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.




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New Spider-man Movie -- um...

Okay, I saw the new Spider-man movie last night with my two sons, and... Well, during the movie I was thinking how I was going to write in today's blog just how stupid the movie was. How very stupid it really was. I'm a traditionalist you see. I've got the silver age comics from those years ago, and I know how Spider-man is supposed to be.

The 90's cartoon was pretty good, but the two versions of movies with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were disappointments to be sure. Of course, as I always say, Hollywood believes they know better than the original writers and creators of the genre and they change them mostly for the worse.

But last night, when the movie was over, both my sons said they liked the movie, which made me rethink my opinion of it. I thought back to Maguire's version and how they changed his web shooter to a non web shooter. The movie people made it so that the webbing was part of his biological make up, and the webs came from his wrists naturally, instead of from a web shooter that he invented like in the comics. That was a horrible change.

And in Maguire's and Garfield's Spider-man, they made the spider that bit Peter Parker some kind of genetically modified spider instead of a radioactive spider like in the comics. Another bad change because that meant Spider-man's blood isn't radioactive anymore. Ever heard the song? "He's got radio-active blood. Hey, there... There goes a..." Well, never mind. At least in Garfield's Spider-man and in last night's Spider-man, Peter Parker invented his own web shooter. And they actually never mentioned the spider's condition in last night's movie because they didn't reenact the origin scene.

So, anyway, as I was watching this movie I was not liking it. But then while listening to my sons after it was over, and hearing their opinions of it, and why they liked it, my opinion changed. And I decided I liked it. And here's why: Because this time the movie people made changes to accommodate the ongoing Avengers and Ironman/Tony Stark storyline. Which makes sense. And the changes mostly involved the Spider-man costume, meaning Tony Stark designed the Spider-man costume not Peter Parker. Which makes sense. And it even contains a lot of Ironman components, like a talking computer which makes sense. (Since it was designed by Tony Stark.) And even though Peter invented his own web shooter, Stark improved it in many ways. Which made sense.

So okay. I can change my mind. I don't have to be so stuck in my old-fashioned ways. I can change with the times. I can let my sons sway my opinion. The new Spider-man movie was good. Would I have written it differently? Yes. Would I have made it better? I would like to think so. But was it good anyway? Yes. It's a good movie. The best one yet.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

John Dunn - The True Story

I've talked about heroes recently, mostly of whom are fictitious characters. I've talked about strong men and yes, strong women characters in the movies and TV shows, but the one thing that is noteworthy about these strong characters is that they are fictitious characters.

The Jason Bournes, the Frank Martins, and even the James Bonds -- all fictitious characters. Even my own Trent Smith, the world's greatest martial artist from my Killer novels, is Fictitious.

But I heard once that truth is stranger than fiction. And the character John Dunn, from my latest novel John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu is NOT fictitious. John Dunn is a real character from real history, and his story is a true one. And I wrote it that way. Sure I put in some fictitious elements to spice it up. Mostly those elements were about his first wife, Catherine Pierce. I made her into a strong female character. It seems strong female characters are all the rave these days. At least Hollywood would have you believe that if you consider the movies and TV shows being aired at this time.

So I was sure to include a strong female character in my John Dunn book, and I made it the foremost female character in the story, Dunn's first wife, Catherine Pierce. But the truth is that the real John Dunn hardly mentioned her in his autobiography. Even in Charles Ballard's thesis on John Dunn I could hardly find a mention of her. Ditto with Donald Morris's Washing of the Spears and Ian Knight's Zulu Rising. In fact in every history book on John Dunn or the Zulus or the Zulu War I read there is hardly a mention (if any mention at all) of Catherine Pierce.

Now if John Dunn himself didn't bother mentioning much about his first wife, (or any of his 49 wives) what does that tell you? Nothing, really, but it didn't leave a lot to go on. All of the above writers wrote a great deal about John Dunn, however, almost all of them agreeing that his story was an incredible one. An incredible one that is TRUE.

Hollywood put out at least three movies about a white man living with the Native Americans. We've all seen them. Little Big Man, with Dustin Hoffman, A Man Called Horse with Richard Harris, and Dances with Wolves with Kevin Costner. And yeah, they were all intriguing, compelling stories of how a solitary white man became one with the Indian tribes. They were great stories. But they were not TRUE stories. They were imagined, made up, and fictitious.

Now that's the thing about John Dunn. He was NOT imagined. He was NOT made up. He is NOT fictitious. This man's story is even greater than those fictitious stories told in the above Hollywood movies. He was a man who from a very young age lived in Zululand, with the Zulus, as a Zulu. And would have lived his entire life that way if Captain Joshua Walmsley didn't find him and bring him back to civilization. He then retaught him English and tutored him in the civilized ways.

But fate would not let John Dunn go. Fate brought Dunn back to the Zulus. I made mention in the book that Dunn's destiny was in Zululand and Dunn realized that to be true. He returned to Zululand to fight in the Zulu Civil War. He fought on the losing side, and the victorious Prince Cetshwayo might have killed Dunn right then, but for Dunn's resilience in escaping the massacre, which included over twenty thousand Zulus (men, women, and children) on the banks of the Tugela River.

But even then Dunn hadn't given up on finding his destiny in Zululand. He returned to Zululand at the risk of being skinned alive. Which is what Prince Cetshwayo might have done had he captured him during the battle. Instead, when their paths crossed, Cetshwayo took a liking to Dunn, offered his friendship, which included land, Zulu wives, and even a chieftainship.

Now let's pause right there. It must be noted that a chieftainship is NOT something handed out arbitrarily or given to just anyone. A chieftainship is like being a governor of a state, like California New York, or Michigan. Not even Cetshwayo's brothers and fellow princes were guaranteed chieftainships. Many of them never achieved that status. But John Dunn did.

And the events that unfolded over the next twenty years were nothing short of amazing. I must advise any readers who find this interesting to read the book. John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu. Those amazing events conclude with the infamous Anglo-Zulu War. I made sure to keep it all accurate. Especially the battles, one in which John Dunn fought.

John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu. Based on the TRUE story of the REAL John Dunn. Order your copy today, and you will learn not just about John Dunn, but about the real history of South Africa and the Zulu tribes in the years following Shaka. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Blacklist - Disappoints


Okay, I checked out the two-part season four finale of The Blacklist, which wrapped up the "Mr. Kaplan" adversarial story arc, and it did indeed disappoint. Instead of Red killing her, she jumps off a bridge and commits suicide. Okay. But that wasn't how I would have written this ending. I would have made it all come together in a positive way, and everyone would have been friends again.

Which is how it should have been. Why? Because after Kaplan had recovered from Red's earlier attempt to kill her, she was remorseful. Not for what Red did, but rather for what SHE did. She admitted she was wrong, that she had betrayed Red, and that it was her fault that Lizzy had been kidnapped and put into danger. She admitted she deserved the bullet to her head.

But later, all of that was forgotten as if it had never been written or portrayed in the show. Instead, Kaplan turns into this vindictive, revenge-seeking antagonist, bent on Red's destruction. Um, what happened to all the remorse and Kaplan's concession that it was HER fault to begin with? It's called inconsistency, and that's BAD WRITING.

So, as I posted yesterday, the show dragged out this conflict between Red and Mr. Kaplan, to the point of Red's near destruction. But Red is resilient, he's the main character, after all, and he gets the jump on Kaplan. But this time Red is determined not to kill her. (Which he never should have attempted that first time!) Instead he offers her an out, which she doesn't take. Why? Because she's hell bent on destroying Red. Sheesh. What happened to her admitting she deserved that bullet to the head? It's called bad writing.

So, anyway, that's when she jumps off the bridge. And she does that because she has to die in order for her final contingency plan to be put into effect. Which is carried out by Tom, Lizzy's husband, and Red's former spy, but is now a spy for Kaplan. Upon Kaplan's death, Tom removes a suitcase from a locker and, apparently, is supposed to take it to Lizzy.

This suitcase, apparently, contains the bones of Lizzy's mother, Red's former lover, which, apparently will prove that Red had killed Lizzy's mother. Apparently. This was hinted at in a dialogue between Red and his bodyguard, Dembe, at the end of the show.

But wait a minute. Too many problems with all of this. Besides the fact that all of this is contrary to Kaplan's original remorse at having betrayed Red and her admitting she deserved the bullet to her head. Now it gets worse. I mean, since when does Tom work for Kaplan? Since, like, never. And since Red had already told Lizzy that her mother died in shame and disgrace, it makes the point that Red, if he did kill Lizzy's mother, his former lover, he had a damn good reason for doing so, which he always does when he kills someone. And Lizzy should know this by now.

Look--Red is the star of the show. He is someone the audience has empathy for and sympathy for, more than anyone else on the show. He's the hero. Yeah, he's billed as a criminal, but he's never done anything to anyone that makes the audience hate him. Never. Everyone he's killed, or dogged, deserved it, and deserved it big time. Kaplan's antics, on the other hand resulted in the deaths of several innocent people, and she even cut out an eye of an innocent man with her own hands. So, yeah, Kaplan, as it turned out was the one who resorted to evil deeds. Not Red.

But I have another complaint and it's unrelated to all of the above. For the entire season, the viewers of this show have been teased with the idea that Red is Lizzy's father. And it's something that I personally wanted to be the case. It would be the ONLY thing that would make sense out of all of this. Meaning, it's the only thing that would validate the entire series. Red NEEDS to be Lizzy's father for any of the show's storylines to make sense. So for four seasons, they hinted at it, and at one point while being tortured, Red admits Lizzy is his daughter, but he had never admitted it to Lizzy.

Now in the fourth season finale, a DNA test proves Red is Lizzy's father, and I approved of the reaction Lizzy displayed. She accepts him as her father, and is happy to have him as her family. I was cool with all of that. It's the way I would have written it too.

But then in that final dialogue between Red and Dembe, Dembe asked Red if he denied it. Why would Dembe ask Red that if Red was Lizzy's real father? Well, Red says he didn't deny it. Still, that question suggests that Red is NOT Lizzy's father. I know it's not definitive, and it may not suggest that, but perpetuating doubt is not cool. I want to know once and for all that Red is indeed Lizzy's father, and no more doubts about it.

I hate being played by a show, by a writer, or by anyone. Red better be Lizzy's father or the entire show is bullshit. Which would mean I wasted a good portion of my time watching a show that was bullshit. It wouldn't be the first time. The STARZ show Black Sails did that to me, and to countless fans who had followed that show. If The Blacklist does that too... Well, it would be unfortunate, that's all. We'll see.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Blacklist Falling from Grace


I had claimed that The Blacklist TV show had become my favorite TV show. At least insofar as current TV shows are concerned. That is quickly coming to an end. It seems that in its fourth season, the writers are running out of gas. It's not entirely unexpected.  Mostly, the writers were doing a great job. Not anymore, I'm sorry to say.

Why? Well, because one of my favorite characters in the show, Mr. Kaplan, has become the bad guy. Mr. Kaplan is a woman, btw, and she was a great ally of the main character Red Reddington. Which was why she was one of my favorite characters. But for lack of new storylines, the writers have made her into Red's adversary. And there was only so much they could do with that. And they've run out of ideas. They are dragging this out over the duration of the fourth season, and I'm tired of it. You see, Mr. Kaplan does not make for a great bad guy. No, she doesn't.

In fact, Mr. Kaplan was a great good guy. As long as she was on the side of Red Reddington. But now, it's like the two characters are playing tug-of-war with the other main character Lizzy Keane. To the point of ridiculousness. And I'm not one to favor ridiculousness in a storyline. I don't appreciate it. Because it was one of my favorite shows. Not anymore.

Perhaps I'll wait until the season conclusion. Which I will watch probably tonight. Then I'll make that decision. If they end this unfavorable story arc, then I might be back on board. So we'll see.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Hawaii Vacation Over

Today is my first day back from Hawaii. My brother lives there, and I took my wife and youngest son there this past week. Hawaii is famous, of course, for its beaches. And they are very nice. Spent a lot of time there. My brother is a lawyer, but he also wrote a book. A high fantasy novel. Kind of like the LORs story, but still quite different. In other words, fans who loved LOR will love his book.



So I was an A-reader or a Beta reader as some would say. And the writing was quite good. He's a talented writer and story-teller, and his story is one that I would say deserves to be published by the infamous Big Five. But that means an agent is required. Yes, the ever elusive literary agent. I'm considering going that route again for my novel The Vase. It deserves the Big Five as well.


But we all know how that goes. Fingers crossed. My brother lives close to a lot of beaches, and I guess when you live in Hawaii, who doesn't? I particularly liked Waikiki. It's one of the most famous beaches in the world. For a lot of reasons. There's a lot of people there. A lot of action, too. My son took surfing lessons, and he was a natural.



I was never a skate boarder when I was a kid, so I never had an interest in surfing. I mean, I liked the Beach Boys music, but surfing was never my thing. But my youngest son is good at skate boarding, and he was good at surfing too, on his first attempts. He looked like those dudes in the movies. I was proud of him. He wants to go back to Hawaii and get his own surfboard, too.


As for me? I'm good right here in California. Still, since my brother lives there, and in a really big house in an upscale part of Oahu, I have no reason not to go back. Hawaii is famous for other things too, not just the beaches. So yeah, it was all good. Right now, I'm back to work in perfecting The Vase. That's a real good story too.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Fear the Walking Dead - drops to a new low

Yes, a new low for Fear the Walking Dead last Sunday. It's as if they are running out of storylines. As of last Sunday's episode Fear the Walking Dead has devolved to the old  storyline of "Cowboys and Indians." You read that right. It's the 21st Century. Instead of the "Native Americans" assimilating into modern American society, and getting along with everyone else, we have our resident "Indians" rising up during this horrible "Zombie Apocalypse" to stick it to the White Man.

I  mean, come on... this is so old, and old fashioned, and overdone, and pointless, and just plain ridiculous. Once again, in a show where humanity is on the verge of extinction, struggling to survive against some kind of world destroying plague, with bands of thugs patrolling the landscape, raping, pillaging, and overpowering the weakened masses, now you have a group of people (Indians) not trying to help, not trying to contribute, not trying to make things better or at least survivable. Instead they are "rising up" against the "white man." Just like a 1950s Cowboys and Indians show.

This is so uncool, I don't have the words to describe it. I mean in this show the circumstances are such that anyone is lucky to find a place that is safe for any length of time. I get it about the thugs finding strength in their "gangs" and roving the countryside like wolves trying to dominate the weak. You have that anywhere you go, Just check out any big city in America today.

But when the world is on the brink of complete destruction, I would think that there remained groups of people who are not thugs. In the Waking Dead we see it here and there. Groups of benevolent people, in contrast to the thugs. In Fear we have the new group of people led by a man named Otto, and it's all good. But no, actually it's not. Now you have the "tribe" of Indians opposing them, and capturing them, shooting them, killing them, and threatening them.

What's wrong with working together to make life livable for all? Oh wait... There's no story there. But might there be? Can't some talented writers make a story like that? Or do we just need to see more senseless meanness, senseless cruelty to fellow travelers who are doing nothing more than struggling to survive? I guess the writers are bent on meanness. Like in Lost. Just be mean for no reason other than just to be mean. Why not? It's an easier story to write.

Monday, June 26, 2017

John Dunn read-through completed

I had reported that in the first half of my newest book, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu, there was only one typo. I had hoped that it would project to two typos for the entire book. Well, there's three. No worries, they're very minor typos. In the first half of the book there was a quotation mark where it didn't belong. It turned out that in the second half of the book there were two places where there was no indentation where there should have been.

Both places were in a section where there was dialogue. And for some reason, two times the next person speaking it didn't get indented. I suppose those things happen when the documents are converted from word docs to PDFs and then to print.

So three total typos. All three are minor, and don't impact the story at all. I had already noted that books published by the world's top publishers have at least that many typos, so I guess I'm right up there with them. Still, I'm a perfectionist, and I strive for perfection. I will see if in the future I can get those typos out of there. If not, no big deal. It's still good. So good in fact, that I'm with the impression my John Dunn book is my best book of all five that I've written.

My Killer of Killers book has no typos. That book is my personal favorite. I made sure it had no typos, but it took a Second Edition for that to happen, and I don't want to go that course again. I just want perfection if perfection can be achieved.

My book The Vase, I dare say, will be perfect. I'm still perfecting it right now. It's an amazing story. So amazing that it might end up being my best book. Hopefully it can break the Big Five. I'll need an agent for that. Finding an agent is not easy. But you never know until you try. So fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Reading the Book John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu

What artist doesn't want to appreciate his/her own art? Illustrators and all artists take the time to step back and view the artwork they created. A song writer will take the time to listen to the song he or she composed. And for authors, I would certainly think the same is true. An author would take the time to read whatever it was that he or she wrote.

I do all of the above. It's what makes creating worthwhile. ENYOYING what you created! And I am thoroughly enjoying the reading of my book John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu. And so far so good. Mostly. I've read through the first ten chapters, 180 pages, and I can gladly report that only one typo has shown itself. A very minor one. There was a quotation mark where it didn't belong. Other than that, there were no errors, either in grammar or in continuity. So that's wonderful news.

Of course, there's ten more chapters to go. If I can get the same result in the final ten chapters, then I'll be a happy camper. I've read some books lately by other authors, and published by publishers who are counted among the "Big Five" and sure enough, I've found multiple typos in there. So by comparison, I'm ahead of them. At least, so far. Fingers crossed.

One thing that makes me discouraged about being an author is the doggone typos or even bigger errors that seem to hide from sight during the multiple read-throughs prior to publication. I mean, this one typo for instance. How many times I've read through the manuscript before publication, I couldn't count. Yet it didn't reveal itself until after publication. It's one of the mysteries of book writing, I suppose. Still, only one typo in the first half of the book? And no grammatical errors or any other errors? I'll take it. You bet I will.

While rewriting The Vase, I'm keeping an eye out for these things. And when it's finally published, again, I will be just as happy if the result is the same. Meaning one typo in the first half of the book. That is, if there's only one more typo in the second half of the book. That will keep me ahead of other books published by the Big Five. At least, insofar as I have seen with my own eyes. But I suppose none of that really matters.

I think the biggest thing is authenticity. And believability. I've written several posts about that. I think authenticity is most important with stories like John Dunn, stories that are based on real life, real people, and real events. Or even if not based on true stories, still, if the story is based on say, real events or real entities, like, say, if someone writes a fictitious story about a GI in WWII. The lingo, the costumes, the overall scenarios must still be authentic. For example, you can't describe a Panzer tank to look like a Tiger tank. Sure, they were both German tanks, but they looked different.

And you can't say the Germans were flying P31 Mustangs, or P38 Lightnings, because they weren't. Stuff, like that. Authenticity is vital. And for other stories, like thrillers and such, believability is just as important. For instance, you can't have a 5' 2", 110 lbs woman beating up three Marines, or a dozen professional male fighters all at the same time. Oh, wait.... Yeah... I've talked about that.

Which is what I mean. When believability is off the table, viewership, or readership is going to slide. Even for fiction, accountability and believability counts for a lot. At least for me. And I'm sure it does for a lot of other people, as well.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sending Free Copies

I received my copies of John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu and Second Chance a few days ago, which included five free copies of each from my publisher. I had ordered ten copies each, but received fifteen each, and then I remembered it was in the contract that at publication, each author gets five free copies. That's pretty cool. Very cool, actually. My other publishers only gave one free copy. I don't mean to diss my other publishers, but five free copies is better than one obviously, and it gives me the opportunity to send those nice British guys free copies for their support in the promotion of my book.

So I'll do that today. Then I'll send a couple free copies of Second Chance to the two Sports book authors who helped endorse my Sports book, Second Chance; a Football Story. They're not British. They're Americans, but proved to be just as nice as the Brits. Niceness isn't a restricted thing, thankfully.




I only hope that the continued reviews are positive and promote sales. John Dunn is my best book, I think. And I can't wait to see how the book signing goes. I will want ten more Second Chance books for that. After all, football season is coming soon and I want to be well prepared. Hopefully, the book signing will take place in July.

Book collectors prefer to have the authors signature in the book, so that might prompt sales, too. So browsers in a bookstore, seeing the author right there willing to sign a book, might take that opportunity to go ahead and buy the book. Why else would authors do that?

There's one thing that bodes well for both books. They are not going to be restricted to adult readers only. Younger readers will be able to read them. My Killer books have a lot of violence. Well, the battle scenes in John Dunn are pretty violent.


But that doesn't mean younger readers can't read them. When my kids at school ask me about my Killer books, I tell them they are too young. But I won't have to tell them that for John Dunn and Second Chance. I guess that's the difference. Maybe I should get back to Inside the Outhouse. I was targeting a younger audience for that book. It's been on hiatus for the past year. As had my third book in the Killer series. Clearly, my time was taken with getting these two books published.

And now that they are, perhaps it's time to pick up the "pen" sort of. Well, after I finish with the rewrite for The Vase. By the time I'm done with that, it may take the place of John Dunn as my best book ever. That's how good it's turning out to be. Which is strange. It had already been published once. And with this "second chance" to rewrite it, it's better than ever. Strange how that works.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Zulu War Enthusiasts - the Nicest People in the World

In a couple Zulu War forums, online, I have posted about the imminent release of John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu, and its availability for preorder on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I have received some emails from some of the people on there, wishing me well, and expressing interest in the book.

I am amazed, really. These are people I've never met. These are people who don't know me from Adam. All they know is that I share a common interest (The Zulu War) with them, and I have written a book about it. It's stunning. So much niceness I can't say I've ever known. At least not from strangers.

I'm still overwhelmed, a year later, how the great Ian Knight was so kind to me. As was another man who is a reviewer for the British Army Magazine. And others who had contacted me back then when I first solicited for reviews. The nicest people anyone could ever know.

It goes to show. My guess is that most, if not all, of these Zulu War enthusiasts are from England, or South Africa, or Australia, etc. Let's just say they're mostly British people or of British descent. Whether they live in the UK, Australia, or South Africa isn't important. That they are such great people is important. I've never known a group of people so nice as they have shown to be.

It makes me glad I wrote this book. Today, for example I was contacted by a man whose family had adopted the great grandson of Prince Dabulamanzi. The man told me some things about what he had learned about Dabulamanzi, and I was glad to respond that those were indeed things that I had incorporated into my book. He said he wanted to write a review of the book which will appear on many websites. Hopefully that will prompt several sales. 

So moving along, I will continue to try and find websites or outlets of some kind that cater to enthusiasts of the Zulu War. I wonder if here in America, Civil War enthusiasts are just as nice. I've met some. One was a college professor I had at San Jose State. He was nice. Well, I got an A in his class. But I deserved that. I earned it. Whatever. He was still nice. Like I said. It goes to show...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu now available for preorder

Order your copy today. As of now, on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble online stores, you can preorder you copy of John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu. It's official release is July 11th. But you can get your copy shipped today if you order right now.

It's the book of the ages. At least for me. It's the book I've been writing about on this blog for at least three or four years now, maybe more. And though I didn't work on it continuously for that long, it really was a book five years in the making.

It's my longest book. My most researched book, and the only book I've written that's based on a true story. And what a story. If you liked the movies Little Big Man, or A Man Called Horse, or Dances With Wolves, then you will most assuredly like this book. Like those movies, it's about a white man who lived with the indigenous tribes. But these tribes weren't native Americans. They were native Africans. And unlike those movies, this story is a TRUE story.

Yes, the American public was fascinated with those stories. Who doesn't remember Dustin Hoffman growing up with the Cheyenne? And who doesn't remember Richard Harris living with the Sioux? And who doesn't remember Kevin Costner becoming one with the Sioux?

Well those were all fictitious stores. The REAL story was a man named John Dunn who lived with, became one with, and intermarried with native Africans, and not just any native Africans, but perhaps the most famous of all Native Africans -- the ZULU.

Only the Zulus managed to wage a war against the British Empire. And they had their share of success in doing it. Sure, the inevitable defeat came about, but still, no other tribe in Africa could have done what the Zulus did.

And John Dunn played a big role in it. For most of his life, he lived among the Zulus. He was a real person, in a real story, and now that story is available in a new Historical novel. Order John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu from Barnes and Noble or Amazon today!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Susie Quinn - Actress Found!

For years, I'd been trying to find the right actresses to play the roles of the female characters in my debut novel, Killer of Killers. I had talked plenty about Amber Heard as Samantha Jones, the blonde detective and lead female role. Lately, however, I've given up on Amber Heard, having concluded her acting ability is not up to par. Her life seems to be detoured from acting at this point, anyway.

But I was convinced at one point that Amber Heard was the perfect choice. Conversely, I had never found an actress for the part of black exotic dancer, Susie Quinn. I had toyed with the idea of Jill Marie Jones, but alas, Jill Marie Jones is too old these days. She's in her forties, and that's that.

Nafessa Williams



I looked at a random episode of the new Twin Peaks that's on Showtime, and right there in front of me was Susie Quinn! All in her exotic glory, to boot!. I mean, there she was. I had gone years and years not even coming close to finding an actress who could be right for the part. Well, Nafessa Williams could very well be right for the part. From what I saw on that Twin Peaks episode, she has the looks, the acting ability, and the screen presence to pull it off. For me, it was like Eureka, there she is!







Of course, there are no movie producers pounding on my door offering any movie rights contracts for my Killer books. And it won't happen in my lifetime, either. So it's nothing more than wishful thinking. But it could happen after my lifetime. After all, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote his Lord of the Rings books years ago, and it wasn't until well after his lifetime they were made into movies.

Georges St. Pierre


Anyway, if the movie were to be made today then Dustin Clare or Georges St. Pierre would be Trent Smith, Hannah New could be Samantha Jones, and Nafessa Williams would be right as Susie Quinn. Then get Max von Sydow to play the role of Abraham Soriah, and the major characters are set.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Fear the Walking Dead - Not Interesting

I'm caught up now with the White Princess series, and while waiting for the final episodes, (episodes 9 and 10) I decided to watch the two part season premiere of Fear the Walking Dead. I've had my problems with its parent series, The Walking Dead, but I remain interested enough to watch it and its spinoff Fear the Walking Dead. I had already made the comment that one episode of either The White Queen or The White Princess was worth an entire season of the Walking Dead shows. Nevertheless, I watch those shows anyway.

And it remains true. The season premiere of Fear the Walking Dead was actually two shows, episodes 1 and 2 strewn together for a two hour (with commercials) presentation. And sheesh, talk about boring. Nothing happened. Well, until Travis, who I thought was the main character, was killed. Or was he? We saw him get shot in the neck by some unknown shooter, and then fall out of the helicopter, presumably to his death. And then the rest of the main characters make it to a new camp of survivors in this apocalyptic world in which both Walking Dead shows are set.

And that's about it. Two episodes and that's all we got. Compared to the White Queen/Princess shows, it was about five minutes worth of events. The Walking Dead seems to count on its scenery of zombies and gore to retain an audience. Why I remain a watcher is really a mystery to me at this point. I have more in stake with the original series than this spinoff, but whatever. I'll keep watching it anyway. At least the characters are mostly fighting slow-moving zombies, and it's believable when they "kill" them.

My biggest complaint is that I'm tired of the main characters being captured by other "normal" humans and treated with such malice and meanness it just doesn't make sense. It occurs with regularity in both Walking Dead shows. I had to endure that nonsense in the show Lost a few years ago. Meaning you have one group of people treating another group of people which such cruelty and meanness, and for no reason, it wasn't believable. I mean instead of helping their fellow humans who are in need, a group of people capture the group of main characters, torture them, and murder them, and again, for no reason at all. It was ridiculous.

But I suppose that's where the stories are. Maybe today's writers, for the most part, can't write an interesting story where people are nice and humane to each other. Instead people have to be mean and cruel to make a story interesting. I don't agree with that, but it's what's out there. In real life you had family members killing each other. That's what happens in the White Queen/Princess shows. But at least they had a reason. To stay in power. To retain their places on the throne of England. But was that any better? Can't say it was.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Summer Nears - And that means Football

Summer is upon us. And for me, at least, that means football season is coming. Not yet. I'm still enjoying the NBA finals. My local team, the Golden State Warriors appear to be the best team in history. That's something. I had never been a basketball fan, really. But when the local pro team happens to be the best pro basketball team in the history of the sport, well, if that doesn't get someone interested, then nothing will. It did. And I am.



Nevertheless, my sport has always been football. I played it, I followed it, and I even dreamed it. Which led to the writing of my fifth book, Second Chance. It's a football story. And I found that other writers of sports books, particularly football books, were great people. I corresponded with Carl Deuker, author of Gym Candy, and John Coy, author of Crackback. Both authors were nice enough to send me endorsements for Second Chance, after I had sent them digital versions of the book.

And how can a person be nicer? Neither man owed me anything. Yet they took the time out of their busy schedules to help out a fellow author. And I will be sending each of them a copy of my book Second Chance, just as soon as the books I ordered for my author signing arrive.



So, yes, I will be going to a bookstore for an author signing this summer to promote all of my books. And since Second Chance is a football story, and the summertime is the season which ushers in football season, it would be the best time to promote Second Chance. Of course, my John Dunn book is being released this summer, and I will be promoting that one too.

And why not promote both of my Killer books? Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes are available and quite entertaining as well. I'll be promoting all four books. And what about The Vase? Well, that one won't be available for another year I think. And when it is, it will be better than ever. Much better than the version that had been released a couple years ago. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 5, 2017

John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu almost ready

My publisher contacted me today, telling me the pre-orders for my John Dunn book are almost ready. Readers can go to Amazon.com or Barnes and Nobles online, but not quite yet. For now, I'm ordering some copies directly from my publisher, along with (I hope) some copies of my football book, Second Chance.

And the reason for that is I would like to do the overdue bookstore signing. It's where an author promotes his book(s) of course. There's not a lot of bookstores anymore. Three Barnes and Nobles were near me some years ago, and now only one remains. That's the result of online shopping I guess. Which is a shame. The old "brick and mortar" bookstores as they are called now. They are few and far between now.

I prefer the "brick and mortar" stores, really. I know that online you can browse from the comfort of your own home, in your underwear, or whatever, and buy whatever catches your fancy with an order online, with shipping costs, and the ever present tax. But what about browsing through real books, looking at covers and reading the back cover, and maybe an excerpt from within?

Oh, yeah. You can do all of that online, too. I guess the only thing you can't do online is take a physical book to the check out stand and pay the cashier and have it immediately. Online you pay with your credit card and then wait for the book to come in the mail. Thus the shipping charge.

Either way, the money doesn't come to me. Or very little of it does. The publisher, being the one who put up the money to publish the book, gets the lion's share. Then of course the online sites take their cut. Which leaves precious little money for the author. But that's the way of things.

The big money for the author is when Hollywood comes calling. Which is why I've wondered aloud often here on the blog about that happening. And in my mind's eye, and the blog's eye, I've considered actors and actresses to play the roles of the characters in my books.

As for the John Dunn book? I've already picked an actor for Dunn. Henry Cavill, or course. And his first wife, Catherine Pierce? Candace Patton from the Flash TV show. They are a match made in Hollywood, if you ask me. Well, for the lead male and female roles in my John Dunn book anyway.

I'll keep you posted when the online ordering is ready. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Amanda Hale - Great Actress - Wow


I had watched The White Queen, which depicted the civil war era in England known as the Wars of the Roses. You'll note that war is plural, because it seemed to be a war after another war and then another until finally the two houses of Tudor and York united in a marriage. And then the wars continued. And so it goes. Or so it went.
 
But whatever...it makes for some fascinating storytelling, and the two STARZ TV series, The White Queen and The White Princess are very well done in the telling of that (or those) stories. Which brings me to the point of this blog post. Amanda Hale. I had never heard of her. But in the first series, The White Queen, Amanda Hale portrays the mother of Henry VII, also known as Henry Tudor, the son of the brother of King Henry VI, and therefore one of the heirs to the throne of England.
 
Well, Henry VII did become king of England. He was betrothed to Elizabeth, the oldest daughter of King Edward IV, and thus the Tudor and York houses united, which was supposed to unite all of England and stop the civil wars. Which it didn't.


Amanda Hale as Margaret Beaufort
in The White Queen


But Amanda Hale's performance as Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII's mother was superb. I had never seen an actress perform with such intensity. Every scene in which Amanda Hale performed was an incredible example of acting at its best. As a viewer you could feel the emotion, the sheer intensity that Hale exuded in every moment she was on screen. Even in this photo from the series you can feel the intensity Hale is exuding. And as a viewer of TV shows and movies, I've never felt that kind of emotion from an actor before.






Jack Palance in Attack!
Well, one time I did. There was an old black and white movie called Attack! and it starred Jack Palance. In that movie, Jack Palance also portrayed intensity so well, the viewer could feel it in every scene the man was in. It was incredible. I mean sheer intensity. It may be difficult for anyone reading this to understand what the heck I'm talking about. But if you've seen The White Queen, perhaps you do. Just think about those scenes in which Amanda Hale performed. And if you can find it, watch the 1956 movie Attack! with Jack Palance as Lieutenant Joe Costa. That is intensity.



Michelle Fairley as Margaret Beaufort
in The White Princess

I am disappointed that the continuation of this story in the next series The White Princess, they changed all the actors and actresses. Now the actress playing Margaret Beaufort is Michelle Fairley. She's a name actress, meaning she's got a resume behind her. Fans will remember her as Caitlyn Stark from the Game of Thrones show on HBO. She was right for THAT part. But following Amanda Hale's performance, she doesn't cut it as Margaret Beaufort. Amanda Hale's performance FAR outshines Michelle Fairley's performance.

To put it simply, Michelle Fairley exudes ZERO intensity. Not an ounce of it. Why did they not cast Amanda Hale again? Well, they changed everyone. Which is too bad. Particularly because of the magnificent performance of Hale if for no other reason.




To anyone reading this. If you want to see intensity exuding from every pore of an actor/actress, watch The White Queen, and pay particular attention to every scene Amanda Hale is in. Or watch Attack! and pay attention to Jack Palance's performance. That's intensity.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 -- Meh...



I had collected Marvel comic books when I was a kid. But by the time Guardians of the Galaxy became a comic mag, I had stopped buying and/or reading comics long before. I've blogged about how I've been generally disappointed with the Marvel movies for the past several years.

The funny thing is that when I was buying the comics, I would have loved to have seen these movies. But I'm with the impression that even as a kid I would have had the same disappointment upon seeing them. So I've never bought nor have I read a Guardians of the Galaxy comic book. I did see the first movie, and I was not impressed, yet I managed to find some enjoyment in seeing the movie. Of course, having never read or collected the book, I had no reference to compare it with. My belief is if I had I would have been just as disappointed with it as I had been with the X-Men movies, the Avengers movies, the Fantastic Four movies, and so on.

But while I was sitting there last night watching Guardians 2 with my son and wife, it became obvious to me that the targeted audience was an audience that was twelve years old. I mentioned this to my son who's fifteen. He said, not twelve, more like ten, and since he's closer to those age groups, I'll go with his assessment.

So, yeah, it was like they made the movie for ten year olds. Goofy characters and goofy jokes, many of which were on the level of slapstick, and as an adult, it was very tedious to put up with. Were there things that were good? When I saw the trailer, Kurt Russell's part seemed like it was going to be good. It was. And I had no clue that Sylvester Stallone had a cameo, and it was good. But as someone who never read the comic, I'll never know if it was in tune with the comic.

It turned out that Kurt Russell's role was Ego, the living planet. I remembered the character Ego the living planet from when I was a kid. I thought the concept of Ego becoming a human, and the way they made it happen was pretty good. I'm not sure if it's all from the comics, but if it was, I can buy that. And Ego being the father of the main character, Peter Quill was intriguing.

Again, the character of Ego the living planet was a character I had known from my days collecting comics. Ego was a Jack Kirby creation, and like most Jack Kirby creations, Ego was a great comic book character. Like Galactus, the Silver Surfer, the Inhumans, and pretty much every other character from the Fantastic Four comic book, all created by Jack Kirby, (not Stan Lee.)

I won't get into the plot or story line of Guardians 2, but I'll stress the main reason why it wasn't a movie for me. Let me put it this way: the IQ level of the writing. It was too low. Despite the good concepts with Ego, Kurt Russell, and such, the overall screenplay was dumbed down for an audience of little kids. It was even dumber than a Power Rangers movie. Seriously. It's like the producers of Guardians targeted an audience younger than the Power Rangers audience.

So there you go. If you liked Power Rangers, Guardians might be for you. If you have an IQ over 90, however, maybe not. Unless you're a Three Stooges fan. Then maybe you'll like it. It's more like The Three Stooges as the Guardians of the Galaxy. Yep, that about sums it up.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Back to The Vase

Now that my John Dunn book is completed and awaiting its release in July, I have decided to make the most of my time with one of my other books The Vase. It was an earlier novel I wrote, and the one for which this blog is named. And now I have this opportunity to go back and improve it much like I did with Killer of Killers, and like I did all these past months with the John Dunn manuscript. That is, I was going over it and over it and finding any and all typos, and making improvements in the prose wherever I thought it was needed.

And because of that the manuscript is better than ever. I wasn't quite happy with The Vase when Penumbra Publishing released it some years ago. And now that Penumbra has gone out of business, and all rights to The Vase have been returned to me, I will make it the ultimate piece of literature and then get it published again.

To be frank, Penumbra released The Vase before I believed it was ready. I wasn't quite finished revising it when my editor decided it was good enough and pulled the trigger for publication. Well, it's flattering to think an editor believed it was good enough, but I didn't think it was. And I'm the author. I believed it needed more work. But I wasn't the boss. The editor was the boss, and he published it. It was good, sure, but I'm a perfectionist, as all artists should be.

And what makes a perfectionist? Being PICKY! Yes, PICKY, PICKY, PICKY. Truth be told, if you are not picky about your own work, you are not a perfectionist, and your work will always be less than what it might have been had you been PICKY.

I'll never forget someone called me picky because I wanted an art piece to be rendered better. I wanted this part better, and I wanted that part better. They were little things, but nevertheless, they were things evident in the composition, and I wanted them fixed. Oh, but that took more work, and since the piece was a joint effort, the other person was unwilling to put in that extra work. I insisted, and therefore came the name-calling. Well, PICKY, was the word this person used.

And I will freely admit to being picky when it comes to anything that I want to be PERFECT. And as I tell my students, art is really the only thing in this world that CAN be perfect. So make it happen! Make it perfect!. And right about now, The Vase is nearly there. Sure, it's not quite there yet. But soon enough it will be. And when it's released again, be it by one of my current publishers, Knox Robinson or Melange, or yet another, the manuscript will be perfect.

And what a story it is. A unique and original concept. Ancient scenes recorded in the grooves of a ceramic vase. And being released by accident in the form of solar-powered holograms. And of course all the subplots that go with it. The people who see the images, not knowing they are holograms projected from a spinning ancient vase, think the images are ghosts. And all the other happenings, and all right there in Nazareth, Israel.

Of course, we all know who spent time in Nazareth, Israel, don't we? Yep, the one and only. So The Vase is being revised right now, meaning all the things I wasn't happy with in the first release are being taken care of right now. Can't wait to see this one in print again. It could be the best story of all. At least of all the stories I've written. But, you know what? Maybe the best story of all stories ever written. That's how I feel about it. We'll see how that goes over. At the earliest it would be a 2018 release. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

New King Arthur Movie -- Uugghh!

I've been talking about how terrible some TV shows have been. Into the Badlands and American Gods were so horrible I couldn't keep watching them.

Well, my brother was in town from Hawaii this past weekend, and my sons were home, so we decided to go to a movie. We were going to see the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but we ended up deciding on seeing the new King Arthur movie. Well, it was horrible. So horrible that if I wasn't there with my brother and sons, I would have walked out. And it's been a long time since I've walked out on a movie that I paid to go see.

This movie was bad in almost every way. One might have thought the casting would have worked. It didn't. But one might have thought the likes of Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy fame, would be a good lead actor for the part of King Arthur. He wasn't.

Then you have the likes of Jude Law as the villain. You'd think he would make a good villain. But he didn't. You had Eric Bana from Troy and Hulk fame. You'd think he'd make a good King Uther, right? Nope. And even an actor I've talked about recently, (in a good way, btw) Dimon Hounsou, did not work in the role he was cast in this horrible movie.

First and foremost was the script. It sucked. The screenplay, if you will, was just terrible. How that could have made it to the final cut is beyond me. The dialogue, the events, the everything was simply bad. And real bad. I mean really, really bad.

The movie's story began in Camelot. But there was no King Arthur yet. Wait a minute. That's not how if happened. There was no Gwenevere, there was no Lancelot, and Merlin had no role in the story whatsoever. They changed the myth, which didn't automatically mean the story would suck, but make no mistake. It sucked. Better to stay true to the myth, or at least stay true to the myth enough so that it was actually recognizable, which this wasn't. Other than the sword Excalibur being stuck in a rock.

But that sucked, too, because the rock used to be King Uther. Don't ask. Just know that if you haven't seen it yet, don't. Even if it comes to free TV. Watching that movie was a waste of two hours. Anything you might do instead will be time better spent. Believe me. Because if you don't do something else, you'll wish you did.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Amber Heard - No Longer an Option

Amber Heard
I guess the final verdict on Amber Heard has been reached. She is no longer an option. I used to think she was the perfect actress to play the part of Samantha Jones from my book Killer of Killers. Samantha Jones is a police detective, and a very pretty one at that. In fact, so pretty, that I was searching for the most beautiful blonde actress to play the part of Samantha Jones if Killer of Killers were ever to become a movie. Not that it ever is, it's all in fun, you know?

I had found some photos of Amber Heard, and I thought she nailed the part. Of course, the caveat is that she was a solid actress. But Hollywood seems to think she's not. She's never had any major roles in any major Hollywood films. She's only had bit parts, and only in grade B movies. Like Machete Kills, and the like. Sheesh, Machete Kills is more like a grade C movie.

Amber and Johnny
Then there was the disastrous marriage to A-lister movie star Johnny Depp. At first I thought with the Depp connection Heard's career might take off. The opposite happened. The two fell into a bitter divorce, with ugly accusations from both sides and court appearances and just a total mess. After all of that, Heard's career seemed to have bottomed out.

Then there's Heard's next romance with billionaire Musk, and there you have it. Heard seems to be more like a woman on the take than an actress. Meaning it seems she would rather attach herself to men who are already successful, rather than becoming successful herself. Being Depp's wife, I thought, would help her in that. It didn't. Being Musk's girl friend or wife certainly won't. But maybe she doesn't care. And if she doesn't care about being a successful actress, hey, that's her business.

Hannah New
But movie producers and casting directors are taking notice. And as a result, Heard is not being cast in any more movies. Her career as an actress is toast. But so what? There's an awful lot of pretty blonde actresses out there. And most of them are very good actresses. So I can resume my search. The list is a long one. Hannah New and Lily Simmons are candidates.

Lily Simmons
It seems there are more pretty blonde actresses than anyone knows what to do with. The new TV shows about the Wars of the Roses feature more blonde actresses. The first one, The White Queen features Rebecca Ferguson, who's not even a real blonde. But in the White Queen, she makes for quite a stunning blonde. And in The White Princess, Jodie Comer, (another actress who's not a real blonde,) makes for a stunning blonde as well.

Rebecca Ferguson
So we'll see. First let's hope a movie producer wants to make KOK into a movie. Then we'll talk.

Jodie Comer

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Episodes that Pack a Punch

I'm still watching The Walking Dead show when it's new episodes, that is, but I'm not often satisfied with it. My wife and I may watch an entire episode, and then turn to each other with disgust, as absolutely nothing happened in that episode. It didn't further the storyline forward at all, it didn't provide any revelations toward the plot or characters, and it was just a waste of an hour watching the darn show. With The Walking Dead, it happens often, and perhaps it's the result of a show that's in its sixth season. Despite being based on a currently released graphic novel, it must be running out of source material. I guess that sort of thing is inevitable.

I remember a time when the James Bond franchise was doing basically the same plot every ensuing movie. Only recently, with the Daniel Craig version of Bond, the producers have moved away from the formula plot for Bond movies. You know, there's a mad scientist, or a demented billionaire, or an evil organization seeking world domination or even world destruction, and as Bond investigates, he is captured and held prisoner for a time, but then he foils the plot and is reinforced by a cavalry of government agents, and the show concludes with a shoot out in the scale of a major battle.

With The Walking Dead, there are so many characters that episodes often stray to show what's up with so and so, and even though the audience sees what's up with so and so, nothing happens to further the plot or reveal any answers to any questions.

But with these White Queen and White Princess shows, each show is jam packed with events and twists, and turns, that it's like in one episode  you've got the equivalent of an entire Walking Dead season. That's what I call packing a punch. Wow.

Again, I'll watch an episode of Walking Dead or any other show, and walk away from it as having not even watched it. Nothing happened. No sense of entertainment had been achieved. But these shows about England's War of the Roses, on the other hand, are like an entire season per episode. That's great writing. It's faster paced than Downton Abbey. Which is also quite good. But it's based on real events. And I like that. Like my John Dunn book. It too is based on real events.

And talking about John Dunn, the final galley changes have been submitted, and no more revisions will be forthcoming. I'm hoping that it's because no more are needed. And if that's the case, I'll be a happy camper. Can't wait for July. Because it's in July when the John Dunn book is being released. And July is right around the corner.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Stories of Kings and Battles

I've begun watching a couple TV shows I had skipped. The White Queen, and its follow up The White Princess. Not done with them yet, but I've seen enough to conclude the stories are about the WOMEN not the men. Of course, the titles gave that away from the get go, but it's the MEN who were the kings, and fought the battles, and died ( or didn't die) fighting for their beliefs and causes. Yet the main characters are the women.

And certainly, the women are portrayed as very strong characters. But thankfully, these women are not out on the battlefield with swords striking down dozens of male warriors attacking them. No. These stories are based on reality, not some fantasy of a woman besting dozens of battle-hardened men, like in that TV show I talked about recently Into the Badlands, or that other show, Vikings.


Okay, I don't doubt some women Vikings may have donned a sword and joined their male counterparts on a battlefield, but that doesn't mean they struck down dozens of other Vikings twice their size as if they were nothing more than a box of Cheerios. That is so fake I can't even watch Vikings anymore.



No these strong women are strong because they have to deal with a lot of adversity from behind the scenes. And it's behind the scenes where the camera is rolling. We see the women at home as they prepare for the results of the battles that are being waged in their family names.

As anyone who knows history will tell you, these shows are based on the real life historical events surrounding the War of the Roses, or England's civil wars that occurred five hundred plus years ago. And it was these wars that finally resulted in a joining of the houses of Tudor and York, as the current show, The White Princess details.




Fortunately, England is not ruled by kings or queens nowadays. Nor should it be. Their "kings and queens" are only figureheads now, and have no power whatsoever. Nor should they. Any country who is still ruled by a "king" or "queen" is a backward country still embedded in the dark ages. Several Middle Eastern and African countries are still governed like that. When will these stupid countries which are still ruled by monarchies ever going to grow up and join the modern world?

But I digress. My point is that women can be portrayed as strong characters without running around beating and killing people. Like in Downton Abbey. And in these White Queen/Princess shows. It's refreshing to see it done realistically. And it's a relief that I don't have to watch a woman beating up and killing people by the dozens every time I watch a show. Although that still happens in lousy TV shows much more than I can bear to watch. Sheesh.


Friday, May 5, 2017

American Gods - TV Trash

I recently stated in a post here on the blog that the TV show Into the Badlands was a show that couldn't be worse. Well, that's not true. American Gods is worse. I managed to at least watch the first season of Into the Badlands. It was shortly into the second season that I couldn't stand watching it anymore. The reasons were many. Bad writing, bad directing, bad story lines, bad characters, bad acting, and you get the idea. But again, I at least managed to watch the first six or seven episodes. (I think the first season had six episodes.)

I had seen some trailers about the new show American Gods, and although it didn't really prompt me to want to watch it, I went ahead and started watching the first episode when I happened to be channel surfing and came across it. Talk about a show failing to hook an audience, this show's first scene, the Viking scene, was so bad I turned off the TV before the scene had concluded. It was that bad.

At the very start, the show American Gods seemed promising. It opened with a journalist who was writing about the first Vikings who made it to America. Then the scene switched to a Viking ship apparently approaching the Americas for the first time. Certainly, we all know by now that the first non-native Americans to come to America were the Vikings. Evidence has been found that indicates they started a colony on the east coast of Canada. But it wasn't this group of Vikings. And that's because, according to this show, these Vikings were too stupid to do anything right.

Shortly after stepping off the boat, they were met with an avalanche of arrows, all of which embedded a single Viking. He was the one who had taken the first step off the beach. The other Vikings watched with dumbfounded imbecility as all five hundred (or so) arrows impaled the body of this Viking from head to toe. After about ten seconds of this, the dude looked like a porcupine and he fell dead. All the while, whoever it was shooting these arrows was nowhere to be seen. Another Viking took a step forward and another five hundred (or so) arrows embedded the land in front of his foot. At this point I'm thinking, okay, whatever. So, the Vikings got the message and they stayed on the beach with no more desire to explore who or what lay ahead.

By now I'm thinking, really? These are the "brave" Vikings we've all heard so much about? It turned out these Vikings were the dumbest Vikings you ever saw. At this point, they wanted to leave but they couldn't. They were stranded because there was no wind. It was like, what? Really? Was it suddenly the case that Vikings can't row? Don't we all have firmly entrenched in our minds the eternal image of Vikings with oars rowing their ships across unknown waters whether there's wind or not?

Are the writers of this show really expecting their television audience to believe that an entire crew of Vikings forgot they have oars to row their boat? That's an expectation that carries with it the belief that an entire television audience is as stupid as they (the writers) are. And then, after forgetting they have oars to row their boat, what do these brainless Vikings do? To make the wind come back, they each burn out one of their eyes. That's right. Each Viking takes a burning stick and burns out one of his eyes. Yeah, that'll bring the wind back. But it didn't come back. So then the Vikings decide to butcher each other. Of course, the graphic scenes showed heads, bodies and arms chopped off and blood flowing like a water fountain. Yeah, that'll bring the wind. Um...it didn't. So they start burning each other to death. Hooray. That brought the wind and they sailed away.

But they weren't sailing. They were rowing, which is what you might have thought they would have done from the start. I mean before burning out their eyes, butchering each other and burning each other in a bonfire. I turned off the TV at this point. Because my take on this is that anyone who watches this garbage will prove to be more stupid than the show itself, and more stupid than the writers. I won't be among them.  Sheesh. And I thought Into the Badlands was bad.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Galley Revisited - No More 'Something'

By saying no more something in the title to this post, I mean that I made sure yesterday that there was no more 'something' in the Galley that needed changing. Yesterday, Dana advised me that she was going to proceed with the John Dunn publication, and to make sure that all changes to the Galley were final. That gave me one last chance to revisit the Galley, and boy was I glad I did.

Talk about always something. There were a few somethings. Realizing I was on my last chance to make sure the manuscript was as I wanted it to be, I checked out the places I had seen that I thought I might have wanted to write differently, and I made them all just right. That means adding a couple new sentences or partial sentences, and changing some words here and there.

Total changes amounted to 16 I think. Which is about 8 more than before. Literally doubled. So, yeah, now the manuscript is flawless. Until that pesky typo pops up. That's almost a given. But maybe not. After all, Killer of Killers has no typos. But that was after a second edition had to be released. Before that, there were typos and errors everywhere. And that won't do for a perfectionist. As I am. And as a perfectionist, I've made sure that the John Dunn manuscript is perfect. If Dana makes all the changes, that is. I expect that she will. And I look forward to seeing the book in print.

I know that there are a lot of Zulu War enthusiasts out there. They are the British equivalent to the American Civil War enthusiasts. But that doesn't mean there aren't American Zulu War enthusiasts, and enthusiasts from other countries, too. It seems the one country that remains non enthusiast is the country in which the war was fought. South Africa. I suppose there are a lot of reasons for that. None of which I want to discuss here and now.

Because for here and now, what I'm looking forward to is the soon to be released book, John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu. It's a fascinating story, and a terrific read. Can't wait. Look for it in July. That's just a couple more months. But those couple months will pass, and the day will come.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Celebrating "Kick Ass Heroines" ... Really?

I have two publishers. Knox Robinson and Melange. Knox Robinson, of course, is the publisher of my two latest novels, Second Chance and Heart of a Zulu, whereas Melange is the publisher of my debut novel Killer of Killers and its sequel Killer Eyes. I appreciate both publishers, because if not for them my stories would never have reached the printed word.

But I happened to notice that Melange is currently featuring something on their website called "Celebrating Kick Ass Heroines". I have blogged so much about that subject, I'm really tired of it by now. Besides, these "kick ass heroines" may not be what the name suggests. Maybe they are not really kicking anyone's ass literally in the stories in which they are featured.

But the term got me to thinking. First let me point out that I have made it abundantly clear that strong female characters exist, and that they are a part of everyday life. I've seen plenty of them in my own real life experiences, many of whom I'm related to, and it's surely true that real life "strong" women have existed throughout history. No question.

But this "celebration" has expressed the "need" for strong female characters in Young Adult Fiction. Really? The "need"? I have been very aware that strong female characters are featured often in Young Adult fiction. Very often. So much so, that perhaps it can be said that strong female characters are featured far more often than strong male characters. At least in Young Adult fiction they are.

I may not be so well read in Young Adult Fiction, but going by the movies that books of the Young Adult genre have become, it sure seems strong female characters are the norm of late. And because of that I think expressing the "need for strong female characters" in Young Adult fiction is a little behind the times, as evidenced by (off the top of my head) Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight, etc.

Of course there's many more, most of which I'm not familiar with, as I admittedly do not go to the theaters to see these movies, nor do I read those books. But let me make it abundantly clear, as I've already made clear many times, strong female characters do exist and have been fundamental to real life and real history, not just in Young Adult fiction.

The main point of this posting is that I think the celebrators of "strong female characters" should reconsider using the term "Kick Ass". I mean, really? Kick Ass? Have any of these Young Adult authors who want to celebrate strong female characters ever kicked anyone's ass? Ever? Do they want to? I mean do any of these Young Adult fiction authors really want to go kick someone's ass? Do they? Do they really want to see a girl, or a woman of any age get into a physical confrontation that results in coming to blows with another human being? Do they? Have they ever even seen it?

I have. Many times. You see, I'm a teacher in a Middle School, which is right at the Middle Grade/Young Adult level. The kids that I'm around every day from August through June are the target audience of these books that these authors write. And yes, I've seen plenty kids come to blows with each other. And you know what? More often it's the girls coming to blows than the boys.

Now for the lesson you "Young Adult" authors need to learn. It's not a pleasant thing. When these girls fight, they are not "kicking ass." What they are doing is kicking, scratching, pulling each other's hair, and it's a very ugly thing. Let me repeat that. IT'S AN UGLY THING to see young girls fight. So I really hope that these Young Adult stories are not glorifying the concept of "kicking someone's ass!"

As a teacher, of course, it's my responsibility to get them to STOP fighting. Have any of you Young Adult authors ever seen girls fight? Have you ever tried to get girls to stop fighting? It's not easy. You put your own safety at risk. I've seen with my own eyes a girl yank a fistful of hair out of another girl's head. I've seen with my own eyes another girl scratch the skin off another girl's face. I've seen with my own eyes girls tear, scratch, kick, pull, as if they were actually fighting in a combat zone. It's incredible. The viscousness, the brutality, the sheer animalistic, base, instinctive aggression. Did I mention it was downright UGLY? I think I did. I beseech my fellow authors. Do not glorify this.

Do these "Young Adult" authors think that women have to prove that they are strong female characters by running around and beating up other people? Or as their selected term implies, by kicking other people's asses? Is that how people prove how strong they are? By kicking other peoples' asses?

Okay, I already admitted that I didn't read their stories. It could very well be true, that in their stories, their strength comes from strength of will, from strength of character, from strong determination, from unwavering loyalty to an honorable cause, to a strong commitment to a relationship, a friendship or a family. I've used the female characters in the TV show Downton Abbey as a prime example of strong female characters. Every one of the female characters in Downton Abbey, from the Duchess to to the maid, has been a tremendous example of a strong female character.

If you're seen the show, you know them well. Violet, all eighty-plus years old of her, is stronger than anyone else on that show. Then you've got the middle-aged Cora, along with her daughters Mary and Edith, (Sybil, too) the elderly cousin Isabel, and every one of the maids and house servants, from Mrs. Hughes, Anna, Mrs. Patmore, and Daisy. All are portrayed as strong female characters, and not once have any of them lowered themselves to the point to where they had to "kick someone's ass."

Now if the term "kick ass" is just a term used symbolically, that's a different story. I mean you can say "kick ass" but not really mean someone is physically kicking someone's ass. But again, I did not read these stories, so I am not presuming that the characters in these stories actually do go around kicking people's asses. I'm hoping they don't.

I will finish this post by pleading innocence if someone is  going to accuse me of being a hypocrite. My own books feature fighting. But the people who fight in my books are not girls or women. Nor are they "young adults." My Melange-published books, Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes feature the world's greatest martial artist.  He's a full grown man who was a professional fighter, not some young adult who want to "kick someone's ass." He's on a mission of vengeance, and as the title of the book suggests, he kills killers. Only.

So to be clear. This post is about "young adults." Or Middle Grade-aged people. I'm around them all the time. I don't want to see them kicking anyone's ass. Never again. And I'm quite sure you don't either. I'm quite sure no one does.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Galley was good, but there's always something

Like I said, there's always something, and the more you look the more you find. First I found the space in the word presented. Then I found a missing end quote. Today I found an indentation that was further than the normal. Anyone might consider these to be typical typos. But the funny thing is, all three of these "typos" were not in the file I sent from which the PDF file was converted.

I guess things like that happen, which is why the author is supposed to check for it. In the process of checking, I found the name Utshingwayo used twice before he was supposed to be introduced to the story, and before that I found an s was used for the plural of the word  Zulu in a dialogue where the language was isiZulu. I advised Dana of all these in the hopes that she will correct them before the printing begins.

Actually, I haven't advised her yet of the indentation error. I will wait on that until tomorrow, because today I already sent an email about the name Utshingwayo. If that can be changed to the name Qetuka, it will be fine. But I don't want to inundate her with more than one email in a day, so I'll wait until tomorrow for the indentation thing.

And since tomorrow is the last day of April, and the day all files are supposed to be completed, I'm hoping all corrections will be made and I can be confident the John Dunn book is error-free once and for all, and ready for printing.  Fingers crossed for that.

I really will be satisfied if the John Dunn book is as error-free as my Killer of Killers book. And all before it's publication, too. It took a second edition for the Killer of Killers book to be error-free. But I'm okay with that. I'm a perfectionist. As all artists are, or should be. And being so, I take pride in my art being perfect. Whether it's a book, a painting, drawing, or sculpture, or a musical composition, it's perfection for which I strive. Nothing less.

Because in art, perfection can be achieved. And if the artist isn't driven to achieve it, then why the heck would anyone want to check it out? They wouldn't. Without total commitment to his or her art, said art is not worth checking out. Whether it's a drawing, painting, sculpture, book, or song. That's the way it is, and that's the way it should be.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Galley Looked Good

The only thing I found in the galley was a space in the word 'presented' in the Glossary and part of the coastline on the map seemed to be erased. The missing coastline was on the upper right corner, and mostly inconsequential. But the space in the word 'presented' was obvious, and even though it's not part of the story itself, still, it should be fixed. It's easy enough to fix.

There's always going to be something I will find that I will consider that I could have written better, but that is something that will never go away. Any book at any stage will have that. It's a pain, I'll admit, especially when it's a book I wrote, but it's just the way it is. I'll be satisfied if those places aren't straight up errors. If it's prose that could be better, that's one thing, but if it's an error, that's the killer.

I finally got Killer of Killers to the point where there are no errors. In Killer Eyes, there aren't any obvious errors, and The Vase will be error free whenever it reaches publication again. There's a couple in Second Chance unfortunately. And at this point, there are no errors in John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu. That is if the space in the word 'presented' is fixed there won't be. We'll see.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

John Dunn Galley Received

Great day yesterday. I received the galley of my John Dunn book from my publisher. Which meant I had submitted the final corrections just in time. That's a relief, knowing all the correction needed had been made. Yeah, it was the first thing I checked. Those last minute corrections were made and all errors or revisions have been made and the manuscript is as good as it can get.

So I have the PDF version of the book now, and it looks great. It reads great. I have until tonight to look it over, and while doing so I have to admit a great deal of satisfaction comes over me. It's because I know how much work I put into that book, and knowing others will be able to read it, and appreciate it is something any artist in any field can understand.

So I'm on my lunch break, and I'm going back to that galley and take as much time as I can looking it over. I can't read the whole thing word for word from front to back in one day, but I can skim through it, reading parts here and there, and making sure the formatting is good. And that's what I'll do. I'll get back to the blog tomorrow.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Final Corrections to John Dunn made...

...and the manuscript has been submitted a final time. I think I'm not too late, since Dana had told me the last time I sent in corrections that the manuscript had not been formatted yet. So this time what was the final corrections? I had made it the norm in the writing of my story to use Zulu words mixed in with English, especially when the dialogue was supposed to be spoken in the Zulu language, which in Zulu is called isiZulu, and I do use that word in the story.

However, when referring to the Zulu people or any other native people in the region, I simply use "the Zulu," or the "Swazi", etc. In the Zulu language, the word amaZulu would be used in referring to the Zulu people. But I'm not going that route. As I said, I do use Zulu words often, and I italicize those words, with the exceptions of individual names and the names of places.

But consistency is the issue. If I don't use the 's' on the end of the word Zulu(s) in one dialogue where the language spoken is isiZulu, then I must stay consistent throughout. I discovered the consistency wasn't there, but after using the word search app, I was able to fix that, and now the consistency is there. So I dare say the manuscript is error-free at this point. And it's a good feeling knowing that.

Of course, I can't be surprised if a typo pops up somewhere, as they seem to be invisible sometimes, until that time that it's too late to fix, and then they appear, like Indians popping out of holes in the ground to ambush unsuspecting cowboys. I guess that analogy is outdated, or perhaps even not so politically correct, but whatever, my point is made. Onward to publication! Can't wait!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hollywood's Effort to Make Females Dominant

Let me start by stressing I am not a chauvinist or a misogynist. I love women. I love my wife. I have no daughters, only sons, but that doesn't mean I couldn't or wouldn't love a daughter as much as a son.

Now on to my point. I've been posting my frustrations lately about how Hollywood, in the movies and TV shows, continues to portray women as better and tougher fighters than men. We've been seeing it time and again; a tough chick beating up men by the dozens and all at the same time.

To that I say Bullshit. I readily admit women can be tough, but never can they beat up a man who is himself on the level of say, a Navy seal, or even a regular Marine.

The first time this happened that I remember was in the 1980's animated movie Heavy Metal. It featured some woman hero who single-handedly rose up to defeat the "Nazi" conquerors who had dominated the land. It began with the typical "bar scene fight" where she takes on three tough guys with swords and decapitates all three of them with a single swipe of her sword. This from a woman who in real life could hardly even wield a sword of the size she possessed.

Even in the famous Disney movie Lion King. Twice, the main character lion Simba is bested by the female lion Nala. Once as cubs, and then as full grown lions, Nala bests Simba in a fight. Really? In no scenario ever could a female lion best a male lion. Ever.

Okay, so those are old cartoons. But the trend has picked up of late. Now we're forced to watch Scarlet Johanssen, all 110 pounds of her, beating up men left and right, again and again, by the dozens all at once. In movie after movie. Okay, so in the Avengers, she's a superhero. Okay, in Lucy, she's mentally enhanced. Okay, in Ghost in the Shell, she's got a robot body. Okay. But it's tiring. I am no longer going to watch any movie in which Scarlett Johanssen dominates the entire male cast.

It doesn't stop there. I've blogged plenty about how phony Sarah Shahi looked in Person of Interest beating up every male fighter she came up against, and again by the dozens all at once. And in the show Into the Badlands, I've made the same complaint about the character called "The Widow."

Even in one of my favorite shows, Banshee, I had to watch some 110 pound chick beat up four Marines all at once. Yeah, the four Marines were in the process of raping some other girl, but come on. This was a woman in her mid twenties from some Indian Reservation who comes out of nowhere and takes on four Marines and beats them up all at once as if they were six-year-olds.

This is a continuing trend. Not only are women being represented as physically tougher and superior fighters, they are also being portrayed as more competent and sophisticated in dealing with stressful situations and problem solving.

Particularly disturbing to me is the trend of the last twenty years in kids' cartoons. The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, and many more, portray the male characters as weak, stupid, moronic, degenerate, perverted, and incompetent in every aspect of everyday life. Meanwhile, the female characters are wholesome, intelligent, and competent in every approach to solving the problems about which their male counterparts are clueless.

Ditto for almost every Young Adult movie of late, like Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent, etc., the female characters are the smart ones, with all the answers, whereas the male characters are the ones lamenting their inabilities to cope with the adverse environment in which they live.

Again, I know women can be just as smart, just as tough, and just as competent as men. And yes, sometimes more so. But not always, and certainly they are NOT better, stronger, or superior fighters. I've made the point that they are tough in a different way. They cannot beat up four Marines all at once. I don't care if a woman is as tough as Ronda Rousey. No woman in the world can beat up four Marines all at the same time. Not even one Marine. Ronda Rousey can't even beat up other WOMEN fighters these days. So Hollywood, get off your female superiority hill.

My last point is this: I don't believe women WANT to see women fight, beat up, and kill people. I don't believe it. It's not a woman thing. Is it?  I'm not a woman, but that doesn't mean I don't know women. Sure there are exceptions to every rule, even this one, but as a rule, women are NOT into fighting, killing, war, and mayhem. That's a dude thing. I don't need your opinion on this, because I know I'm right. So where is Hollywood getting off on presenting this over and over to the American audience?

Look at other cultures. In Asia, women are mostly treated as second class citizens. In the Middle East, women don't even have rights. They can't vote, they can't drive, hell, they aren't even allowed to show their faces for god's sake. In Africa, women are completely dominated by men.

In America women have equal rights, and that's as it should be. But that doesn't mean they have equal ability to fight. They just don't. Of course, there's exceptions. A woman here or there may be able to beat up some man here or there. But never a man who himself is a professional fighter. Or a Navy Seal. Or a Marine. Never. Not once. Not ever.