. Let's see if that remains true once I've sseen all of PoI.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Gotta Wait, but use the time well

I'm in the midst of waiting for the release of Second Chance; a Football Story. Next week, I believe, it will be available. Which is just as well. Football season is underway, and football is everywhere. Colleges are playing, high schools are playing and even the Youth leagues are underway. Now with week one of the NFL imminent, my football story should be entering the market right as football fans are cheering their teams to victory.

In the meantime, I am still improving John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu. Just as I did for Second Chance, keep making it better while you have the time to do it. Just last night I found a small error. Not really an error, but it was a time goof. Well, which is an error. It was at the "Ultimatum Tree" on the Lower Drift of the Tugela River, John Dunn had just told his Zulu friends that it was too late to return to their capital at Ulundi, and to just stay at his place at eMangeti for the night because it was close by. But he wouldn't be with them. Instead he was going to ride to Durban.

Okay. So far so good. But then I had Dunn arriving in Durban by dusk. Which is a time goof. Durban was about 40 miles away from the Lower Drift, and on horseback that's a good twelve hour ride, probably more. So if it was already too late to travel to Ulundi, (which the Zulus did on foot by the way,) no way would Dunn make it to Durban by dusk on horseback. But it was an easy fix. I just had to change one word. I changed 'dusk' to 'morning'. Which means Dunn rode through the night, and made it to Durban by morning. Not writing the exact time he arrived in Durban leaves room for the sticklers to be content that he could have reached Durban by midmorning, late morning, whatever. It's no longer a time goof.

It's just an example how continued proofreading is always a good idea. Not only do you find and correct typos, but you catch time goofs like that and other similar errors that are easy enough to fix.  But if you don't find them, you can't fix them. So you take care of business. And you have a great book. Can't wait for both books to come out. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sports - Africa - Books

I have two books coming out soon. One is a a sports book and one is a book that takes place in Africa. The sports book, Second Chance, a Football Story, is a novel about football. So if you like football, you'll like the story. If you don't like football, you'll still like the story.

A lot of guys and girls too, btw, like playing football at the park on the weekend. Or they sign up to play flag football with teams from their jobs or just with their friends. I have pick up games in the book, and park games, and high school games, too.

The story is about a former high school football player, but he plays in pickup games, and refs the park and rec games. There are a lot of fun characters in the story. There's Tony Belmont, the MC, and his girlfriend, Cindy, his best friend, Jimmy Nolan, and the gang of friends that play together in the pickup games: Sean, Rocky, and Joe. These are names from my past. Guys I played football with and against.

The African book is based on a true story. If you have an interest in the Anglo-Zulu War, you'll find this book very interesting. The main character is a true historical character. He's John Dunn and the story is about him. Basically, it's the true story of John Dunn. Still, there's some fiction in it, but John Dunn and the Zulu War are not fiction.

There's a large number of Zulu War enthusiasts out there, just as there are American Civil War enthusiasts. But the number of novels about the Zulu War are far fewer than novels about the Civil War. I hope my book will fill that void.

I'm working harder on this book than I have on any other book. It's longer than any other book I've written, and it may end up being my last book. It depends on a few things, but the time and effort I've put into this book is mindboggling. All the research, the real settings, the real people, getting everything right is far more difficult than any book that's about characters that an author just made up.

It's not like I didn't have to research anything about high school football, I did. But it's not as deep as a book about real people and real events. That's got to be done right. So we'll see.

Second Chance is due out in a couple weeks. John Dunn is due out in a couple months. I hope you will purchase both of them. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Bookstore Signing - Library talk

I would like to appear at a bookstore for a book signing day. That way, I might promote sales of my upcoming book Second Chance. I'll include my other two books, Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes. If John Dunn is out by then I'd like to include that one too. The Vase is not available right now, so no use having that one there. But with the three books already under my belt, it should be good. Although the genres are strictly different. Sports and Martial Arts Thrillers.

But that doesn't matter. If I have John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu there in addition to the others, it will feature three distinctly different genres. And if I have The Vase there, it would be four. I suppose the only thing that matters is will anyone be there to buy a book? I would hope that on any given day there would be, and on a day when buyers can get the signature of the author it will make a difference. I've seen people coming to these kind of events just to get an author's signature. So there you go.

Will keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Second Chance Release Date now Sept 13th

Second Chance is being printed as of today. I was advised by my publisher that the release date will be September 13th.  I know the original release date was today, but Sept. 13 will be fine. I expect all the edits will be finished, and the book will be flawless. As a book should be.

I can pick up almost any book from anywhere--libraries, bookstores, or wherever, and I will find typos. Even from a long time ago, in the days before computers. And strangely enough, in the computer age it seems typos happen more frequently than ever before. I think it's because publishers rely more on computers than human editors.

And the problem with that is that computers won't catch things that can't be programmed into them. For instance, a word might be misspelled, but a computer might not detect it. The word could be spelled correctly in another context, so it remains misspelled. It's one example of many.

And because the publisher wants to save money by not using editors, or by making shortcuts in other ways, those typos remain. But I made it so that my first book, Killer of Killers, has no typos, so I know it's possible to have a book with no typos. And I'm pretty darn sure that Second Chance has no typos. Dana did find one in her edits. But it's corrected now. It was just an extra apostrophe that was added in there somewhere.

So this coming Sept 13th, please take the time to buy Second Chance, a Football Story. I think you'll enjoy the story. The writing is some of my best, since it's really the latest sample of writing I've put out there. Even though John Dunn is being published after Second Chance, I actually wrote it way before Second Chance. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Second Chance - Editing Completed

As of yesterday, the editing to Second Chance, a Football Story has been completed. Dana, the publisher of Knox Robinson Publishing was the one who edited the story. She caught a couple things that I hadn't, and the writing is perfect now.

The only thing that I wasn't so keen on was the fact that she insisted the beginning be changed. I had it so that the main character was introduced in his current homeless state. And then after he tells his story to a reporter, the storyline returns to his homeless state. But now the story begins with the main story, and once that's over, the reader finds out it was a story that was being told to a reporter by a homeless dude in an alley.

Most authors have trouble deleting scenes that they considered well written, and it was like that for me. But Dana's the editor and the publisher of my book, so there's no room for debate there. I made all the changes that she, as the editor, advised to be made, and, like I said, the writing is perfect now.

I believe the book is due to be released next week. August 23rd. That's this coming Tuesday, which is a lot for me to look forward to. And in the meantime, I'm still polishing John Dunn. Oh, btw, The Vase has been submitted to two new publishers. Ignatius Press and Tumblar House. Both are Catholic publishers, which I think will be interested because of the role the Pope plays in the story.

So I've got things happening. Second Chance is coming out this week. John Dunn in November, and The Vase is being actively submitted. I was going to submit to agents, but I'm not doing that. Ignatius Press and Tumblar House didn't require agents, so I didn't bother. I know I said I was going to solicit maybe as many as six, and I might still, so we'll see what happens. I really don't have a good impression of agents. They've never done anything for me. Doesn't mean they can't.

We'll see what happens and I'll keep you posted. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Music Copyrighted

Submitting material to the Library of Congress for copyrights is nothing new to me. I've copyrighted all my books, right up to Second Chance and John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu. I've wanted to post some of my music to the blog for a while, and now that a couple of my "albums" have finally been digitized, I have the capacity to do it.

But first, the copyrights. I've completed the copyrights submission for the two "albums" today, which means as of today they are copyrighted. Which means I can now post the music. I've already posted the lyrics. I posted Rockin' the Afterlife years ago. And just recently I posted the lyrics to Rockin' the Cosmos.

But to post the music, you have to upgrade the website. That costs some money, but I'll be posting the music soon. Just don't pay too much attention to the vocals. The songs are good, otherwise I wouldn't post them. You'll need a little imagination to accompany the vocals, that's all. Hopefully by the end of the week both "albums" will be up. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Created a Map of Zululand

Most every book I've read about the Zulus and the Anglo-Zulu War has included a map of the area. Sometimes two maps or more. I wanted to have a map included in my upcoming book, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu, as well. But I didn't want to trace any other maps, or copy them. I wanted it to be all original art by me.

So I google-mapped South Africa and traced the satellite image of the region, particularly the rivers, towns, and Zulu kraals which factor prominently in the story. And of course the battle sites. I had to do a lot of research to locate the positions of some of the Zulu kraals which had not been included in any map that I had ever seen. Particularly Cetshwayo's two kraals, Ondini and Mangweni. I'm wondering if any of the prior authors even knew where they were. I have to believe they did, but for whatever reason they weren't in any of their maps.

One point about the kraal called Ondini. The name Ondini was given to two of Cetshwayo's kraals. One was before he became king. According to John Dunn, in his autobiography, John Dunn, Cetywayo, and the Three Generals, the original Ondini kraal was in the vicinity of Eshowe and "near the coast."  Eshowe is on every map I've seen, and is still in existence in modern day Zululand.

But again, Mangweni and the original Ondini were never portrayed. I researched and learned where the Mangweni kraal was and I'm confident I have positioned it correctly. As for the original Ondini kraal, I believe I positioned it correctly as well.

The second Ondini kraal was Cetshwayo's royal  kraal he built after he became king, and it's also called Ulundi. No problem for finding that location since the final battle of the war was fought there. Thank goodness for computers and the ability to make my map look professional. The final version is completely rendered on the computer. It will be an excellent map to which readers can refer when reading the story. Look for John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu this coming this November!


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Vase - Rewritten and Ready

Once again, my novel The Vase is undergoing submissions. To agents and publishers. But this time I'm going slow. Now that I read through the entire manuscript, making improvements where I believed they were necessary, the manuscript is better than ever. So much so that I'm giving the agent route another shot. But I'm not going full steam ahead with that. I'm only going to query maybe five or six agents at the max. If there are still no takers I'm not going to worry about it.

Publishers were quick to offer contracts the last time I submitted. And that was before the manuscript was as polished as it is now. I'm hoping to land another print run publisher. I do want the book in bookstores. Yes, my goal is the Big Five. But I'm not so set on that. Getting published by the Big Five seems ever elusive to me. And there are probably several reasons for that. The first of which is the fact that you need an agent for that. But if I don't get there, there are other reputable publishers out there that don't require agents, and some can be a great home for The Vase.

It's funny in a way. Because at one point, The Vase was the first of my five novels to get a contract offer. But before it could get published, the publisher folded. Then another publisher offered a contract. Then that publisher underwent some major internal problems, and I pulled the book from their lineup. Then Killer of Killers was published first. Then The Vase got four more contracts offered. I finally settled on Penumbra, but now Penumbra is undergoing problems of their own, and I pulled The Vase once again making it available to another publisher. Which means now, The Vase will be the last of my five novels to get a contract offer. Weird. It was the first and it will be the last.

But after all is said and done with publishers, I don't want to go the POD route. It's not the best way to get your book published. Yes, it's better than being self-published. And yes it's better than not being published at all. But it won't be in book stores. And that's what I'm looking to as a criteria this time. Does the publisher get their books into bookstores? We'll see how that goes. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Blacklist - Another Great Show

Since I have Netflix, it's another opportunity for me to catch up on shows that I never watched.The Blacklist is one of them. I remember it being advertised a few years ago. What caught my attention about the show was that it starred James Spader. James Spader was an actor I had liked, even though I hadn't seen many of the movies or TV shows he had been in.


But I did see him in that Kurt Russell movie, Stargate, about the Egyptian pyramids that came from outer space. And I saw him in Supernova with Angela Bassett. The two of them were great together I thought. Actually I liked Supernova better than Stargate. It's one of those "sleeper" movies, meaning it's a movie that was quite good, but flew under the radar, so to speak.

So when I heard about him being in a new TV show called The Blacklist, it caught my attention but not enough for me to watch it. But after having watched the first two seasons of Downton Abbey, (and waiting for the third to be aired on the PBS station,) I decided to give The Blacklist a try.

The first episode was enough to convince me it was a TV show worth watching. And I have been enjoying it very much since. I'm halfway through season one right now. It seems that even though Spader plays a wanted criminal named Raymond Redington, he's really not such a bad guy. Which is a strange thing. He's shown that he will kill, steal, cheat, and betray his country, yet there's that side of him which is a really great guy. He inspires loyalty and dedication from others, and he seems to have a side that is honorable and noble. I like all of it.

The female lead, an FBI agent named, Elizabeth Keene is a good character. She's a rookie agent, but working with Redington in the field brings her up to snuff pretty quickly. Yeah, there's the mystery about her husband, who at first seems to be a dorky elementary school teacher, but it's the mystery that Redington hints at that keeps viewers guessing as to his real identity and purpose.

And the mysteries abound in the show. And slowly the mysteries are solved. That's another great aspect of the show. Like I said, I'm only halfway through season one. And I think the show is on season four right now. I've still got a lot to watch before I'm caught up. But I'll get there. And I'll be enjoying it while I do. The Blacklist is another example of a show with great writing, great acting, great directing and a great premise. And when it comes to a TV show or movie, those are very appealing things to me.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

One Step Closer to Posting Music

I might have done this a long time ago, but because of the inspiration Gregg Rolie provided I got off my butt and googled for who could convert my tapes to digital formats, and I found someone in San Diego who apparently is an expert and reasonably priced. (25 bucks!) I mean, heck for that price, why not? I decided to send Rockin' the Cosmos first, since that was Volume 12 of my music.

If it turns out as well as I hope it will, I'll send volume 13. And if I can somehow post the music with the respective lyrics that are already posted on this blog, I'll be in business. Plus, it'll be a lot easier to send for copyrights, too. But I'm shaking my head. I might have done this ten years ago. I guess better late than never. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Downton Abbey - Great Show

After having watched so many shows well after they had come and gone, I got a chance to do the same for Downton Abbey when one of the PBS stations broadcasted season one and season two. I am almost finished with season two, and I must say I am impressed.

Talk about a great show. It's a great show. What makes a great show? I had inferred in yesterday's post that the most important thing is great writing. Downton Abbey has that. But you need great characters: Check. You need great directing. Check. You need great acting. Check. And you need great villains and conflict that drives a storyline. Check.

Today's movie producers seem to believe that an action-packed story line is necessary. Action as in fighting, killing, car chases, explosions, and mad villains bent on destroying the world. And as I mentioned yesterday, the latest Star Trek movie sure did fall into that category. I mean most of the running time in that horrible Star Trek Beyond movie consisted of pyrotechnics of some sort or another. Explosions, explosions, and more explosions..

It also had the maniacal villain played by Idris Elba, an actor I like, but his character was so clich├ęd it was ridiculous. You know, he's the former Federation captain who was caught in some inescapable and horrible place, and the Federation couldn't save him, but sure enough he blames them, and then finds some alien contraption to keep himself alive, which then warps his mind, and now he wants to destroy the Federation and everything he once held dear.

Come on. That was so stupid, even my fourteen year old son couldn't stand it. He's just a kid and he told me how stupid that movie was. And he was right. He was so right.

If someone were to tell me that a show can be great, so riveting even, enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, and keep you hooked for the duration of several seasons--and all with no explosions, no killing, no fighting, and no wanton destruction, I would have been hard-pressed to believe it. But Downton Abbey is just that. It's a great show with no fighting, no killing, no explosions, and no wanton destruction. It's simply a great show.

Again, why? Because it's written so magnificently. And the characters are magnificent. No they are not great fighters. No they don't go around beating people up, and/or killing people left and right. They are just great characters who you care for, and you want to see what happens to them, hoping for the best. Yeah, there are villains, but these villains are not bent on world desctruction. Sure they're devious, and cause trouble, and you hate them, but you need them at the same time, otherwise there's no conflict, and no reason to watch the show.

But even theses "villains" are allowed to have a good side. They do have feelings, and they do regret the bad things they did. They are turning out to be human. And they should be, because, well, they are human. With a conscience. How refreshing. How many times have I watched shows or movies, and the writing makes the audience hate a character, so much so that you want to see that character get killed somewhere along the way, and when they do, you find yourself cheering the death of what was supposed to be a human being? Almost every time.

But not in Downton Abbey. When bad things happen to the "bad" people, you see the good in them and you don't want bad things to happen to them any more than you'd want to see something bad happen you your own brother or sister. Or friend. That, people, is excellent writing.

Yes, there's a lot to learn from watching a show like Downton Abbey. And I am.

Monday, July 25, 2016

New Star Trek movie - a bad comedy

Just saw Star Trek Beyond with my 14 year old son, and like the title of this post says, it was a bad comedy. What a shame that that's what the Star Trek franchise has become. A series of comedies. I don't usually like comedies. I've liked a few. Galaxy Quest comes to mind. That movie was brilliant. And if I were to compare Star Trek Beyond with Galaxy Quest, then Star Trek Beyond really sucked. And the reason? Star Trek Beyond wasn't really supposed to be a comedy.

Sure there were comedic moments in it. Just like the original had. And some of those moments were kind of funny. Just like the original. But Star Trek Beyond went beyond the moments. The whole movie was nothing but a parody of the great original series. A very bad one. A very, very bad one. It downright sucked. And it really did suck. And you know what? It sucked so bad that if I were to try to list all the reasons why it sucked, it would take too long. And it's not worth my time.

Instead I'll write the much shorter list of things were good about it. (Very short list.) One thing is Chris Pine seems to be growing into the role of Captain Kirk. And NOT because of the script. The script was one of the major factors why the movie SUCKED. No. He's LOOKING more like Captain Kirk. And that is purely going on looks. He's not there yet when it comes to ACTING like Captain Kirk, but that might have something to do with the horrible script and equally horrible directing. I am ready to believe that if someone, somewhere could actually WRITE a great Star Trek script, then Pine might indeed be right for the role. So that is definitely a good thing.

Okay, what else? Well, Zachary Quinto was always well cast as Mr. Spock. He plays the part well, too, so there was never a problem there.

But what else was good about it? I guess Karl Urban is turning out to be acceptable as Dr. McCoy. He seems pretty comfortable in the role now. The first couple movies I just couldn't get Karl Urban's tough guy image out of my head. I mean Karl Urban had played the parts of big, physically strong tough guys before his role as Dr. McCoy. Like that dude he played in Chronicles of Riddick. Since Chronicles of Riddick is one of my all time favorite movies, I had Urban's character stuck in my head. McCoy was not a tough physical guy. And Karl Urban played a very physically tough guy in Chronicles of Riddick. Then seeing him as Dr. McCoy just didn't seem right. But now, he's older, not so tough anymore, which makes him more suitable as the not so physical Dr. McCoy.

As for casting, that's about it. No one else is cast well in that movie. But what else was good about it? Well, we don't have to even mention special effects anymore. In this day and age, special effects are going to be great. The computer age saw to that.

I must say at this point that my list of good things about Star Trek Beyond is done. I told you it was going to be a very short list. Look. Star Trek was a drama. Sure there were some light moments, and sure one of the best Star Trek episodes was a light one in Trouble With Tribbles. But that's one show out of over seventy! It's supposed to be a drama. Now, it's reduced to a comedy. And a not very good one at that. It's a shame. Can't SOMEONE out there write a great Star Trek script? Anyone? I know not all the original series' scripts were great. But a darn lot of them were! It's what made the show a TV legend. It's what the later TV shows and this run of movies owe their existence to. Sadly, no one is stepping up to the plate. Sadly.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Vase - What a story!

As I'm rereading and improving the writing of The Vase, I'm finding myself in awe. Not of the writing, which, btw, is improving with every read-through, as it should. I'm in awe of the story. What a story! I was noting in yesterday's blog post that it's the most original story ever. And as I'm reading it, and improving the prose, I'm remembering why. You'll never read or watch a story as original as this. But originality by itself is not what makes a story great. You've got to have great characters too. And as you'll see below the header of this blog, there are great characters in this story.

Not just the Palestinian potter. There's an art professor, who works for Shin Bet. There's an IDF captain who leads Kidon. And there's the beautiful assistant to the director of Shin Bet, herself a former IDF captain. Not to mention the reality series ghost hunter, and his show's producer!

Oh, and there are bad guys. Who else? Hamas terrorists. Except they're not Hamas. You see in this story Hamas strikes a temporary truce with the Israeli government which is to last at least as long as the Pope's tour of the Holy Land. But typical of any extremist group, there's a faction of Hamas who will have nothing to do with a truce with Israelis. And the Israelis of course have their own faction who shares the same extremist view, meaning they won't tolerate a truce either. And you wonder why peace is so hard to come by in that region!

So yeah, put all that together and you have great characters and great villains and a great backdrop and a great original premise that blows your mind. That premise being a VASE. A vase that has ancient recordings contained in its grooves. And not just one vase, really. There are a lot of vases that have recordings in them, and they span the length of two thousand years. Yes, in the story we get to see actual scenes from history that date back to two thousand years ago.

Can't wait to finish the rewrite. It's not really a rewrite, it's more like a revision or edit. But it will make the story better, and most definitely the writing will be tons better. So my decision is to once again try to break into the Big Five. It's not time to give up yet. Not with the greatest story that's been written in this current century going for me. That's saying a lot. But I believe it.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Back to The Vase

Now that the rights to The Vase have reverted back to me, I have decided to rewrite it. The Vase really doesn't need rewriting, but a book can always be written better. So I will. The question is who will publish it.

I recall when I first starting submitting it, many publishers were interested. And I think that's because the story in The Vase is original. It's a story about a vase. How can that be? Well, this blog is named after that book. You can see a breakdown of some of the characters under my blog's header.I really think it's the most original story of all my stories.

Maybe the John Dunn story is just as original, particularly because it's true. But The Vase, although not true is totally original. Actually, the Second Chance story is original, and my Killer stories are original. So all my stories are really original stories, in that none of them have been done before. My martial arts champion is his own man. He's not a ex spy, he's not an ex military man, nothing like that. So, yeah, my Killer books are original. Didn't mean to infer that they weren't.

But The Vase has nothing in common with any other book. Nothing. My Killer books have a martial arts expert in common with other books. My Second Chance story has a football player in common with other books, and my John Dunn book has a white adventurer in common with other books. But what other book, movie, or story has a Palestinian potter as its main character? None. Zero. Not a one in the universe. My book The Vase is the only one.

I might even try submitting it to agents again. Maybe. That's a very frustrating road to tread. Agents for the most part are looking for the next big hit, but don't have a clue as to what the next big hit will be. Witness their total whiff on the Harry Potter books. In their defense, that's a very hard thing to determine. So who knows? That's the point. You don't know unless you try. I might. But for now, let's get it rewritten first. Then we'll see.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Gregg Rolie's Concert Inspired

After seeing and thinking about Gregg Rolie's concert last Friday night, I am finding myself inspired. After all, I aspired to be a song writer in the not too distant past. I did write over a hundred songs, mostly rock songs that I had saved on several floppy discs and cassette tapes. That right there shows you how long ago I did that. It was twenty years ago.

Since then, I've been focused on being a father, a husband, and a school teacher. And now a book writer. But I was inspired by a rock band before. It was the return of Black Sabbath twenty years ago, which prompted the composition of most of my songs. Then I got into writing books the last ten years, and I've found a little bit of success at that. But now with Gregg Rolie's concert so fresh in my mind, I'm thinking about going back to my music.

When I started this blog, I posted the lyrics to the last music "album" I wrote. It was my"volume 13" and I called it Rockin' the Afterlife. I had no clue as to how to post the music to go with it, so I just stopped at that point. But now that I'm inspired again, I posted the lyrics today to the second to the last album I wrote. I had never named it, I just called it "volume 12" but in the spirit of giving albums names, I'll call it Rockin' the Cosmos. The lyrics will explain why, just as the lyrics explain the title Rockin' the Afterlife.

But I know that somehow it's possible to put the music on there too. I'm still figuring out how to put the music on my computer, and when I finally got that figured out, my next step will be to copyright it and then post it onto the blog. That way, I'll have another of my creative products accessible to the public. All of the music was written and performed by me. Which is not necessarily a good thing, because all of the instruments were simulated on a keyboard.

Overall, I think it sounds good enough. My dream would be for a live band to perform it, but playing in a live band is not so easy as it sounds. For now, the simulated instrumentation will have to do, and my own singing will have to do. Don't worry. I do hit the notes and I do stay in key. Obviously, I'm no Gregg Rolie. Not even close. But like I said. I do stay in key. I had a friend a long time ago who used to sing the Black Sabbath tunes while I played them on the piano. I remember that was a blast. He was good enough to stay in key, and he hit the notes, even though he was no singer. That's what made me think I could do it. Like him, I'm no singer, but I hit the notes. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Gregg Rolie - Nice Guy

I'm not the kind of person that really likes to go to rock concerts. I used to be. But for the last 20 years I've only been interested in seeing one rock band - Black Sabbath. But last night my wife said she wanted to go to the free Santa Cruz Boardwalk rock concert. There was a guy, she said, named "Gregg Roller" playing that night.

I said, "Gregg Roller? Do you mean Gregg Rolie?"

She said she didn't know, but she wanted to go anyway. I figured if it was Gregg Rolie, then I'd want to go. My old rock band way back when, used to play some of those Santana songs on which Gregg Rolie was the organist and lead singer. Some of you might remember those songs. Black Magic Woman, Evil Ways, and No One to Depend On are just a few.

So we went, and we found a place to sit easily enough. The place was an outdoor venue, so squeezing into a spot was pretty easy. I'd say we were about 30 yards away. And sure enough, it was Gregg Rolie who took the stage with a band that resembled the old Santana band as far as music pieces are concerned. One guitarist, a bassist, Gregg Rolie on organ, of course, with a drummer and a guy playing the congas, and another guy playing timbales. The only difference was they had an additional keyboard player up there. But that guy didn't have his keyboard set up sounding like an organ. It was more like a synthesizer, which was understandable, because Gregg Rolie, being the featured musician on the night was the organ player.

So it did bring back a lot of memories of my old band with Ed, Rocky, Joel, Tim, and Harvey, especially since Mr. Rolie played many of the songs my old band had covered forty years ago. From 30 yards away, Mr. Rolie still looked like how I remembered him. But from close up you can see age had set in. He must be about 70 years old by now, so for being 70, yeah, he looked good.

What do I mean from close up? After the concert, Mr. Rolie descended from the stage and talked to the fans. I didn't go over there at first, but then I thought maybe I could shake the hand of the second rock star in my life. The first was Bill Ward, the drummer from Black Sabbath. That happened when my friend and I sneaked on stage a couple hours before show time, when Mr. Ward was tuning up his drums. The great thing about that was when Mr. Ward saw us, he came over and talked to us. I shook his hand and talked to him for a few minutes. It was great.

So I decided to go over to see if I might talk to Gregg Rolie, but too many people were already ahead of me on that. And by the time I could get near enough to say something, Mr. Rolie was clearly tired, and he was saying 'no more, I have to go.'

At that point, I decided not to say anything. But then some dude shouted out for a photo, and Mr. Rolie obliged him. After that he said again, 'No more, I have to go.' But then my wife grabs Mr. Rolie's coat sleeve and said, "One More."

Elizabeth with Gregg Rolie
Now, if I were Gregg Rolie I don't know how I would have reacted to some strange woman grabbing my coat sleeve after I had said twice 'no more' and that I was ready to go. But Mr. Rolie smiled and said 'Okay' after which my wife gave me her cellphone and I took a couple pictures with her posing with Mr. Rolie.

Because I didn't want to try Mr. Rolie's patience, I was trying to snap the photo in a hurry. The photo turned out a little blurry, and because the flash wasn't on and it was late at night, the photo turned out kind of dark, but here it is to the left after I brightened it up a little.


Oh, btw, the Gregg Rolie band played two sets, and we saw both sets. I was glad we did, because even though the second set was mostly the same songs as the first set, they did insert a few songs which they didn't play in the first set. Look Into the Future, a Gregg Rolie Journey song was one, and I was very pleased to hear another which was the song they wrapped up the night with: Soul Sacrifice!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Second Chance and Heart of a Zulu on Knox Robinson Website

Both of my new books are now featured on the Knox Robinson Publishing website. I was thrilled to see them and somewhat surprised because the books aren't out yet. They don't come out until August 23rd for Second Chance and November 3rd for Heart of a Zulu.

So I decided to put them up here on my blog as well. On the margin to the right. I did that today. If you click on the images you will get to the books' pages on the KRP website, but unlike Melange, you don't purchase them there. Maybe you can when they are actually released, but I'll have to wait and see how that goes. In the meantime, they look good on that website.

I know they'll be available for purchase at Amazon.com, Barnes & Nobles, and hopefully bookstores near you. I'll be thrilled to see them on a bookstore shelf. Unfortunately, there's not too many bookstores around. In my neck of the woods, at least two Barnes & Nobles stores have closed down in recent years. That leaves only one more. And this is the South Bay Area, which is a highly populated area. Maybe there's more bookstores up the peninsula, but down here in the south bay, there's only one left.

I'll be making an appearance over there to see if they'll be stocking my books. Fingers crossed on that. But if they do, I'm thinking sales will be pretty good. After all, almost everyone likes football. I just hope they like to read stories about football, too. Maybe younger people do, but I hope that's not all. Older people played the game once, like I did. And my passion is still there.

I know there's a lot of people who are enthusiasts of the Anglo-Zulu War. Just as there's a lot of enthusiasts of the American Civil War. I'm sure there's more in England, and that makes sense. The Anglo-Zulu War took place about the same time period as the American Civil War, (well, it was fourteen years later,) but it was very much akin to The American frontier West. The similarities are obvious and the adventures are too. And the John Dunn book is filled with them. Besides, it's based on a true story. Can't wait to see both of the books in print.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Turn - the TV show

I'm enjoying the AMC TV show called Turn, which is about the American Revolution and the spy rings which the Americans used to gather intelligence about the British and their military movements. It's taken some wrong turns, lately with how they took the character of Major Hewlett out of the show, but at least they didn't kill off the character. He was one of those British officers who upheld honor and was a good guy, even though he was on the "bad" side of the conflict.

And then there's Captain Simcoe who is a bad guy through and through. He's murdered people, and even though he was arrested for that, the British have now placed him in charge of Roger's Rangers. They had made Robert Rogers a bad guy, and I guess he still is, but now he's working for the Americans. Not because he believes in the cause, but he was betrayed by the British high command, so that was enough to turn him around. He's a tough guy, and so is Simcoe, and both are turning out to be very hard to kill. Both have been shot, stabbed, and hunted, and neither seems capable of dying, despite all the attempts on their lives. You're actually rooting for them to get killed.

Meegan Warner as Mary Woodhull
Episode Seven was particularly entertaining for me. You have a female character named Mary Woodhull, (pictured left) played by Meegan Warner. She's a typical colonial housewife, but not so typical. She's feminine, and attractive, but she proved to be more than you thought she was. And I liked it. She shot Simcoe, (but he didn't die of course,) then she did kill one of the Rangers, and an observing colonial was impressed, saying to himself that she's running these Rangers around in circles. And she was. And the way it happened was believable. At least to me. I was very much enjoying that episode. And that from a guy who doesn't generally believe in a woman playing the role of a "tough guy." Meaning a tough guy that beats up people, including other tough guys. I'm not a chauvinist. I just don't believe that women want to be tough guys. Sure they should be assertive and self confident and independent, but I've often asked the question, do women want to beat people up? Do they? Do women want to go around killing people?

I don't think so. I don't doubt there are exceptions, but I just can't believe women want to do that, or see other women do that. I don't buy it. But in the case of Mary Woodhull, in that episode of Turn, I was a believer. And the actress pulled if off. Great acting.


Heather Lind as Anna Strong
You know, there's another great female character on Turn. The character's name is Anna Strong, played by actress Heather Lind (pictured left.) She's another assertive woman, and a strong character, pardon the pun. Unlike Mary Woodhull, she's part of the spy ring, and what a great job she's done, and at great peril to her life.

Both of these women Anna Strong and Mary Woodhull are turning out to be great characters, strong, assertive, independent, and at the same time, they're not running around beating up tougher men, and killing off tough guys. (Well, Mary did kill a Ranger.) The point is they're not running around kicking everyone's ass, as if they're Bruce Lee, but they don't have to do that to prove how tough they really are.

It's believable and entertaining. It's how strong women should be portrayed, and I'm enjoying this show very much. Keep it up writers and actors in Turn. Doing a great job.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Great Endorsements, but Can't Post an AIS

I tried to post the attachment of the AIS to Second Chance here on the blog, but it wouldn't let me. It turned out that only photos or images can do that. It's more than an image. It has a lot of text on it, as well as the image of the book's cover. Too bad, too. Because I finally taught myself how to put the image on there. You have to insert a "text box" onto the document, and then you insert the photo or image. No sweat, really. I wish I can show everyone. It's a publisher's way of introducing their books to bookstores so the bookstore can decide if they want to stock it in their store.

I like my Knox Robinson Covers. Not only are they top notch cover designs, but they include the endorsements on the covers, which I think is very important. As Dana says, if those endorsements are to appear on a book's cover, it's vital that they are from nationally recognized authors who are published by well known houses. And you can't be more well known than the Big Six. (But now that Random House and Penguin have merged, they're more recently known as the Big Five.)

And the authors I have endorsing me are published by Random House, Hachette, and MacMillan. Those are three of the five.The other two are Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster. So, yeah.

Here's Second Chance, a Football Story. It's got the endorsement of two nationally recognized authors: Carl Deuker and John Coy. Carl Deuker is a great sports author who has written several great sports books, including Gym Candy, as listed in his quote there at the top of my book's cover. But he also wrote Payback Time, Runner, Heart of a Champion, and Night Hoops. Several more great titles are to his credit.

I must credit John Coy, however, as being the first great American sports author to support me. John Coy has also written several great sports books. Including Crackback, Box Out, Top of the Order, and Strong to the Hoop.

Both of these great authors seem to have a great range of sports understanding, meaning they don't just write about football. They have also written books about baseball and basketball. As for me? I'll stick to football, thank you. That's my sport. Will I write any more books about football?  I just might. I love the game, as I've explained very clearly in a recent post. So never say never.


Which brings me to my John Dunn book. I love history, too. I love learning about great empires. Like the Roman Empire and the British Empire. And the John Dunn book covers an episode in the history of the British Empire. It's actually also an episode in the history of South Africa.

Here's the cover to the left, and you can see that the endorsement of the great Ian Knight is now on there. Talk about nationally recognized. Well, Ian Knight's recognition goes way beyond that. His recognition is global. This great man is the world's foremost authority on all things Zulu and the Anglo-Zulu War. He's written several books on the subjects. I was remiss not to have read them. But I'm correcting that huge flaw right now. I've purchased and am now reading the book that is credited to him on the cover of my book. Zulu Rising; The Epic Story of iSandlwana and Rorke's Drift. And I'm glad I am. I have found some new information in that book, and I've emailed Mr. Knight asking him if I should use it in my book, which is being edited right now.

So times are great for this small time author. Small time I may be, but with the endorsements I've received for both of my Knox Robinson Books, I couldn't be better supported. Here's to hoping readers and book buyers will also give me support. Fingers crossed.