Ahead of the Headlines

No matter what side of the political aisle you stand on, I don’t mean this to be pejorative. But the last and current U.S. Presidents have not only messed with my head, they’ve messed with my novels. Now that’s worse.

When I wrote The Three Sixes it was indeed “ripped from today’s headlines” and that was the problem. (You’ll have to read it to discover what I mean.)

Now, writing Jeremiah’s Jar, I find Mr. Trump is vexing me. Yes, I love the idea of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It is!

But when I started writing Jeremiah’s Jar no President had had the guts to follow Congress’s near-unanimous 1995 demand and do so, and that’s how I wrote the book… until those portions of it had to be rewritten last month.

And yes, I love the idea of moving our embassy to Jerusalem just like all our other 190 embassies are located in those countries’ capitals. It’s right and just and true. And for someone to complain that this would harm any “peace talks” shouldn’t any peace negotiations be based on facts?

However, I’m hoping the move of the embassy is delayed just long enough for me to finish Jeremiah’s Jar without a massive rewrite of a major subplot.

If the U.S. delays long enough, my publisher can say, “This book is ripped from tomorrow’s headlines.”

Now, that would not be vexing at all.

Headlines Ripped from My Novel-in-Progress

When President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it was like the old TV show, Law and Order: “Ripped from today’s headlines!”

Only this announcement was vice versa: Headlines ripped from fiction.

My work in progress (WOP), Jeremiah’s Jar, includes a major subplot in which the American President Tyler Kineo names Hawke Harbinger his ambassador to Israel with the intent to move the embassy to Israel and acknowledge Jerusalem as the Jews’ historic and eternal capital.

For 30 years Presidents and presidential candidates — Democrats and Republicans alike, including Clinton, Bush and Obama — have made this campaign promise only to renege.

So I felt safe when I started writing this book. The thought was, Hillary would win and even if she lost, Trump would fail to deliver his promise, just like his predecessors.

Either way, the argument for officially recognizing Jerusalem is accepting a truth that predates even the existence of any other country in the world. Before Germany existed, before England existed, before America existed, Jerusalem was.

Here’s a scene from my manuscript, which by the way now must be rewritten before publication. Ambassador Harbinger and his wife, Skye, are dining with my heroes, Max and Kat, along with two Holocaust survivors, Maurice and Sadie:

“Jerusalem’s been our capital since 1949,” Maurice said, “and according to international law, the Jewish people have legitimate rights to the so-called ‘land of Palestine.’ Those rights are preserved in three legally binding international treaties: the 1920 San Remo Resolution, the 1922 Mandate for Palestine and the 1924 Anglo-American Convention on Palestine.”

Maurice put his palms together and continued, “But Satan, that demon, has been about severing God’s people from Jerusalem since forever. In ’67 BC, the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes outlawed Jewish traditions, reading the Torah, and honoring the Sabbath and turned the city into a Greek colony and the temple into a place of pagan worship. Centuries later, Roman Emperor Hadrian rewrote Jewish history, renaming Judea ‘Palaestina’ and Jerusalem ‘Ailia Capitolina.’”

Hawke chuckled and nodded at Max, “I should have mentioned that Maurice is a history professor at The Ben-Gurion Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism
at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.”

“Ah-h-h,” Max exhaled.

“Besides all these resolutions and mandates,” Sadie said, “are God’s Word. Moses declared in Deuteronomy chapter thirty-two that God sets the boundaries of the nations.”

“And in the New Testament, too,” Skye said. “In Acts seventeen it talks about God establishing the ‘exact places’ men should live.”

“What I find inexplicable,” Maurice said, “is that the United Nations did not refer to the West Bank and Gaza as ‘occupied’ territories when they were ‘occupied’ by Egypt and Jordan from 1948 to 1967. The Arab states were the ‘occupiers’ of parts of the land west of Jordan until 1967.”

“Duplicitous,” Kat said. “Two-faced, deceitful.”

“That’s all true,” Hawke said, “but our primary message in moving the embassy to Jerusalem is singular, simple and significant: Israel’s survival is non-negotiable. Not in our eyes.

“Secondarily, we do not want to continue to insult an ally by refusing to acknowledge their declared capital as their genuine capital.”

Max gave a thumbs-up. “I wonder what Putin would say if we denied Moscow as Russia’s capital and moved our embassy to Kiev.”

“Or if we denied Paris is France’s capital and moved our embassy to, say, Lyon,” Kat said.

“I vote for Aix-en-Provence,” Skye said with a chuckle.

Max watched Hawke’s reaction. His laugh was genuine, his composure complete. He wondered what the ambassador would be like in battle, then prayed that would never happen.

“So you all get my point,” Hawke said. “America, alone, will be in Jerusalem. El Salvador and Costa Rica once had their embassies in Jerusalem, but back in 2006 both moved.”

“El Salvador,” Maurice said. “I remember them slinking out of town. Said they were moving because of increased Arab pressure during the war in Lebanon. And Costa Rica? They said their move was needed,” he made air quotes, “ ‘to bring the nation in line with international law and to mend relations with Arab nations.’”

“I was here then,” Max said. “Israel criticized Costa Rica’s decision as a surrender to terror. Uri Lupolianski, Jerusalem’s mayor at the time, called on the government to work with the United States to move the American embassy to Jerusalem.”

“Well, now we are. We’re no longer surrendering to terror, or the threat of it,” Hawke said. “We’re supposed to be the most powerful nation on earth, yet we’ve been cowering in the corner, acting like the weaklings on the block. Drawing red lines in the sand that rogue countries can cross without ramifications. Giving Iran, which bankrolls much of the world’s terrorism, a hundred and fifty billion dollars and a clear and quick path to nuclear power. Sending Iran forty million dollars to release American hostages. Bowing to every tin-horned ayatollah with oil under his feet.”

“That,” Kat said, “is a long way from Obama calling on the Supreme Court to strike down a Congressional law to have Jerusalem recognized as part of Israel on American passports. Remember that?”

“2015,” Hawke said. “And not just Obama, but George W. Bush, too. Presidents have the long-established authority to recognize foreign states, their governments, and their territorial boundaries. So the President’s determinations must be reflected in official documents, including passports.”

“I wonder,” said Sadie, “why your President—even Mr. Obama, who hated Israel—would oppose such a thing.”

Hawke shrugged. “Obama and Bush 43 both opposed the Congressional law which was passed in 2002 and called for U.S. passports of citizens born in Jerusalem to list their birth country as Israel, saying by recognizing Jerusalem as part of Israel it would lose credibility as an ‘impartial broker’ in peace talks.”

“So much for the separation of politics and the legal system,” Kat offered.

Max took a bite of Kfegh and offered: “So politics and the legal system works about the same as politics and warfare.”

Hawke chuckled ruefully and lifted his coffee cup toward Max as a toast.

Another Author’s Character

I don’t believe that this has been done before. If so, please let me know.

In my work-in-progress, Jeremiah’s Jar, I pay tribute to the hero in another author’s books: the Israeli spy Gabriel Allon, created by Daniel Silva.

Take a look and see what you think as my hero and heroine, black-ops veteran Max Braxton and archaeologist Kat Cardova, visit a restaurant in Jerusalem. Men intent on killing Kat have been informed of her whereabouts. Sit down, strap up and hold on:

Manou ba shouk was nothing special in appearance. Quite the opposite. Like K-Paul’s     restaurant in New Orleans. A simple shouk in a long line of them, like a miniature version of an American strip mall—only this one was on Ets Khaim Street in Jerusalem’s New City. It did possess a narrow patio out front, with enough room for a half-dozen wooden bench-type tables tight along the outside wall. But, as K-Paul’s food was to Cajun cuisine, so was Manou ba shouk’s offerings to Israeli gastronomy: extraordinary.

Max and Kat sat inside. They were across from each other at the back end of a long table, with several strangers who had become fast friends in the last several minutes. A thirty-something Jewish couple from Perth, Australia, sat next to Max and Kat. A couple in their sixties from Sweden was seated next to the Perth folks. And two Moroccan college boys perched at the far end of the table, oddly trying to fit in with the gang, though Max couldn’t figure out why they’d want to pursue a touristy swing through Israel on their way to Paris to meet their girlfriends. Wrong direction was Max’s first thought.

The English language and Jesus Christ were the common denominators for all but the Moroccans, who fidgeted around any discussion of religion. In fact, they fidgeted entirely too much for Max, scratching behind their ears and noses. Body Language 101, Lesson 1: Liars fidget.

These boys seemed fine with the others at the table, but uneasy with Max and Kat. Body Language 101, Lesson 2: Liars avoid eye contact.

Annika Larsson chirped, “Oscar and I walked the walls of Jerusalem in less than an hour. I couldn’t keep up with him when we got to the Arab Quarter. It was like he was in training for the Olympics!”

They all burst into a chorus of laughs, but Max noticed the young men’s chuckles. Body Language 101, Lesson 3: Liars force laughs.

Max nudged Kat’s foot with his and mouthed for her to Watch out!

She frowned. Why?

He mouthed The boys!

She twisted her chin. Naw!

He widened his eyes, doubling down. Be alert!

He patted his Glock 19, reassured at its presence but certain he would not use it … unless.

“It’s amazing how safe we feel here,” said Annika. “In our own country we don’t dare enter certain areas of some cities.”

“Really?” asked Jeffery Bromberg, the Aussie.

“Yes, like Malmö,” Annika said.

“It’s under Islamic control,” said Oscar. “Sharia law.”

“We stay away,” Annika said, “and if you’re Jewish? Watch out.”

“It’s no better in The Netherlands,” Oscar added. “I do business in Utrecht with a company that used to be headquartered in the Kanaleneiland district. They had to pack up and leave, it’s become so hazardous.”

Max watched the whole interchange with a keen eye. It was obvious the conversation was uncomfortable to the college boys.

“My cousin from England works at the European Parliament in Brussels,” said Crystal Bromberg, seated beside Kat, “and she and her colleagues complain they can’t walk the streets at night because of Islamic gangs. They even chase the police out of certain neighborhoods.”

“There are cities within cities, governments within governments,” said Oscar, “and most ominous is that these second cities are Muslim, controlled by the Koran.”

“A holy book,” interrupted one of the Moroccans, stirring awkwardly in his seat.

“From Mohammed,” said the other, beginning to rise out of his place. “From Allah.”

“We didn’t mean to demean your religion, boys, but—”

A sudden clamor drew attention to the entrance to the restaurant. Two brawny men stepped inside, shoulder to shoulder. They were apparently Middle Eastern. They were dressed in khakis, their button-up shirts open at the top. They wore crew cuts and scruff beards. They looked dangerous, no-nonsense, frightening. They appeared to be searching for a face or faces.

The Moroccans both stood to their feet and one reached beneath his tunic.

Kat threw out a hand and grabbed Max’s. Alarm filled her pretty face.

“Duck!” Max ordered, then leaped from his chair. In a second he had the Moroccan who was on his side of the table in a headlock from behind.

Women began screaming.

The Moroccan’s friend bound away, but Max swept a leg kick to his head, dropping him on the spot. The Moroccan in Max’s grip struggled and cursed and tried to reach under his shirt, but Max beat him there. His palm gripped a metal handle of some kind, and slipped out a ferocious-looking weapon.

It was a tactical knife, nothing a college kid should be toting. A knife meant for someone who had trained in its use. Designed for killing, not slicing steak.

People rushing to stand, knocked chairs to the ground. Somewhere a plate crashed to the floor. Someone nearby had peed their pants. Max looked down at the feet of the Moroccan he held tight. Aw-geez!

Somehow Max could sense Kat’s presence behind him. He applied extreme pressure to the carotid artery and the Moroccan was asleep in seconds. He jumped to his feet.

The two brawny men, pistols in their hands, had hurried to his side.

“Colonel Braxton,” one of them said in English, “you okay?”

Max turned to look at Kat, read relief in her eyes, winked at her, then said, “I am now.”

“Ma-am?” the man asked, his eyes on Kat.

“Fine,” she breathed. “Kinda.”

“They came for you, Ma-am.”

Kat’s eyes widened.

“We caught their chatter when they spotted you.”

Her hand went to her mouth.

Max reached for her hand.

From a maelstrom to near-silence, the restaurant had transformed. Israel’s Jews had lived through bombings at weddings and mar-mitzvahs. They’d seen buses blow up, loaded with their friends and countrymen. They’d lived with far worse than a little dust-up in a popular restaurant. This was probably the first taste of nearby danger for most of the tourists, however.

Were two Arabs here on purpose, with bad intentions? Yes. Were they now subdued? Obviously.

Max looked down at his handiwork, then up at the two brawny men, noticing that their pistols were Beretta 71s, compact single-action, .22-caliber semi-automatics.

“Mossad?” he asked.

They nodded.

“Will you take out the garbage for me?”

“No trouble,” one answered.

“And thank Gabriel Allon for me, will you?”

The men both nodded, realizing Max was at least an acquaintance of the great son and hero of Israel and now the head of Mossad.

Max took Kat’s hand and pulled her towards the kitchen in the back.

Glancing at the Perth and Swedish couples, he said, “Sorry, folks. We hope you enjoy your meal.”

“Yes!” Kat confirmed.

All four waved at them and one asked another, “Is that one of those famous American kick-boxers?”

Max didn’t hear the reply. Passing by a lady who co-owned the place, he handed her two fifty-dollar bills. “Sorry for the damage, Livna.”

“Keep your money, my hero,” she said with a crooked smile. “Just get your bride home safely. We love her so.”

He patted her on the shoulder. “You remain my favorite restaurateur.”

I’d love to know your thoughts! And in order to enjoy Gabriel Allon as much as I do, check out Daniel Silva’ scintillating geopolitical thrillers.

 

Bleak and Blank? Wait for “but then!”

The page is blank, the mind is dull—waxen, even—and the day appears bleak, all because the words aren’t flowing, the ideas aren’t cogent, the plot seemingly vaporized, and five o’clock isn’t coming anytime soon.

The thrill’s not in the quill.

But then!

It’s like all those times in the Bible when all looks doomed, “but then” God arrives and crushes the enemy, “but then” He arrives and saves a soul, pops open cell doors, opens blind eyes, raises the dead.

But then—not out in the battlefield but in your writing nook—voilà!

Sparks fly off the keys as nouns perform, verbs whiz, adjectives define, conjunctions segue, and adverbs (Well, you don’t want to use any of those, do you? They’ve become the black sheep of the vocabulary and something I will defend at a relatively, voluminously, superficially, unpunctually later date.)…

The paralysis is vanquished. The Thrill of the Quill has returned, playing a stirring concerto—or rock-a-billy tune—along the chord of your emotions.

If this thrill is not the only motivation for authors to write, it is at the least a key force, a trigger that keeps us at the keyboard. Runners get a euphoric jolt of endorphins. Boxers experience a fight-or-flight burst of adrenaline.

Writers? Well, I can’t speak for others, but I thrive on the thrill of hearing from the Throneroom. When that happens, something special kicks in. That is, Someone special kicks in the door, rumbles over the alphabet and leaves when a thought or objective is elucidated, or a scene is completed.

Is this thrill an addiction? An affliction?

No and no. For me it’s a necessity. I love it. It keeps me going. And I hope you experience it, too.

Thrill of the Quill

Thrill of the Quill

The page is blank, the mind is dull—waxen, even—and the day appears bleak, all because the words aren’t flowing, the ideas aren’t cogent, the plot seemingly vaporized, and five o’clock isn’t coming anytime soon.

The thrill’s not in the quill.

But then!

It’s like all those times in the Bible when all looks doomed, “but then” God arrives and crushes the enemy, “but then” He arrives and saves a soul, pops open cell doors, opens blind eyes, raises the dead.

But then—not out in the battlefield but in your writing nook—voilà!

Sparks fly off the keys as nouns perform, verbs whiz, adjectives define, conjunctions segue, and adverbs (Well, you don’t want to use any of those, do you? They’ve become the black sheep of the vocabulary and something I will defend at a relatively, voluminously, superficially, unpunctually later date.)…

The paralysis is vanquished. The Thrill of the Quill has returned…

View original post 133 more words

Thrill of the Quill

I thrive on the thrill of hearing from the Throneroom. When that happens, something special kicks in. That is, Someone special kicks in the door.

The page is blank, the mind is dull—waxen, even—and the day appears bleak, all because the words aren’t flowing, the ideas aren’t cogent, the plot seemingly vaporized, and five o’clock isn’t coming anytime soon.

The thrill’s not in the quill.

But then!

It’s like all those times in the Bible when all looks doomed, “but then” God arrives and crushes the enemy, “but then” He arrives and saves a soul, pops open cell doors, opens blind eyes, raises the dead.

But then—not out in the battlefield but in your writing nook—voilà!

Sparks fly off the keys as nouns perform, verbs whiz, adjectives define, conjunctions segue, and adverbs (Well, you don’t want to use any of those, do you? They’ve become the black sheep of the vocabulary and something I will defend at a relatively, voluminously, superficially, unpunctually later date.)…

The paralysis is vanquished. The Thrill of the Quill has returned, playing a stirring concerto—or rock-a-billy tune—along the chord of your emotions.

If this thrill is not the only motivation for authors to write, it is at the least a key force, a trigger that keeps us at the keyboard. Runners get a euphoric jolt of endorphins. Boxers experience a fight-or-flight burst of adrenaline.

Writers? Well, I can’t speak for others, but I thrive on the thrill of hearing from the Throneroom. When that happens, something special kicks in. That is, Someone special kicks in the door, rumbles over the alphabet and leaves when a thought or objective is elucidated, or a scene is completed.

Is this thrill an addiction? An affliction?

No and no. For me it’s a necessity. I love it. It keeps me going. And I hope you experience it, too.