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

THE VASE

A novel by Mark M. DeRobertis

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

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

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

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



Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Preface to John Dunn Heart of a Zulu

As I said I would do in yesterday's blog post, I have cut and pasted the Preface to my soon to be released book John Dunn Heart of a Zulu. A Preface is supposed to pique curiosity in a potential reader. I hope it succeeds. I think it will be a couple months before the book comes out. I'll have a better idea on that when my publisher sends the new publishing schedule on Monday. So without further ado, here it is, the Preface to my upcoming book, John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu:


Preface
      It was a 1990’s documentary about the Anglo-Zulu War in which I first heard of John Dunn. I was intrigued to learn about a white man who was born in Africa, lived with the natives, and advised a Zulu king. And the more I learned, the more his fantastic story struck me like an African version of an epic tale from the American West.
      Fictitious stories of a white man living with Native Americans have been featured in Hollywood movies for years. Little Big Man, A Man Called Horse, and Dances with Wolves come to mind. Although John Dunn: Heart of a Zulu is a work of historical fiction, most of the events in the story are true, and I believe the overall storyline captures the essence of who John Dunn was and what he experienced in the years between 1856 and 1879.
      During that time period there were two Ondini kraals in Zululand. The original Ondini kraal was located near the coast at Hlalangubo. The royal kraal at Ulundi, which Cetshwayo built after his coronation, was also called Ondini. It was located within sight of Nodwengo on the Mhlabatini Plain. Because portions of the story take place in each—and to distinguish one from the other—I opted to retain the Ondini name for the original Ondini kraal near the coast and use the name Ulundi for the royal kraal on the Mhlabatini Plain.
      I used Zulu words frequently in the story, which brings me to the issue of spelling. During my research, I discovered that different literary sources contained different spelling of Zulu words and Zulu names. In fact, almost every Zulu word and Zulu name I encountered had been spelled differently in different texts, books, and online material. For this reason I included a glossary in which I listed the isiZulu nouns used in the story. I did not include proper nouns on this list. I did, however, include a separate list of the historical characters—British, Zulus, and colonists—who play important roles in the story.
      As the primary source in the writing of this story, I used John Dunn’s autobiography John Dunn, Cetywayo, and the Three Generals as edited by D. C. F. Moodie. As a secondary source, I used Cetshwayo’s notes from A Zulu King Speaks as edited by C. de B. Webb and J. B. Wright. I also referenced Zulu Rising; The Epic Story of iSandlwana and Rorke’s Drift by Ian Knight, Who’s Who in the Anglo-Zulu War 1879 Volume 1: The British and Volume 2: Colonials and Zulus by Adrian Greaves and Ian Knight, The Washing of the Spears by Donald R. Morris, Like Lions They Fought by Robert B. Edgerton, The Zulu War by Angus McBride, and Charles Ballard’s thesis on John Dunn, (courtesy of the local History Museum, Durban.)
      My objective in the writing of this book is singular: to entertain the reader. Thus, this work should not be used for research purposes or as source material for any historical information on the period or the people included therein.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

No "Foreward" for Fiction - but yes to a "Preface"

You don't put a Foreward in a fiction book. I read that you can, but it's not typical. Mostly the Foreward is written for nonfiction books and by another author, meaning not the same author who wrote the book. This other author is supposed to be well known and highly regarded in whatever genre the book falls into. The well known author is supposed to have a high opinion of the book. This author, perhaps, is not even an author, but an authority in the field in which the book is written. And as such, this person believes the book is good enough to meet his or her standards and is worth the price of purchase and therefore is worth reading.

For my book John Dunn Heart of a Zulu, I don't want a Foreward. First of all, it's not a nonfiction book, so it should not have one. The alternative is a "Preface." A fiction book, particularly an Historical Fiction book should have a Preface not a Foreward. A "Preface" is something that the author of the book has written him/herself. And in this "Preface" the author writes things like why he or she wrote the book, what inspired him or her, and who might have helped him or her, so that means the acknowledgments can go in there, too.

A Preface isn't necessary, really, as it's not a required part of any book. But for Historical Fiction, I have come to believe that having a Preface is preferable to not having one. Other fiction books, like Thrillers, Suspense, Horror, Romance, etc, don't need a Preface. But Historical Fiction, in my opinion, is better if you have one. Especially if that particular Historical Fiction is based on a true story, in a true time period, involving events that are true and global, like wars and such.

Even though the Anglo-Zulu War didn't involve anyone in America, it was still "global" in the sense that it affected people on two different continents. So yes, my book John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu does have a "Preface." Since it's based on the true story of John Dunn, and involves the true events leading up to and including the Zulu War, I'd say it's global. Totally.

I will be perfecting my Preface today. Fortunately my publisher has just advised its authors that the new publishing schedule is going to be sent out this coming Monday. I replied that I had taken advantage of this extra time perfecting the manuscript. Which I am still doing. So I will let everyone reading this know when the updated schedule is in and when to expect the updated publication date of John Dunn Heart of a Zulu.

In the meantime I will be perfecting the Preface. Perhaps I will post the Preface here on the blog to give my readers a "sneak peek." It's just the Preface after all. but another purpose of the Preface is to intrigue potential readers, and make them interested in reading and buying the book. So I think I'll do it. So check it out. It should be posted on here tomorrow. Until then.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

John Wick 2 - Great Movie


As the author and creator of a great "tough guy" character, (Trent Smith, the world's greatest martial artist, who appears in two books so far, Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes,) I happen to appreciate great tough guy characters in the movies, and there have been several.

Recently, I talked about how John Wick was a great character and a very good movie. John Wick 2 was even better. I said before that Keanu Reeves does not necessarily look like a tough guy. Not like Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, and Matt Damon do for their respective roles as Richard Riddick, Frank Martin, and Jason Bourne. But I also noted that being a good actor can make up for that. And Keanu Reeves is a good actor, and being such, he can play the part, and pull it off.


In the two (so far) John Wick movies, Keanu Reeves does pull it off. No, not as well as Diesel, Statham, and Damon can, but well enough. Being over six feet tall, Reeves' moves, sometimes come off as somewhat stiff. That never happens, say, for Statham, who's a natural when it comes to fighting moves. He's trained in the martial arts, and it shows on the screen. Like Jet Li, who's a martial arts champion, he's fluid in all of his fight scenes. But when it comes to being a pure tough guy, no one has a step on Vin Diesel. Matt Damon as Jason Bourne is not necessarily a natural, but he does look like the role he plays in that franchise. It works. Very well.

Perhaps what I like most about the John Wick movies is the writing. The writer has created a great character, and, for me, the John Wick character has proven worthy enough to rank up there with the great tough guy characters. They include James Bond, Conan, Captain Kirk, Frank Martin, and perhaps yes, Jason Bourne. I could be forgetting some. For instance, I've already ranked many of the old time actors as the classic tough guys. Actors which of course include Sean Connery, Burt Lancaster, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson.

But beside Connery in his seven movies as Bond, and Bronson in the five Death Wish movies, those actors never really had a franchise series of movies portraying the same tough guy. The Bond movies and the Death Wish movies were the exception back in the old days instead of the rule. Nowadays, a series of movies, AKA a franchise is the rule. Diesel has three Riddick movies to date, Statham has three Transporter movies, and Damon, now has four movies as Jason Bourne!

The John Wick character with its second movie has become a franchise for Reeves. He had one franchise already with the Matrix movies. And they were good movies, but the character of Neo really wasn't a "tough" guy. He was a hero, to be sure, more like Captain Kirk was more of a hero than a tough guy in the original Star Trek TV show.

But clearly more than Neo, John Wick is a badass. And in these movies, he's a top ranking badass worthy to be placed with Riddick, Frank Martin, and Jason Bourne of the modern badassess, and James Bond, Conan, and Captain Kirk of the badasses of old. And as far as franchises go, it does appear as though there will be a third one. Because at the end of John Wick 2, it appeared that it wasn't ending. It sure seemed like a third one was set to go. And that's fine with me. Can't wait!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

John Dunn manuscript better than ever

I was talking about how The Vase manuscript was better than ever. Well, my John Dunn manuscript also is better than ever. When my publisher advised its authors that its publishing schedule was behind, that might have been bad news to some of the authors. But to me, for John Dunn, it was good news. I've been using this extra time making the manuscript better than ever. And every day it's getting better. And the days keep going by, and the manuscript is better every day.

So much detail is in this book. Detail regarding places in Natal, places in Zululand, and the distances involved in traveling to those places by horseback, by carriage, barouche, and even on foot. The Zulu ran everywhere they went. With rare exceptions, they did not ride horses or ride in carriages. John Dunn of course rode a horse. He taught Dabulamanzi to ride a horse, and he took Cetshwayo with him in a barouche. And I had to get it right how much time it would take to get to different places in Natal and Zululand by horse, barouche, and on foot. I've nailed it by now.

And the prose is better. The battles are also necessary to have the detail correct. I have four battles in the book. iSandlwana, Rorke's Drift, Gingindlovu, and Ulundi. All major battles in the war. And I've made sure the details are right on.

Lastly the cover. Here's the cover.


I wish the publisher would have gone with a cover that depicted a battle scene like this:

But oh well. It's all good. Can't wait. Look for John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu coming soon.