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


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.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Second Chance completed and submitted

I finally finished the final draft of Second Chance-a Football Story and sent it to Dana (the publisher at Knox Robinson Publishing) early this morning. By early I mean four in the morning, which is when I corrected the last and final typo. At least the last one I found.

I made so many improvements and corrections, too. For instance the high school football leagues, (as they're called here in California) are called conferences in New Jersey. And the state championships at the high school level are divided into North, Central, and South. They are more accurately North Jersey, Central Jersey, South Jersey, but I used North Jersey and north state interchangeably.

Another correction I made, due to some diligent research on my part, is being sure to portray the high school football games according to high school rules and not NFL rules as I am more used to. For instance, kickoffs that reach the end zone are not allowed to be returned. They are automatic touchbacks. And another one that was more surprising was that missed field goals that reach the end zone or are kicked through the end zone are also ruled touchbacks.

So below you can see the cover design, since Dana sent it to me yesterday. I like it, and my brother and my sons like it, too. I only wish the featured player wasn't a kicker. I wish that because the main character in the story is not a kicker. Which automatically means that guy on the cover there is not the main character in the story. Also, there looks to be some space on top that is begging for some text. Hopefully Dana will put one of the endorsements there. Seeing as there's room, I hope she does. But whatever. It's a good cover. So football season is coming up, and the release of Second Chance should correspond with that perfectly. Here's to hoping the sales are worthwhile.

Oh, if you're interested in buying a copy, stay tuned to this blog. I will put in here an image of the cover and link it to the place where orders can be made, like I did for my other three books, Killer of Killers, Killer Eyes, and The Vase. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Football, the Greatest Sport

For me, football is the greatest team sport. It's the greatest game, period. I have always had a passion for football. I played whenever I could. I would rather be on a football field, playing football, even in a sandlot game, than anywhere else and doing anything else. That's what football meant to me. My wife thinks I should have been a football coach. And I did dabble in it for a bit.

It's weird that my own high school football experience was cut short, but that's another story from a long and distant past. The story that is current, which is the story that has me excited, is my new upcoming novel called Second Chance. It's not a biography, no. I didn't do any of those things in the novel. But I did dream the story. You see, for forty years I had been having a  recurring dream about football. Particularly high school football. Not necessarily of things I did back then. More like things I might have done if I had been a wiser teenager.

I don't suppose I'm the only person who could have done things better as a teenager. But I continued to have dreams about football that might have or could have been. And one day I had a dream about a football player who gets a second chance. It wasn't me. It was a dream, but it was a dream as if I was watching a movie. And when I woke up, I thought to write it all down. After doing that, I thought to myself that it was about time I wrote my fifth novel, and it was going to be about football -- more specifically about the football dream I had. And I did.

I had procured a publisher for my book John Dunn - Heart of a Zulu, and when I mentioned that I had just completed a sports novel about a football player, my publisher was interested in publishing that, too. And because football starts in August, that was the date my novel was pegged to be released. Even ahead of the John Dunn novel.

So I've been working very hard on it the last couple months, and I'm glad I have been. Because I'm not a newbie when it comes to getting published. I've already learned to go over and over and over that manuscript before it's published. And I have. And Second Chance - A Football Story is as pristine a manuscript as you can get. I won't say it's perfect. Typos have a way to stay hidden. So I will read it one more time and submit it on Monday for this August's publication.

I'm very pleased at this point. Because after this, I have my John Dunn book to polish up. Even though it's already polished up. Doesn't mean it can't be more polished up. Gang way!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

I took my son and saw X-Men Apocalypse last night. Since my childhood, the X-Men comic had always been my favorite comic. I stopped buying comics when my first son was born, but before that I was an on again off again purchaser of comics.

Mostly off again. I had collected comics when I was twelve through about fifteen. Started up again in my late teens and early twenties. Stopped for a long time. But when the X-Men cartoon came out in the 90s, I started up again and actually completed the entire X-Men run from Number One through about three hundred something.

So yeah. The X-Men was my favorite. When the first X-Men movie came out I was okay with it. I hated the casting mostly. Halle Berry was an awful Storm. She was too short, and did not possess that regal appearance Storm had in the comics. Famke Janssen was an awful Jean Grey. She was too tall and way too old. James Marsden was an awful Scott Summers/Cyclops. Too short and too soft. Ian McKellan was too old and too skinny to be a decent Magneto. Anna Paquin was too short and too mushy faced to be Rogue.

As for actors who worked in those earlier movies, Captain Picard was acceptable as Professor X, but that was only because Patrick Stewart was the most famous bald actor at the time. Hugh Jackman looked like Wolverine, although he's over six feet tall, whereas Wolverine was supposed to be only five feet, four. But again, he looked like Wolverine so he worked.

The best casting in those first three X-Men movies was Rebecca Romijn. Like, wow. When Hollywood changes things from the established stories, be it a character, their looks, or a story line, it's usually for the worse. But not this time. Not with the character Mystique as portrayed by Rebecca Romijn. That was a magnificent portrayal of Mystique. Talk about perfection.

So I'm totally disappointed that they changed the actress for Mystique in the later X-Men movies. Jennifer Lawrence took over the role of Mystique, and she doesn't hold a candle to Rebecca Romijn. And to make it worse, Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique was given the lead role in X-Men Apocalypse. It didn't work. Mostly because she was miscast. As was almost every other character. Almost.

I did like Michael Fassbender as Magneto. But why won't they give him the white hair that Magneto is supposed to have? Why? I did like James McAvoy as the younger Professor X. I did like the new actress they got for Storm - Alexandra Shipp, and I liked the way they had her originate in Egypt as she was supposed to have originated. They got that one right.

But the character of Angel? They never get that one right. Angel was always my favorite character in the comics. He was an American, not a Russian, like this movie portrayed him. He was the son of wealthy parents, too. Not some backwater Russian cage fighter, and he loved having wings, as anyone would. In prior movies, and even the cartoon, he hated having wings. WTF? No, he LOVED being the Angel. He loved being able to fly. Who wouldn't?

I am glad they recast the roles of Jean Grey and Scott Summers, but they still didn't get them right. Yeah, Sophie Turner is famous now from her role in Game of Thrones, and yeah, she's way better than Famke Janssen, but, to me, she's not Jean Grey. They could have, should have found someone more suited to the role.

As for Cyclops? They blew that one totally. Again. The new actor is Tye Sheridan and he was a complete flop as Cyclops. Again, way too short, and again, way too soft. When the first X-Men movie came out with James Marsden in the role, I was thinking that they should have found an actor like Christopher Reeve to play the part. And now all these years later there IS an actor like Christopher Reeve. He's Brandon Routh, of course. He would have been PERFECT for the role of Scott Summers/Cyclops. Why can't they figure that out? I'm talking perfect here. He's tall, like Cyclops is supposed to be and has the perfect face.

As for the character Apocalypse? I did like the actor who played Apocalypse. He looked like him, and they made his costume perfect. Oscar Isaac was perfect as Apocalypse. And speaking of perfect portrayals, I can't forget to mention Psylocke. I must say, kudos to Bryan Singer for getting that one right. Olivia Munn was great as Psylocke, and wow to the costume department for getting her costume just as it is in the comics. It's the only one that is just like the comics. No other character in these X-Men movies has a costume that's like the comics. But for Psylocke they nailed it.

As for the story? It was too slow, too tangled, and too involved. They tried to make this movie a tear-jerker, and that's not why people go see X-Men movies. They want to see their favorite mutants portrayed the way they are used to seeing them in the comics. And the only one who came close to that was Psylocke. I mean when I saw Psylocke on the screen, it was truly like seeing the comic character come to life. That's what movie goers want to see. The new Storm was almost as good, and so was Apocalypse. But that's not a very good winning percentage.

Let's see what happens in the future. If they get Brandon Routh to replace Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, I would be a happier X-Men fan. With Brandon Routh as Cyclops, I might even accept Sophie Turner as Jean Grey. So let's get Brandon Routh as Cyclops. Bryan Singer are you listening?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Time to Change Blog Name

Yes, I'm thinking about changing the name to this blog. The reason I call it THE VASE is because The Vase was going to be my first published book. But that wasn't what happened. Killer of Killers was my first published book. So the blog name should really be Killer of Killers. Or The Killer Blog, or something to that effect.

But the real reason I'm changing the name is because right now, my book The Vase is no longer available for purchase. It's in Limbo. The publisher, Penumbra Publishing went out of business. So all of their titles will no longer be available for purchase at the end of June. I went ahead and pulled The Vase from their titles already. I'm going to offer it to KRP or Melange, my other two publishers.

I could go the long route again. Meaning seek out another publisher. I did that with all my titles. Except Second Chance. I secured John Dunn with KRP, and when they indicated they would be interested in Second Chance, I went ahead and let them have it. It's not all that easy finding a publisher. So if they wanted it, which they did, I was okay with that.

So anyway, since my Killer Books are really my main books, and my first published books, I should be true to what I had originally intended. That being to name my blog after the first book of mine that was published. So be advised. Soon the blog will have a different name and a different picture up there on top. Soon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Three Possible Covers for Second Chance

Even though the cover design will ultimately be the publisher's responsibility, it's kind of fun looking over stock photos of possible cover designs. Especially since it's my own book. And football is one of my favorite things, after all, so there's that element to this, too.

 I still like this photo with the standing dude in the football uniform. I've posted it a few times before.

 I like the pose, I like the uniform, but the color should be changed to dark green and the number to twenty-four.

I like this one too. It's the same dude from the other photo with the lights behind him. But here the jersey is red. So you can see the colors can be changed, apparently with no problem.

Since there's no number visible, this might be the one to go with. I like the pose, I like the football in his hands, and I like the black background. Still, I like the one with the lights behind him too.

I'd be happy with either one.

Now this is an interesting one. Again, the jersey number and color would have to be changed. The reason it's interesting to me is because the theme of the story is present in this cover.

The guy has his back to the viewer. His head is lowered. You don't see anything else. And with all that space on top, you have room for text, like a title and author name, and whatever else the publisher might want to put in there.

As for the story's theme? Well, it ended up being something the main character wasn't too happy about. It was an event, or series of events that led to his downfall.

But nobody dies. And there's no violence. At least no violence that takes place off the football field. There is a lot of football action, much of which could be considered violent.

But is it a book kids could read? Profanity might be a problem with kids reading it. But some kids cuss as much as any football player. So it might not really be a problem.

Would I want my own kids to read it? Sure. But, my kids are over thirteen. So I would say readers of this book should be a 7th grader at least. I suppose that makes it a PG rated story.

So which cover do I prefer? Right now I'm thinking to choose door number two.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Second Chance almost ready

My football novel, Second Chance is almost ready. I've been going at it full steam for the last month and a half, revising, editing and proofreading over and over and over again.

And it's one of the most polished books I've ever seen at this point. I dare say all typos have been discovered and corrected. There are no inconsistencies or time mistakes, meaning no more chronological errors. I found them all. Fixed them all. And I'll go over it again today.

I plan on sending it this weekend or early next week. I know I've sent other files of it before, but those files were full of errors. I learned this with my first book. You don't wait to see if it needs fixing. You fix it right away. And that's what I'm doing right now.

I've been thinking of covers. I looked up some stock photos and found some good ones. The number of the character's jersey in the book is 24, so I'm hoping the cover designer can change the photo numbers to 24. If not, I'll have to go over the book again and change the number. Which is no big deal. So here's some possible cover ideas:

This is one of my preferences. If the number can be changed to 24, I might very well choose this for the cover. It's a photo that strikes me. The player conveys confidence here. And that's Tony Belmont all the way. Tony Belmont is the football player who is the main character in Second Chance. He's a great player. Particularly a great defensive back. He's a great athlete, and he knows his football. He's better than all of his friends, and he's well respected for his great football skills.

So why didn't he play in college or the pros? Because he didn't even play his senior year in high school. He was injured. And for years he regretted it. He has a recurring dream that he didn't miss it. But he did. And then one day he is confronted with an offer to have a second chance. Thus the name of the book. Second Chance - a Football Story. And there's a lot of football in it. So if you like football, this book is for you.

Let's look at some other possible covers.

This is another photo that I could go with. It has the same feel as the one above. Again, I hope they could change the number to 24. I would think a designer could do that.

I like the other one better, though. I like the way the other one is slightly turned. This one has the guy facing you squarely. Something about that isn't right. I guess it's not the way a DB would line up against a wide receiver at the line of scrimmage.

But if the guy was going to make a tackle he would. So I suppose that would work. Although this guy is not preparing to make a tackle. You never would be standing straight up like this to make a tackle. You'd get bowled over if you did.

Anyway, it's a good photo, and it could work.

Let's look at some others.

This one has a lot going for it. There's no number visible on the jersey, so that problem is eliminated. The player here conveys confidence, like the players in the other photos. I like the lights behind him. And I like that he has a football in his hands.

Actually, the more I look at this photo, the more I like it. I think I'll send all three to Knox Robinson, and tell them I would approve any of them.

What else is there? Let's see.

Well, I like this one. But wait a minute. That's my son right there. It's a photo of my son, Mark Anthony, during his Junior year in high school. He was a great running back. He was fast, agile, great hands, great moves, and had great vision. He was strong enough to bulldoze through the strongest defensive line, but he was also fast enough to outrun the fastest defensive backs. Speaking of speed, he had more breakaway runs than any runner I had ever seen. It was just as possible for him to break an 80 yard run for a TD as it was for him to bust through a linebacker for a tough first down. His Senior year, he was his team's MVP, and the league's Offensive Player of the Year.

Well, that's all for now. Time to get back to making sure the manuscript is ready to send. Look for Second Chance, a Football Story coming this summer at a bookstore near you. Or just check out this blog. I'll have a link to the purchase page. And there's always Amazon.com.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

More Time to Write

Today is the last day of school which means extra time to write.

I don't plan on beginning any new novels, or new projects, but I do plan on polishing up Second Chance as much as possible, getting it ready for its August release. I'm not sure how a book about football will be received by readers. I think only people interested in football will want to read it. The problem is how many people who are interested in football actually read books? That is a scary thought. My guess is not many. Which doesn't bode well for sales.

However, there are places that live for football. The southern states in particular, like Texas, Alabama, and Georgia. And speaking of Georgia, that's the state where my publisher, Knox Robinson is now established. And they are going to be present at a Book Fair in that state this August. So with the release of Second Chance, a Football Story, I'm hoping those football fans over there will be interested in buying and reading the book.

Which makes me think maybe I should have made the story's setting in a southern state. I didn't. The story is set in New Jersey. And it was only by chance. I used what I thought was a fictional name for the setting. I came up with the name Middletown. So I had the story take place in a town called Middletown. Then it occurred to me to Google that name to be sure it was a fictional town. I discovered there really is a place called Middletown. It's in New Jersey. So I went with it. I just decided, OK, so the story will take place in Middletown, New Jersey. They like football over there, too.

So that's how I came up with the setting. Random at first, and then I settled with it. It seemed to work. But will the people in Atlanta be interested in reading about football in New Jersey? We'll see.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Interracial Relationships in Stories

Whether it's TV, the movies, or in books, interracial romantic relationships are on the rise. I think that's a good thing. Why? Because despite all the racial divisiveness that seems to be increasing in recent years, I've always believed people are people no matter what color, race, or ethnic origin they are. We're all humans and we all have the same feelings, senses, and basic desires.

That includes romantic desires. And this world is full of people. All kinds of people. Many people look alike ethnically, but of course, not all people do. People have different skin colors and/or different racial traits, etc. My old art professor at San Jose State University used to say in my Life Drawing class, "Variety is the spice of life." He said that because we would have live models posing for us, and they were often of different racial backgrounds.

I was never afraid to sample the "variety" in the human race. As a young man, I was very much interested in dating girls of all races, ethnicities, and skin colors. My own ethnicity is Italian on my father's side, and German on my mother's side, (a mixture of sorts in regards to Southern European vs. Northern European.) As a young man, I dated black women, Mexican women, white women, and Asian women. My art professor was right. Variety is the spice of life.

But what I really learned from all of this is that no matter what race, skin color, or ethnicity women were, they were really all basically the same. That might come as a surprise to some people, but really, a woman is a woman no matter what color her skin. They love the same, they act the same, and they have the same, well,  you know, it's all the same. As I grew older and more experienced, I realized the most important traits a woman could have was dedication and commitment.

I'm not saying that I was perfect. No I wasn't. I made plenty of mistakes. But I finally married a woman from Nicaragua. And twenty-six years later, I"m still married to her. So, yeah, at least I got that one right. But it's not because of her skin color or nationality. It's because she understands commitment. She understands dedication. And she's the mother of my two sons.

But as I was saying, in stories, interracial romance is an increasing thing. I don't watch "Modern Family" on TV, but I understand the guy on that show is also married to a woman of a Hispanic ethnicity. The well known actress Sofia Vergara.

Speaking of well known actresses, the Hispanic actress, Eva Mendes, was Nicholas Cage's romantic interest in Ghost Rider, and has been the romantic female lead in many movies opposite an Anglo male lead. It's perceived as normal. And it should be.

I blogged recently that I was pleased to see a romance develop between the white male lead, Rick in The Walking Dead and a black woman, Michonne. It worked. It sure did. But they really seem to be afraid to further that relationship. You see, they've been captured by bad guys yet again. (Sigh.) And we have to wait another six months for that to be resolved. But once it is resolved, I want to see Rick and Michonne's relationship flourish. I mean I want it to sizzle!

For me, it's encouraging to see the black-white romantic connection becoming more prevalent on TV. It's not new, of course, but it's increasing. Which is interesting to me, since the racial tension in real life is seemingly worsening. You would have thought that with the country's first black president, the black-white divide would have improved. The opposite seems to be the case.

But not on TV and I'm thankful for that. The black male character Diggle from "Arrow" is married to a white woman. The black female character Iris from the show "Flash" was romantically involved with a white man, and in my  upcoming book, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu, the main character John Dunn is married to fifty black women.

That took place over a hundred years ago, of course, and not in America. It was in South Africa, (Zululand) where polygamy was part of their culture. I understand polygamy is still part of Zulu culture. And when the Zulu king invited John Dunn to live in Zululand, he also gave him Zulu maidens to marry. John Dunn was already married. He was married to a colored woman. In South Africa, a "colored" person is a person who is mixed with black and white. And Dunn's first wife was half white and half black. But after that, he married forty-nine Zulu women.

I would love for the story to be made into a movie or a miniseries like Roots. It's a fascinating story, reminiscent of Little Big Man or Dances With Wolves. But unlike those American frontier stories, the John Dunn story is true. Check out John Dunn - Heart of a Zulu this coming November. You'll see.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

I Agree with Snoop Dog

There's an article about Snoop Dog's complaint concerning the new Roots TV show that is airing right now on the History Channel. He's pretty much saying that throwing these slave stories in our faces over and over again is not cool. I agree with that. Why do it? Levar Burton, the star of the original show, and the executive producer of the current show says it's a topic that needs discussing. Clearly he has a lot invested in the show, so he's defending it. But I ask why does it need discussing? We got that in our history classes, didn't we? It's not a pleasant thing to see or to discuss. It was a dark time in our history. So yeah, we acknowledge it, because it happened.

But discussing it over and over again and seeing these slave movies over and over again seems to promote the idea that only America had slaves. And only white people had slaves. And only black people were slaves. The fact is that pretty much all countries and all races had slaves at some point in their histories. And every group of people had been subjected to slavery at one time or another. Not just black people. So get it through your head: white people weren't the only ones to have slaves and black people weren't the only ones who were slaves.

Blacks had slaves. (And still do in Africa. Even now in 2016. Hasn't anyone seen Blood Diamond with Leo DiCaprio?) And Arabs had slaves. Arabs were big players in the African slave trade, but you wouldn't know it by what Hollywood shows you. The ancient Romans, Greeks, and Babylonians made slaves out of anyone. Didn't matter what race. The Egyptians made slaves out of the Jews and black Africans. It seems with this focus on the African slave trade, all other slave horrors are forgotten. The recent STARZ show, Spartacus focused on the Roman slave trade. Didn't matter what color you were, the Romans made slaves out of anyone. They were equal opportunity slavers!

So throwing the African slave trade in our faces, like Snoop Dog is saying, is misleading and divisive. Why throw it in our faces over and over again? The first Roots story was a good story, to be sure. It was well made, well acted and it's been done. It doesn't need redoing. Take the 1930s movie King Kong for example. It was a well made movie. But it was made in the days before animation was computer generated. Sure, Willis O'Brien was a great animator, but with the new computer technology, Peter Jackson's King Kong was a welcomed remake.

But that's not the case with Roots. It was well done, and didn't need remaking. But the simple point of it not being necessary as a remake is not Snoop Dog's complaint. He's complaining that we don't need that "sh_t" thrown in our faces over and over again. He included Twelve Years a Slave also. He says why not make movies about the success of black Americans? I think they have. Isn't Empire an example of that? I would think Denzel Washington's Glory is another example. There's plenty more.

This brings me to my upcoming book, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu. It's the true story of John Dunn, a white man who lived with the black tribes in Africa, particularly the Zulus. The story is about Dunn, but it also celebrates the great independent nation of Zululand and their king Cetshwayo. A large part of that story includes the Anglo-Zulu War. Dunn fought in that war. But he also fought in the Zulu civil war that pitted blacks against blacks. Zulu vs. Zulu. It was a horrible event in which 25,000 black Africans, (Zulus) were killed in one day. But they weren't killed by white men. They were killed by other black Africans, just as white Americans killed other white Americans in the American Civil War.

It was an unfortunate turn of events during that time in that part of the world, but Heart of a Zulu is not about slavery. It is about Africa. South Africa, in particular, and one white man who played an integral role in the history of an independent black nation. The Zulu nation. Watch for John Dunn - Heart of a Zulu, available in bookstores this coming November from Knox Robinson Publishing.