Will iconic images recorded in the grooves of an ancient vase unite the Holy Land or rip it further apart?

THE VASE

A novel by Mark M. DeRobertis

Muhsin Muhabi is a Palestinian potter, descended from a long line of potters. His business is run from the same shop owned by his ancestors since the day his forebears moved to Nazareth. The region's conflict saw the death of his oldest son, and rogue terrorists are in the process of recruiting his youngest in their plot to assassinate the Pope and Israeli prime minister.

Professor Hiram Weiss is an art historian at Nazareth’s Bethel University. He is also a Shin Bet operative on special assignment. With the help of fellow agent, Captain Benny Mathias, he plans to destroy the gang responsible for the death of his wife and only child. He puts a bomb in the ancient vase he takes on loan from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Mary Levin, the charming assistant to the director of Shin Bet, has lost a husband and most of her extended family to recurring wars and never-ending terrorism. She dedicates her life to the preservation of Israel, but to whom will she dedicate her heart - the brilliant professor from Bethel University - or the gallant captain who now leads Kidon?

Harvey Holmes, the Sherlock of Haunted Houses, is a Hollywood TV host whose reality show just flopped. When a Lebanese restaurant owner requests his ghost-hunting services, he believes the opportunity will resurrect his career. All he has to do is exorcise the ghosts that are haunting the restaurant. It happens to be located right across the street from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.



Thursday, January 28, 2016

Contract Arrived for Second Chance

As I expected, my third and latest publisher, Knox Robinson Publishing, has sent me a publishing contract for my fifth and latest novel, Second Chance - A Football Story. So that makes it official. Second Chance is now under contract and scheduled for publication. And with a print run publisher, too. Make no mistake. I will always have sentiments for Melange and Penumbra. Melange was the first publisher to offer me a publishing contract, and my two Killer books are published under their label. Penumbra, of course, has The Vase.

But sentiments aside, it's a step up when you move from a POD publisher to a print run publisher, and it's a big step up. Print run publishers get your books into bookstores. I've blogged about it a few times, so no need to go over all of that again.

Suffice it to say that every book I've written has found its way to publication. And hopefully my books will have more success in bookstores where most people go to buy books. Despite the computer age, and the Internet, there's just something better about buying books in a bookstore than buying them online. Even if online means going to Amazon.com where my books are available, as well as other online book-selling sites. But those online sites, even Amazon, can't beat a bookstore when it comes to buying books.

And I'm not just talking about me. I would say the majority of book buyers prefer to browse in a bookstore, walking through aisles, flipping through pages, reading back cover copy, and that sort of thing. It's up close and personal. You get to feel the books, smell the pages, sort through genres, sit and relax with a potential purchase, all before you go to that cash register. It's a far superior experience than clicking on a "buy" button on an Internet website.

Maybe it's nostalgia, and if it is, then I'm not happy to admit that the disappearance of bookstores is imminent. Because those of us who have preferred bookstores will not be around too much longer. We'll go the way of the dinosaur, and so will bookstores. How many other stores will that happen to? Not sure, but it's clear that bookstores are on that list.

But for now, bookstores are still around, and it will be cool to see my books in some of them. At least Heart of a Zulu and Second Chance. Can't wait.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Original Review for Killer of Killers

Speaking of reviews for Killer of Killers, here's the very first review Killer of Killers received, shortly after its initial release back in 2012. (Again, corrected spelling, mine.)


By Melange Books, LLC
Sep 22, 2012
Dan Spanton's review of Killer of Killers by Mark DeRobertis Sep 18, 12 
Charles Bronson was five nine. Chuck Norris is five ten. Trent Smith could stand between them and blend in perfectly. He's five nine and a master sensei of Budo ju jitsu. Smith has left the martial arts academy, and the teacher, Shoji, who mentored him. He's become a rogue vigilante, but not for money. His mission is to give justice to the innocent victims of murder. The world he now enters contains a dark mirror image of his teacher Shoji. This evil counterpart is a man named Soriah, who controls a team of extraordinary assassins. Soriah possesses a miracle drug that repairs cellular damage quickly, and may prolong life indefinitely. Trent Smith must not only contend with Soriah, but also with a voluptuous blond detective named Samantha Jones. Jones wants him behind bars, but first she wants to sleep with him. Life is rough. The action scenes alone make KILLER OF KILLERS a must-read. I'm generally a fan of copfiction, and I can't remember when I've read fight scenes with this much impact. DeRobertis has an eye for detail, and readers who enjoy the authenticity of skillfully drawn settings and characters won't be disappointed.

So along with the Amazon reviews I posted on Monday, I'm thinking the consensus is obvious. People really like the book Killer of Killers. I'm thinking that people will like its sequel, Killer Eyes, too. Maybe they'll like Killer Eyes even better. After all, most people liked From Russia with Love better than the first Bond movie, Dr. No. It's all a matter of opinion. I'm hoping the opinions keep coming. Read Killer of Killers. Tell the world what you think. And thanks.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Amazon Reviews Coming In

It was a long time coming, but some Amazon readers posted a couple reviews for Killer of Killers recently. Nice ones, too, thank goodness. The first was a simple "fun book to read" comment, but another couple were a little more wordy. As follows: (Corrected spelling, mine.)

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I read this book over the course of a couple days with a glass of Kentucky bourbon in hand. I must add that I finished the book before the bottle. Like in any mystery, not knowing what comes next, is part of the fun, and this book has a way of pulling you forward, while you still search for clues. I relished the rich names of the characters like Steely Stiles, Silvio Gutto, and Jeremiah Flint. The author, DeRobertis was spot on with character development. One thing I learned from this book is that looks are deceiving. This book has left me with a PTSD that I am grateful for.
 
And:
   
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Its got James Bond villains and ladies plus Bruce Lee's martial arts fight scenes with an exciting plot involving vigilante justice. Yeah, this book is awesome!
 
 
So yeah, anytime people want to give me five stars, I'm not going to whine about their spelling. Hopefully a few more will come in. Don't know why my reviews are so hard to come by. I'm guessing it's because the people who read my books aren't the kind of people who themselves like to write. An occupational hazard maybe? Whatever. All I know is that I got a nice quote from the one person who was the most important person in the world to give it. I'm talking about Ian Knight for my John Dunn-Heart of a Zulu book. And a reviewer for the British Army's Soldier Magazine was also kind enough to provide a great quote. However, I'm waiting before I post them. Waiting for the book's release, that is. So we'll have to wait until November before I post them here. Don't worry. November will come soon enough.
 
In the meantime, my football book is scheduled to come out in August. That means I have to find some sports writers for a quote or two for that one. That might be even harder to come by. We'll see. But I'm on it. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Actors for Roles in my Books-What about John Dunn?

Lithograph of the real John Dunn
I've spent a good deal of time thinking about which actor would make a great Trent Smith. But now that my John Dunn book is scheduled to be published this year, I've been giving some thought to which actor might be right for the role of John Dunn. It would have to be an actor who wears a beard well. That is to say an actor who, with a beard, could look the part of an adventurer in Africa during the 1800s. He would have to be an actor who looks like he could become an African king's best friend. A Zulu king's best friend. He would have to look like someone who a Zulu king would want to befriend. Fortunately, we have an authentic lithograph to the left, which shows us exactly what the real John Dunn looked like. Finding an actor to match this face, I was thinking, might not be an easy thing. Especially since, to this day, I haven't found an actress who can play Susie Quinn from my book Killer of Killers. Why would finding an actor to play John Dunn be any easier?


Henry Cavill with a beard

But when I saw this photo of a bearded Henry Cavill striking an eerily similar pose, I was amazed. Sure he's Superman, but with this beard, he actually resembles John Dunn. I don't know why he has a beard here, but it's a beard not unlike Dunn's. Check out Cavill's beard and Dunn's beard. Cavill just happens to be British, as was Dunn. Better than that, Cavill is part Scottish, as was Dunn. It's as if Cavill was born to play, not just Superman, but John Dunn. I would think Henry Cavill would be interested in the role. He certainly doesn't want to be typecast as Superman, does he? Aren't actors afraid that they would be typecast in a role and then not considered for other roles? I think Cavill would be perfect for the role of John Dunn.


Look at it this way. If Dustin Hoffman and Kevin Costner could play roles where they lived with Indians in the American West, then Henry Cavill can play the role of their African counterpart even better. That's what I think. Who would argue that Henry Cavill looks a lot more like a heroic adventurer than both Dustin Hoffman and Kevin Costner combined? That should settle it.


Friday, January 22, 2016

British Authors and Reviewers - Fantastic People

The world's foremost authority on all things Zulu came through for me today. With a terrific endorsement, Ian Knight, author of several books on the Zulus and the Anglo-Zulu War, was more than kind in his endorsement. As was a British reviewer from Soldier Magazine and the British Army Review, (an online magazine.)

These two magnificent people proved to me how great the British are. Sure there were times when the British had some problems, but all that is past, and right now I can only comment on my own personal experiences with anyone British. These men had never met me, but they were more than willing to take time out of their busy schedules to help me with the promotion of my book, John Dunn-Heart of a Zulu, which is due to be released in November.

As I reflect on this experience, I must reiterate what I touched on in yesterday's post. It's not the people who know you, who work with you, even those who are related to you who are willing to help you. It's the people who have good hearts. And the people who have good hearts just happen to be British. I'm not saying only British people have good hearts. I am saying that this time, for me, it was British people who stepped up to the plate and delivered.

You see, my John Dunn book takes place in the 1800s, and does not paint the British as peace-loving colonialists. It paints them as they were: Invaders. Conquerors. Sure there were good people in the mix. John Dunn was one of the good ones. He was more interested in living with the Zulus than with the whites, and why shouldn't he be? With the Zulus he lived like a king. He had 50 wives and 120 children. He was the best friend of the Zulu king - treated like royalty.

Yeah, it all came tumbling down. But he survived it. He made the best of it. Did he have to betray the king? Did he have to betray the British? Read the book. You'll find out. I kept the major points true to historical fact. There's some fiction in there, sure. I had to make a female character strong. But since this all happened in the 1800s, there was little mention of women who played major roles. I made Dunn's first wife, Catherine Pierce a strong character with a major role.

I have included in the book a "For the Record" page that sorts out the fiction and clarifies the facts. That way, anyone who really wants to know how this or that really played out will be able to. One thing I didn't mess with was the historical accuracy of the war. All the people and events that had to do with the Anglo-Zulu War are historically accurate. That was too important.

So if you want to read a great adventure based on a true story, read John Dunn - Heart of a Zulu. Look for its release this coming November. And by the way, while you're waiting you can check out Ian Knight's latest book - "Zulu Rising; The Epic Story of iSandlwana and Rorke's Drift." Yesterday and today just happen to be the anniversaries of those battles - the first major battles of the AZW.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Knox Robinson Publishing - Full in Gear

By "full in gear" I mean Knox Robinson Publishing is going all out for their 2016 releases. Along with the publishing schedule they just sent me, they are stressing the procurement of endorsements from fellow authors in the field and/or reviewers in legitimate periodicals.

I am fortunate that I had already jumped on that when I signed the contract for John Dunn - Heart of a Zulu last summer. I was able to acquire an endorsement from a British reviewer, and I expect another one from the world's foremost authority on all things Zulu by tomorrow.

I must say I am very impressed with the British people in providing their help and offering their interest on this matter. I am forever in their debt. They owed me nothing, didn't know me from Adam, yet they are proceeding to help me out as if I were their brother. It's a lot more than I can say for people who had been my closest friends. Makes you think, doesn't it.

I'm only stuck on the Second Chance book. Since I didn't know about the 2016 release, and since I hadn't signed a contract yet, I hadn't jumped forward in soliciting endorsements. But I'm on it now. I've had contact in the past with a local sports columnist who might help me out. Time is of the essence, however, and I can only hope at this point that he does.

All in all, 2016 will be a big year for me with the release of two novels. That's not something I expected. But, hey, sometimes things you don't expect happen. Yep.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Women are strong, but do they really want to fight?

I've been watching on Netflix an action show called Arrow. He's a vigilante and a great fighter. So is his sidekick Roy Harper. But the badass fighters aren't limited to the men. Arrow's ex-girl friend Sara is also a badass fighter. And a Chinese gangster girl. And an Italian mobster's daughter. And then Sara's sister, Laurel becomes a badass fighter. And now I'm finding out that Arrow's little sister, the sweet and dainty Thea, is going to be a badass fighter. I mean, come on. I was okay with Sara. I was even okay with the Italian mobster's daughter. And I was okay with the Chinese gangster chick. But Laurel? And now Thea? Come on.

Sure, Women are Strong, but do they really want to fight people? Of course, you want your wife, your daughters, or your sisters to be able to defend themselves if need be, but do you really want to see them duke it out with someone? I am amazed how so many shows on TV and movies feature badass chicks who punch, clobber, and straight up kick everyone's ass. It's sensationalized, and I don't think I agree with that.

Why? Because let's face it people, fighting is an ugly thing. It's not something to glorify. Fighting gets people hurt. Sometimes really bad. Sometimes it gets people killed. Is that something women really want? Think about it. Have you ever been in a situation where you really had to fight someone? I mean really punch them, and try to hurt them? Is that what you want? If you're a man or a woman. Is it?

Sure, if you're being attacked, or sexually assaulted, you should know how to defend yourself, but that often leads to a worsening of the situation. Better you just run! Yeah, even if you're a man. Get out of there. Too often men think they're tough guys, and they have to prove their manhood by fighting. But where a woman gets off proving her 'womanhood' by fighting is beyond me. I thought they were smarter than that. Aren't they? I would think a woman would be better off if she could use her brains and avoid a fight. A man, too, btw.

Yeah, in my Killer books, my main character, Trent Smith, is a fighter. But he was a professional fighter in Japan. He had made a lot of money doing that because he had trained for over twenty years in the world's most renowned martial arts academy. He was the world's greatest martial artist. Events led him to his road of justice in America, and it's the story that's important, not the fighting. But the fact remains. When you're face to face with someone, getting ready to 'throw down', do you think that's a pleasant thing? To all the women out there, is that what you want? Is that what you want to see other women do? Is that the way you want women to convey strength? That they can beat someone up? Does that prove they're strong? Does it?

I say again fighting is an ugly thing. As a teacher in a Middle School, I've seen girls going at it in an all out brawl. More than once. Punching, kicking, scratching, pulling hair, gouging eyes, tearing clothes. I've had to break up a girl fight in my own classroom. I couldn't do it by myself, they were so vicious. It was the definition of ugly. Something I would never want to see again. Two fourteen year old girls trying to kill each other. And you want to see that in the movies and on TV? Do you?

The movies and the TV shows glorify it. They make it as if you are not a strong person if you can't fight. Sure, as a youth I had some scraps with other boys. I'm not proud of it. Yeah, I was glad I was trained in the martial arts, specifically Ju Jitsu, like Trent Smith in Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes. But I didn't go looking for a fight. And I'm glad (and proud) to say that as an adult, I actually did use my brains to avoid escalation in situations that might have resulted in violence.

So what about all these badass, kickass women? You see them in almost every TV show, almost every movie. Even my books, The Vase and Killer Eyes had a couple women who were fighters. In The Vase, Mary Levin is a trained IDF captain. (Most women in Israel are trained in the IDF. It's a national requirement.) In Killer Eyes, the antagonist, Ming Sang is a highly trained martial artist. But neither one goes out looking to fight. Not even Ming Sang. And she's the villain.

So I would like to know. If you are a woman, do you really want to go out there and punch someone? If you do, do you realize that you might get punched back? I'm betting that will take the fight out of you. And I'm betting it will make you think twice about wanting to be a badass.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Back to Work on WIPs

With the release of the Knox Robinson Publishing schedule for 2016, and seeing two of my most recent books listed for publication in 2016, I have a new zeal for writing. That means my two WIPs are back in action. Beginning with Killer on the Payroll, the third installment of my Trent Smith Killer Series, which I returned to writing yesterday. Trent Smith is, after all, my favorite character. I put him up there with Conan, Captain Kirk, and James Bond.

After watching an episode of Arrow last night, I was glad that I've written the Trent Smith character to have no family. Actually, who knows if he really does have a family. It's just that there has been no family introduced in the first two books. He claims to have no family, however, as I just wrote that last night. He meets a nurse in the hospital where he had to stay overnight due to some injuries, but the nurse takes a liking to him and a romance develops.

If anyone thinks that's farfetched, think again. I was hospitalized in my distant past, and guess what. The nurse took a liking to me and it developed into a romance. So, yeah, it really does happen, as it did happen to me. And to honor that experience, I'm even naming the nurse in my story after the nurse in real life: Nancy. (I am using a different last name, of course.)

But the point of all this is that I'm back in action. I was focusing on my other WIP, Inside the Outhouse. But being an MG/YA story, the word count will probably be about half that of the other WIP. It's one of the many good things about MG/YAs. Shorter stories and not as much commitment regarding time spent in story development. Although I must say I have spent a good amount of time with this story's development.

So, back to work. And stay tuned.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Publishing Schedule Released

Knox Robinson Publishing has released a tentative publishing schedule for 2016. My book, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu is tentatively scheduled for release in November.

Interestingly, my other book, Second Chance, a Football Story is on the list, too, and scheduled for release in August. Which is, of course, three months before John Dunn. I was actually thrilled to see that. But at the same time confused, since I haven't signed a contract for Second Chance yet.

But that's okay. I sent the publisher, Dana, an email, pointing this out. And I also sent a later version of the manuscript, which is a revised version. Since I just sent the email, I don't suppose I'll hear back for a day or so, but I suppose Dana will draft a contract to make it official.

So that's the news for me. It's good news, to be sure. Having two books published in the same year is an accomplishment in itself. That means every book I've written has found its way to publication. That's not common. From what I've read in blogs of other writers, and stories of other authors, it's more common that an author's first manuscript is never published. It is more likely tossed into a closet and left there to be forgotten.

Not so with me, thank goodness. My first manuscript, Killer of Killers, to this day remains my favorite book. Not only of all books that I've written, but of all books of all time. No, please don't think I believe I'm a better writer than Melville or Dickens or Jack London. Or any of the other great writers in the history of the world. Clearly, it's a personal thing. It's my book, you see, and authors often feel their books are close to their hearts. Especially their first one.

So that's all. I'm in a good place right now. Maybe I will continue to write. After my current WIPs are done, I hadn't planned on it. We'll see.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Now Alan Rickman has passed

Another famous performer has passed. Alan Rickman, who is credited with roles in Robin Hood-Prince of Thieves, in which he played the evil sheriff of Nottingham, Die Hard, in which he played the evil terrorist dude, and the Harry Potter movies, in which he played a character named Snape.



My favorite role of Rickman's, however, is Alexander Dane in the movie Galaxy Quest. And why wouldn't it be? Galaxy Quest happens to be one of my all time favorite movies. At least in so far as comedies are concerned. And Galaxy Quest was a home run. It was a spoof of the Star Trek universe, meaning, it was loosely based on the post-Star Trek-years of the real life Star Trek actors. And it was hilarious. Rickman played his role perfectly, and it's a movie I can watch over and over again.



So here's to Alan Rickman. An actor whom I never mentioned because he wasn't the type of actor who played a hero. He often played the villain. But he's an actor who deserves recognition, and unfortunately a sad farewell.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Stephen Amell, Dustin Clare, Antony Starr

These three guys are relatively new to the Hollywood scene, but all three make great leading men of action shows. I mean, if you've seen their shows, you'll have seen them fighting, getting knocked around, knocking others down, and making a pretty violent mess of things. But that's what happens in action shows. My book, Killer of Killers, and its sequel, Killer Eyes, are action stories and then some. By that I mean they're both action-packed, and they certainly do have violence. So these three guys would be great for the leading role, which is Trent Smith.

Antony Starr is 40. That means the movie, for him, would need to be made right about now. But for Amell and Clare, who are both 34, there's a few years to go before age becomes a factor. As for the rest of the cast, I've made several posts about what I thought about actors for those roles. Only an actress for the role of Susie Quinn needs to be found.

But if Amell, Clare, or Starr were to be cast as Trent Smith, I'd be cool with that. Yeah, I've been partial to Dustin Clare, having been swayed by his performance in Spartacus, but any one of these actors would fit the part, going by looks and the way they fight on screen. Sure, Amell is a bit too tall, but movie magic could fix that, no problem. Heck, if they can make the actors in The Hobbit look like dwarves, then that proves it.

Check out these photos. Each one fits my vision of Trent Smith. Which one would you prefer?


Stephen Amell




Dustin Clare

Antony Starr

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ideas Abound for Books and Stories

The word has leaked, slowly, that is, about my books. Not even my fellow teachers know I've written five books. Not even my own family members know. Not all of them, I mean. Certainly not all of my friends, both from my past and my current day friends. Once in a while I'll get an email from an old friend saying he just learned about my books and will look forward to reading them.

Interestingly, it's not uncommon for more than a few of these people to tell me that they too have ideas for books. They are not shy to tell me their ideas, asking me for my opinion. Sometimes these ideas are nothing original or nothing new. But that's not a problem. The latest Star Wars, for example, was nothing new, really, not in the "idea" sense. It was a rehash of the very first Star Wars movie as I blogged about recently. And it was very successful wasn't it? It's setting records.

Some ideas I've heard do have original elements, and to both sides of this I've responded positively. For those ideas that have been done before, I say it's not just the plot that's important, it's the execution of the plot. The characters are the most important, imo, and that's what sells a story. How many times have we seen the same sci fi story about space wars and space ships? But the characters make the franchise. Darth Vader, Han Solo, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, etc.

In the spy genre, you have James Bond. But James West was great, too, as was Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. And even Maxwell Smart, not to mention Austin Powers. The characters made the shows work.

So you have a good idea, good characters, a good plot, and you write well. You need good locations, and presto, you've got the necessary ingredients for a great book. Next thing you do is you write it. That's where the hard work comes in. If you don't do that, you'll have nothing. So get busy, my friends, get busy. I'll be glad to read your stories when you're done writing them. Let me know when that is, and I'll get back to you.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Great David Bowie - RIP

I was saddened to hear about the death of David  Bowie. Cancer strikes again. If there was anything that needed a cure, it's cancer. It seems to strike anyone, at anytime, and the results are devastating. Some can beat it. But that seems to be a flip of the coin. And the odds are not as good as a coin flip, it seems to me.

My introduction to David Bowie's music came from a gift. It was the album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Sounds like a corny title for an album, but when I listened to it, the music was nothing short of great. It's still one of my favorite albums of all time. And that list is not a long one.

Here's to David Bowie. One of the world's greatest composers and performers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Knox Robinson Publishing Schedule Coming Soon

My newest publisher, Knox Robinson Publishing has sent word that their 2016 publishing schedule will be released soon. And I'm looking forward to that because my fourth novel, John Dunn-Heart of a Zulu will be among those publications.

I'm looking forward to this book, perhaps more so than any of my others. And that's because Knox Robinson Publishing is a step up for me. My first three books were published by POD publishers, meaning no hard covers and no bookstore placement. All orders for those books must be made online through the publisher's website, or Amazon, etc.

But Knox Robinson Publishing is closer to the Big Six publishers, insofar as they are a print run publisher, meaning they will publish hardcovers and place books in bookstores. As soon as the schedule comes out, I'll post the projected publication date for John Dunn-Heart of a Zulu.

It's a longer book too, with over 120,000 words. That makes it more suited to a hardbound copy. It's a great story, featuring the true story of John Dunn in Zululand between the years 1856 and 1879. Lovers of Historical Fiction will be interested in this book, as will anyone who's interested in British history and/or African history. The entire story takes place in South Africa, but before it was called South Africa. It was called the Cape Colony, Natal, Zululand, and the Transvaal Republic.

The events in this story directly result in what eventually becomes South Africa. It includes a lot of fascinating events. It was fun writing it. I even have a strong female character. Dunn's first wife, Catherine Pierce. Sure I had to fictionalize some of her scenes, but those scenes did not affect any of the real historical events, which culminate in the Anglo-Zulu War.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Star Wars a Rehash of the Old Star Wars

They call it Episode VII. That is, the new Star Wars, now owned by Disney. Let me start by saying I only liked the original Star Wars, from the seventies. That would be Episodes IV and V. I thought Episode VI sucked. The little teddy bear aliens didn't work for me.

Then you had what they call Episodes I, II, and III in the nineties. And all three sucked. First, there was the unforgivable character, Jar Jar Binks, which destroyed any serious tone the movie might have had. Second, there was the "chariot" race, which was clearly copied from Ben Hur, and finally, there was the poorly written conversion of Aniken Skywalker to the "dark side."

So after a four billion dollar investment, Disney wanted to make something that would mimic the original story from the seventies, meaning the very first Star Wars story. And they succeeded. This new episode, Episode VII, is a rehash of Episode IV. From the lost droid, (R2D2 is now BB-8,) to the farm boy, (which is now a girl) to the Death Star, which is now a Death Planet.

Of course you have the rebellion, which is now the resistance, and you have Darth Vader, who is now Kylo Ren, who is the failed prodigy of an older Luke Skywalker, just as Darth Vader was the failed prodigy of Obiwan Kenobi.

But it was a proven story, as it was the first time, and it's what launched the Star Wars franchise. So Disney didn't gamble on anything new or different. They went with what worked the first time, and clearly it's working again. I believe they've already recouped a billion dollars, which is one fourth of their investment. Not bad. A success by any measure.

As for what did I think about it? Well, I think I just said what I thought about it. It was a rehash. If you were looking for a rehash, then you got it. If you were looking for something new, then you didn't get it. But something new would have been a gamble. I don't blame Disney for not wanting to gamble away four billion bucks.

Interesting how Episodes I, II, and III were mostly dedicated to explaining how the free republic transformed into the evil empire to which we were introduced in Episode IV, and was defeated by the conclusion of Episode VI. Suddenly, in Episode VII, the evil empire is back, but now it's called the First Order. But don't they mean the "Second" Order? Logically, it would be. But I'm not a Star Wars fan, so I don't really care. Always liked Star Trek better. Until the Next Generation happened. And all those terrible Star Trek movies. But that's another post for another day.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Era of Great Action Shows

As I recall the past year, and the past several years, I realize that TV and the movies have had a wonderful run of action/adventure shows. And I'm not referring to the slew of superhero/comic book shows that are currently all the rave. I'm referring to the wonderful action adventure movies like the Bourne franchise, the Transporter franchise, the new Mission Impossible franchise, and independent films like John Wick and Jack Reacher.

We also had Sylvester Stallone's comeback with his latest Rambo film , and his newer franchise The Expendables. The list goes on, to be sure, because I haven't even mentioned any of the martial arts shows that have been popular for several decades.

And there's more. On the premium channels of TV, which is the latest TV craze, and in many ways even better than the movies, you have the Game of Thrones, Spartacus, Black Sails, Strike Back, and my personal favorite, Banshee. I haven't even checked out Into the Badlands yet.

I love shows where the hero is a cool dude. But more than that, the hero is a great and fearless fighter. In other words, he's a badass. And when I set out to write my Killer books, that was my goal. To create the ultimate badass. In my books, Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes, the main character, Trent Smith, is the ultimate badass, because he is the ultimate martial artist. Of course, he's not the only great martial artist. He's had some run-ins with other great fighters who have gone the distance with him, so to speak. They say a great hero is measured by his foes. So that goes without saying.

But Trent Smith is undefeated. Period. In every category of fighting. Sure there are times when he's not in top form. It's not as if he dominates every fight he's in. That would be boring. Leading the life he leads is a struggle. But he's a great hero. He prevails.

So if you are looking for a great hero, and a great story, whether for fun or for a film project, check out Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes. Read the reviews. I'm finally getting some on Goodreads and Amazon. Perhaps one day I'll post them on here. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Friday, January 1, 2016

What Lies Ahead in 2016

The years fly by, and now so has the year 2015. Today is the first day of 2016, so what lies ahead? My John Dunn-Heart of a Zulu book will be published this year. It was a long time in the writing, and I really think it's an entertaining book to read. It's based on a true story. A really fascinating story about a white man who lived with the Zulus in South Africa. It's a story that hasn't really received a lot of attention. A couple writers did write about John Dunn. Oliver Walker, in the 1940s wrote a couple novels about him. I have one of them. Charles Ballard wrote a thesis about him, which became a nonfiction book, I believe. But all three of those books are out of print, and near impossible to acquire.

Ian Knight, the world's foremost authority on anything Zulu or Zulu War, wrote a small piece on him, more like an essay, really. But it did contain some valuable information on Dunn, which I used in my book. But no one else seems to have given much attention to the John Dunn story. Not even the people or historians in South Africa. Donald Morris did mention him in his book, The Washing of the Spears, which was appropriate. That book is like the "bible" on the history of the Zulus.

But what else will happen in 2016? Well, I expect to finish my two WIPs, Inside the Outhouse and Killer on the Payroll. Inside the Outhouse, my first MG/YA book, is a book I'm writing for my students, who are MG students, btw. They want to read my books, but since my books aren't for kids, I can't let them. So that one is for them.

Killer on the Payroll may be the final book in my Killer Series. It will wrap up the Trent Smith story, and I'm not sure if I'll write any more books after that. It takes a lot of time and the return is not really worth the effort. I found a small degree of success with it. But that small degree of success is too small, imo. It was fun, but it was also a lot of work. A lot of work that paid no dividends. Like my artwork. That's why I don't draw or paint anymore. It's a lot of work. Work that doesn't return anything other than a small satisfaction of knowing I created something nice. Like my music.

So what will I do instead? Who knows? I'll be teaching art like always and I'll be fulfilling my fatherly responsibilities. I have a son in college and another son in the eighth grade. That takes a lot of time and work, too.