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.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
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
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 clichéd 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
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
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
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
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
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|
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
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
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|
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|
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
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.
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.
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.
Saturday, July 9, 2016
The British authors, on the other hand, were very nice and did more than just answered an email. They went out of their way to read what I sent, enough of it, anyway, to send an endorsement. And it's not like it had to be an essay. No. Just one or two sentences. That's it.
I talked about the world famous Ian Knight and his endorsement of my John Dunn book, and another great individual named A M Banks, a reviewer for a couple British military magazines. But when it came to Second Chance, almost all American sports novelists just ignored me. Like they were all that. Well, they should know that compared to people like Ian Knight, they are not all that. They were snobbish in the sense that they did not respond at all. Wouldn't give the proverbial time of day.
Finally one great man did. John Coy. He is nationally recognized and has been published by at least two of the Big Five publishers: MacMillan and Random House. Scholastic Press, too.
Tim Green, another sports book author, at least replied to me and gave me an understandable reason why he couldn't do it. But hey, at least he gave me the time of day, right? So that's cool. He didn't act like he was too high and mighty to communicate with a lowly author like me. I appreciated that.
Today, another great man has responded with an endorsement. Carl Deuker, author of several great sports books, like Gym Candy and Payback Time, both about football. I will probably buy them, too. Same with Crackback by John Coy. I already bought Ian Knight's book, Zulu Rising; the Epic Story of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift. It's a long book, and I'm half way through it. To the left, you can see Mr. Deuker's quote on the cover of Second Chance. I was mildly surprised Dana chose Mr. Deuker's quote for the cover instead of Mr. Coy's, but I suppose it doesn't matter. Both quotes will be on page one of the book anyway, along with Walter Knight's quote, a fellow author from Penumbra.
I would like to post an AIS soon, too. It's an Advanced Information Sheet which is used to send to bookstores so they can see what books to buy. As soon as Dana at KRP gets the image of the book's cover on there, I'll show you what it looks like. Can't wait for it to happen. Stay tuned.
Friday, July 8, 2016
I mention college football, too. I don't actually show any pro or college games. I just talk about them in the book. What I do show in the book mostly, (three full games and the second half of another,) is high school football games. That is the focus. High school football. And there's a lot of it. I had to be sure I had the high school football rules right. There are some differences between high school rules and pro rules which I'm more used to, and probably a lot of people are more used to. But I had to be sure I had the high school rules right. With three full games portrayed in my book, and the second half of another, it was very important I had that right. The plot of the story is the high school games. It's what drives the storyline.
There's a city parks and recreation flag football league portrayed in the story, too. The main character is actually a city parks and rec employee, and it's his job to organize and referee those parks and rec flag football games. It's a major part of the storyline, too, btw. And there's at least two or three city flag league games portrayed in the story.
There's sandlot football, too. As early as chapter one. If you don't know what sandlot football is, I will tell you. It's when a group of guys, (or gals) get together and play a football game. There's no refs, no pads, sometimes not even a football field. Maybe it's at a park, and sometimes it's on the street. If it's on the street, it won't be tackle. But if it's on a grass field often the guys play tackle. Even without pads. It can be brutal. It can be painful. But it sure is fun. That is if you love the game of football. And a lot of people do. So much so, that football is America's number one sport. It has been for a long time. It's my favorite sport, that's for sure. It always has been.
Not just my favorite sport. It's one of my all time favorite things, period. Sure, I have a wife, I have two sons, (both of whom play football, btw,) and even a mother-in-law. Sure I'm a teacher with hundreds of students and a classroom, (two classrooms, actually, one for drawing and one for ceramic sculpture,) and sure I love all of those things. Sure I love art, (being an art teacher, that's a given,) and sure I love music, like everyone else. (I even write and compose my own music!) And sure I love writing about things that fascinate me, like great heroes who are magnificent martial artists, like Trent Smith in my two Killer books. And sure I love history, which is what propelled my book about the true life story of John Dunn, and even my Middle East thriller called The Vase.
Yes, I love all of those things. But football is right up there at or near the top of all things I love. So one day I wrote a novel about it. You know already how it came about, because I've blogged about it before. I had a dream. No, not like MLK. I had a dream about football. Several dreams, actually. Since high school, I've said many times, I've had recurring dreams about football. If you want to get into the psychology of it, it's probably because my own football experiences were never fully realized. I never reached my full potential. Bad decisions and bad luck were large parts of that.
I had some minor success at the high school level, but I fell far short of what I should have accomplished. And mostly, it's my own fault. Sure there were the bad luck injuries. But again, had I made better decisions, who knows if those injuries would have happened. It affected my later bad decisions. I might have played in college, but I didn't. Bad luck? Bad decisions? They went hand in hand in my case. Sure I played sandlot football. A lot of sandlot football. And my last hurrah, so to speak was a stint in a city parks and recreation flag football league.
But again, it was far short of my potential. Okay, that's the psychological angle behind my recurring football dreams. Which led to the story in Second Chance, my football novel. I dreamed it. When I woke up, I thought, wow, that was like watching a movie. So then I thought, I should write it down. I did. Then I thought, I should write it as a novel. I did. And now it's being published. So that's the history of how Second Chance, a Football Story came about. It's a great story. If you like football, you'll love this book. Watch for it next month. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
At first I wondered if it was appropriate, but the more I looked at it the more I liked it. One thing to remember is it's a hardbound book. And a cover like this is appropriate for a hardbound book.
It's a Zulu mask. And John Dunn has the heart of a Zulu. He spends a good deal of his time with the Zulus. Although the book is not about Zulu masks, the Zulu mask symbolizes the Zulus, and that is the point. Just like the football player on the Second Chance cover symbolized the sport. It didn't have to be the exact main character of the book, just as this cover didn't have to feature the main character of the book, John Dunn. After all, the title of the book features the main character of the book. John Dunn. And the gist of the book, Heart of a Zulu.
John Dunn would not have survived a week in Zululand if he didn't have the heart of a Zulu. He did, and thus, the book's title. This is a great time for me. My football book is coming out next month. I have another sports author who has agreed to endorse it. That's great. And Dana is going to put John Coy's endorsement or an excerpt of his endorsement on the cover, like I wanted. It's all good.