Sicarius

The Last Sicarius is the title to the sequel to Judas the Apostle. What is a Sicarius? Well, there was a band of first century Judean revolutionaries named the Sicarii who fought the Roman occupiers of Judea. Sicarius is the singular of Sicarii. Some scholars believe that Judas’ last name, Iscariot, is derived from the word Sicarii. It is speculated that Judas may have been a member of this band of revolutionaries. If so, that would be completely consistent with Judas’ biblical actions. But to figure that out you will have to read Judas the Apostle.

The Sicarii were feared by the Romans even though their numbers were quite small. They were thought to be assassins with a unique signature. The Sicarii, also known as the dagger men, carried short, wicked knives and would attend political and social events where important Roman leaders were expected to be. The daggers, concealed under the robes of the Sicarii, would be used to silently dispatch the Romans. In effect, they were first century terrorists.

Finally, the Romans got fed up with the Jewish rebellion and the Sicarii  and Titus was sent to put the rebellion down. He sacked and burned Jerusalem in AD 70 and destroyed the Temple. To this day, it has never been rebuilt. But the Sicarii escaped the trap in Jerusalem and fled to the mightiest stronghold in the known world at that time…Masada. They thought that they could hold out against the Romans. The Last Sicarius details what happened. It’s one of the most amazing tales in biblical history.

What happens to the Sicarii over the next two thousand years is part of the story and the mystery of who becomes the last Sicarius  and lives to carry on the tradition will not disappoint.

Hope you enjoy.

 

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Biblical History-The Last Sicarius

By now my readers know that my books are fast paced thrillers with a biblical/historical background. I’m fascinated by biblical history and find reading the bible looking at its historical basis to be amazing. The ongoing digs in the Holy Land are peeling back this history layer by layer. As soon as we think we know something a new layer either confirms it or casts it in doubt. We’re talking thousands of years here.

The first book, Judas the Apostle, dealt with historical information on Judas himself. Researching it and writing about it was intensely interesting. For example, the field, the Bloody Acre, where Judas may have died known to the Jews as Hakeldama exists to this day. A reader can Google a picture of it. This kind of historical perspective makes a book interesting on many levels.

The most recently published  book, The Last Sicarius, is the sequel to Judas. The same three principal characters that readers seemed to like star in Sicarius. Cloe, J.E. and the Monsignor are all back along with some new characters. Since the Judas history was done in the first book, I looked for something else in Sicarius. There is such a wealth of fascinating areas it wasn’t long before I found some that really interested me. I will only say a couple of things so as not to give too much away. Did you know there is an alternate Calvary site? That’s right! I thought the place where Jesus was crucified and buried had long been settled. In fact, there’s a church built on the place, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Well, it turns out there are problems with the location. I could write about this all night but I already have-The Last Sicarius.

Also, I like good action venues. I think my readers will agree Judas had a couple of whoppers. Well, in Sicarius we have the lollapalooza. This is a place constructed a hundred years before the birth of Christ. Stunning.

The third book also involves Cloe, et al but is set a few years in the future. We look back on decisions made and their near term effects. The  Book of Revelation sets the tone and one of the most amazing places is Uruk. Uruk was an urban metropolis two to three thousand years before we divided time into BC and AD. I know, I know-its BCE and CE now but call me old fashion.  Any way, you’ll be amazed by this city and its people. They had one of the earliest forms of cuneiform. Got you there, didn’t I? Their written language consisted of little wedges arranged in various patterns. This book, tentatively entitled Suppose…, is about half-finished. I’m thinking of changing the title. Maybe something to do with Philistines. It definitely has a Philistinean quality about it. Best.

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Publishers

All…in writing a successful novel, there are at least three phases. First, one has to write a good story and tell a good tale. Second, you have to get “published” if you are going to have more readers than your parents and best friends. Three, the author has to sell the book.
This post is about number two, the publication of the book. There are both so many publishing options and there are none. How can this be? I start from the no name, no “platform” position. The major publishers are out there. Mainly, you have to have an agent to get published by a traditional publisher. If you are a new author with a good story but with no platform you have as much chance of getting an agent and a traditional publisher as getting struck by lightning. Still, lightning does strike, right?
What’s a platform? It’s some form of notoriety that gives you a leg up in generating an audience who may be interested in anything you have to say. In todays cable news cycle, you have lots of people who have their fifteen minutes of fame. Have you ever wondered why so many of these people write books? Well, they really don’t. But, there is a cottage industry who will take a person on whom fame has smiled and write something for him/her. The person’s name will sell books whether they are a starlet in the news or someone whose house has been swallowed by a sinkhole.
Traditional publishers have so many of these offerings that it’s hard to find time and space for the unknown author with a good product. But, the people get what they want to read…witness the magazine stands at the super market check out counter.
A platform can also be earned over many years with a body of good, credible work such as a college professor who keeps banging away at scholarly manuscripts. Keep writing your novels and someday you’ll have a body of work and lightning may strike. See John Grisham, Stephen King and many others.
My work has been turned down by all agents I have solicited even though some evidenced a bit of interest before hastily retreating. Most authors wear this as a badge of honor and I do too. Still, on balance, I rather have a competent agent than all the rejection letters.
In the end, I decided to use a niche publisher to edit and print my book. To be sure, this is greatly different than taking your manuscript to a copy service and printing and binding a hundred copies and trying to sell them. Now, that’s what I call self-published.
My publisher is a subsidiary of Penguin Books so I thought they might eventually become interested. Maybe they will.
My publisher is very good at editing and printing the manuscript. Both of these are critical. This does cost money but you get the value for these services. The cover copy and art are very good in my experience but keep in mind the author has to come up with all content. Also, the cover art will come from stock photos to which the staff has access. Still it can end up very good. You judge. The cover from Judas the Apostle came from the publisher’s stock photos while the cover of The Last Sicarius was designed by a graphic artist I employed.

So, in my opinion, these types of publishers can help you put out a quality, well edited novel with good cover art. What I personally have not seen good results from are the marketing services of the niche publishers. Traditional publishers may pay you for the book, do the print runs and market and distribute the book. If they are successful, everyone makes money. The niche publishers will sell you marketing services according to various packages and your checkbook. A lot of this ends up being press releases the author has to write because your marketing professionals haven’t read your book and will tell you it’s not necessary for them to do so to sell the book. These will be sent to press release services who dutifully disseminate them. There may be so call lists of newsletter subscribers who are just waiting for a book in your genre. I haven’t seen much result here. They will also set up social media for you, a website-usually static-, blogs, FB, Twitter, etc. This is good but in the end these are the means for you to market your own book. There is rarely a really good publicist who runs with the ball and actually sells your book. You’ve got to do it and if you are like me with a consuming day job, it’s very difficult as social media can consume all the time you are willing to give it.
My last three years of writing, publishing and marketing my books have given me a world class education. I now know what services to buy and what value to expect. I also know what I can do better myself or by hiring someone locally. I guess the bottom line is that the author is not a vendor at this point but a consumer. Just like all successful shoppers, you have to buy smart and for good value. You must marshal your resources and stay in the game. Keep turning out good stories and publishing well edited, attractive works. After all lightning has to strike somewhere. Best.

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The Last Sicarius

Hello All…yes, The Last Sicarius, the sequel to Judas the Apostle, is out and published. It can now be found on Amazon, B&N and iUniverse web sites. It will be migrating to the bookstores. Call your local store and ask them to order. It really helps. If you like the new book, don’t forget to write a review on Amazon.
There are some amazing things in TLS. Just as in Judas, Cloe, J.E. and the Monsignor are back. They are better than ever and I hope you will like some new characters. There’s Father Sergio or Serge as he’s known by our friends. He’s a sort of roly-poly priest with a spirit of iron and a heart of gold. Very smart and good at biblical history. Also, there’s Miguel or Michael as he is known to his American friends. You might like some of the new places. First, old places: the Church of St. John in Lyon has new secrets to reveal. New places include Tunisia, the Atlas Mountains, El Guettar, and the Place of the Skull. Cloe is given a mission by the pope where nothing less than the fate of Christianity hangs in the balance. She must find Thib’s cave of jars.
And then there is the journal. Remember that from Judas the Apostle? If there one consistent question that readers ask me about JTA, it’s when will we find out what’s in the journal. Stay tuned faithful readers; there’s more on the journal in TLS. You might find this hard to believe but it is a mystery within an enigma. Enough said.
Here’s a little blurb from a nationally known writing and publishing consultant: “For fans of the award winning Judas the Apostle and newcomers to the Cloe Lejeune series, Mayhall once again delivers a smart, fast-paced thriller with exotic landscapes, a fascinating dose of Biblical history, an intrepid heroine, conniving evildoers, twists and turns and just the right touch of humor that will keep you turning the pages.”
Hope you enjoy!

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AWOL

All…It has been too long since I have posted anything. Much has happened since my last writing. Judas the Apostle has been awarded the Star designation by its publisher iUniverse. This means much more exposure and new marketing among other things. I have been asked to film a commercial for the publisher to explain my experiences in getting published. The book is being marketed in Hollywood and else where for film opportunities. Kirkus has published a very good review.
The sequel, The Last Sicarius is finished and is entering the publishing pipeline. It should be available in a couple of months. So far the peer group reviews on this are very good.
One thing about Judas the Apostle in which you may be interested is the fact that in writing it, I put certain things with hidden meanings in it to entertain myself. I intend to tweet some of these out in the next few weeks to see if anyone gets them. Best.

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A Fantastic New Review-Judas the Apostle

Here’s the latest from Louisiana life magazine. The full length review can be read on the electronic version of the magazine. Needless to say, I’m blown away by the writer’s understanding of my novel. Hope you enjoy. Best.

 

Around Louisiana

Regional Reports from across Louisiana

Jeanne Frois

(page 4 of 5)

BATON ROUGE/ PLANTATION COUNTRY

Worth Watching Judas the Apostle
It briefly begins at Masada in a blood-red sunset. While Romans batter the wall, about to gain entrance, Elazar ben Yair, the last man alive, falls upon his own sword amid the many bodies of those who chose to die free and untouched by Rome. In what proved to be a hard-to-put-down page-turner, Judas the Apostle,  written by Baton Rouge resident and attorney Van R. Mayhall Jr., neatly transitions the story to present-day Louisiana when Dr. Clotile Lejeune, an ancient language expert, returns home to Madisonville with her son because of the murder of her elderly father. It becomes apparent to everyone that Thibodeaux Lejeune was murdered because of an ancient oil jar inscribed with Judas Iscariot’s name  that he found in an underground cavern fighting the African campaign in World War II. For Clotile, estranged from her father and her Louisiana roots for years because of  an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, the return to Louisiana opens old wounds she tried to bury. As she begins to unravel the mystery of her father’s murder, she likewise begins to suspect with good reason the oil jar may be a religious relic important enough to shatter Christian beliefs. Unbeknownst to all, on the other side of the world, an evil billionaire who deals in arms is leaving a scorched earth pathway strewn with corpses as he searches for the oil jar bearing Judas Iscariot’s name, aided by his own empty-eyed goon squad.
Mayhall has spun a highly original, suspenseful and atmospheric thriller. It’s a savvy story of academia, archaeology and theology, but you can also taste the warm Louisiana thread that runs through it like a good flavor – the Tchefuncte River, the LSU campus, the elements of close family ties and the influence of religion. The story also takes place in present-day Jerusalem and France. Exploring the true motives of Judas Iscariot, it leaves you with a perhaps controversial but plausible impression of the betrayer of Christ – but not in the same almost sacrilegious sense of The Da Vinci Code. The story weaves a mystical spell in the timeless story of  good against evil that’s hard to resist; Judas the Apostle joins my personal rank of books that I call one-sitting reads.
Mayhall, a Louisiana native, has done extensive research on Judas Iscariot, exploring loose ends and inconsistencies.
“The book examines controversial claims involving Judas Iscariot,” Mayhall says. “But more than that, I wanted people to think about the Bible, its meaning and the battle between good and evil.” Mayhall claims he wrote the book as a thriller that also celebrated Louisiana’s culture.
“The book is about the main character’s rediscovery of family roots and the importance of her Louisiana upbringing and faith,” Mayhall says.
Published by iUniverse, Judas the Apostle has been featured in the Barnes & Noble Rising Star Special Collection.
Mayhall is a senior partner in a Baton Rouge law firm. A Baton Rouge native, he attended both LSU and Georgetown University.
If you’d like to know more about this highly readable  book, visit www.vanrmayhalljr.com.

This article appears in the  March-April 2013  issue of  Louisiana Life

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Chapter 22

After the distressing and, perhaps, calamitous examination of the jar, and given the lateness of the hour and the dejected attitude of the group, they elected to call it a day. Cloe and her team retired to the hotel, but all agreed to meet for drinks at the bar of a nearby eatery at seven o’clock. If anybody needed a break and some downtime, it was she and her colleagues. Dr. Harrell said he had one more thing to do to wrap up, but he would meet them later.

J.E. had showered and changed and then joined Cloe in the small living area of her suite. They had a few minutes to kill before taking a cab to the restaurant. As always, the discussed the events of the day.

Cloe had ground her teeth so often during the ill-fated afternoon that her jaw ached. But her faith that she would somehow keep her promise to Thib and find the answers to the jar was unabated.

“You know, Mom, I think we need to reassess our situation,” suggested J.E. “We have an ancient jar… we don’t yet know exactly how old. It’s the center of everything- Thib’s death and the attack on us. Someone wants to kill us and take the jar.”

“Agreed, J.E.”

“Yes, but why? Also, we don’t really know whether the objective is to stop us or to get the jar. There is a difference, but it’s hard to see why the goal would be just to stop us. Maybe an ultra-religious sect would want to stop us. They may be afraid of what we might find.”

“True. As the monsignor has said, the contents of the jar may prove or disprove some doctrine of various religions or even factions within some religions,” said Cloe thoughtfully. “On the other hand, it may be nothing. But such people may not want to take the risk of what we might discover, opting to move preemptively to destroy our work.”

“What if the jar hold information that would totally throw Catholicism out the window?” speculated J.E.

Cloe shivered at the though. “Are you saying we might be in jeopardy from the Church itself? That would put the monsignor on the other side from us. I certainly doubted him at first, but now I’m not so sure. But there could be individuals or groups, inside and outside the Church, which might be threatened by even the idea of such information. These people might act irrationally.”

“Maybe that’s what we’re seeing. But I think a group like that would want to try for getting the jar. Wouldn’t they want to know what’s in it? I mean, it may help them,” said J.E. “So, probably, such an enemy would be okay with destroying the jar and our work in case it might be against them, but if they can do it, they’ll want possession of the jar. That’s the only explanation that makes sense to me.”

J.E. paused for a moment, deep in thought, and then continued. “I have to tell you, I still don’t completely trust the monsignor. I think he knows more than he’s saying. We need a ‘come to Jesus meeting’ with him. He’s just a little too strange and a little too quick with answers to his weird behavior.

“There’s something more than meets the eye happening her. We know there’s a bad actor at work, but there’s something else too,” concluded J.E. “Could it have anything to do with what you said you might have seen on the bottom of the jar?”

“I don’t know, J.E. I’m pretty sure there was something there. Mike also noticed something, but hasn’t yet been able to identify it. It was there for just a flash. Maybe I was wrong. It was very faint, almost a shadow. Still, I thought it was something.”

“You know, Mom, I would trust your instincts,” said J.E. “We know we are players on this board game. Is the Vatican? Who else… and why?”

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