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.



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.


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