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.



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dr. Strange - Good Movie

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Person of Interest Still Not Better Than Blacklist

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2016

John Dunn Release Delayed

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Improved Map of Zululand

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

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

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



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Not Errors-but Optional Revisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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