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.




Sunday, January 21, 2018

Didn't Send John Dunn yet

I have said often not to rush your submissions. And that is why I did not send my John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu submission yet. It wasn't quite ready. I wanted to send it last Friday, but what the heck. Monday is still soon enough. Or Tuesday for that matter. Or Wednesday.

The point is make sure it's ready. Make sure it is as good as it can be. Because after you send it, that's it. And trying for a Big Five publisher like Penguin Random House is an opportunity you can't mess up. That's why I spent nearly six months improving The Vase before I sent it last week. The Vase is as good as it can be right now. I am very confident in the chances it has with PRH. Or any publisher for that matter. Fingers crossed on that. Because I'll need all the luck I can get. I am still an unknown author to them. I have no credentials as far as they are concerned. They don't know me from Adam.

And that's the problem with my efforts. I'm a nobody. And nobody's like me have next to no chance with a publisher, with an agent, or whatever. Unless you're famous for one reason or another, like a former pro athlete, a movie star, a rock star, a politician, or a relative of one of those, you have to know someone, for a publisher to take notice. You have to have connections.

So having no connections and knowing no one in the publishing world makes it a long shot for me to make it with the Big Five. But nobody's have made it before. They got lucky. I hope I will too.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Penguin Random House up next

I am now submitting The Vase and John Dunn to Penguin Random House. Never mind how I'm doing that without an agent. It's possible. I have blogged before about loopholes to reach Big Five publishers without an agent. I've tried before and will keep trying as long as it's possible.

Sure, you can't get your hopes up. Sure, the odds are still against me. But I believe in my stories. I believe in my writing. Meaning I'm not too humble to admit the writing is excellent. Especially now since I've been making the writing better and better every day. That means for The Vase and for John Dunn. And for Second Chance, too. I'll be getting to that one soon.

I've concentrated on improving the prose in The Vase over the last six months. And I've been working on improving the writing for John Dunn, too. I just submitted The Vase. So for the next three months, that one will be on hold. I'll try to submit John Dunn tomorrow.

So yeah. Losing a publisher is not a good thing in one way. But it's a good thing in another way. The good thing is that you get another chance to make your books better. And you get another chance to find an even better publisher.

That's what is happening now with The Vase, John Dunn, and Second Chance. I'll keep on working and working until it happens. That's all anyone can do. And I will.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Heart of a Zulu and Second Chance already better

Since I've been revising and/or re-editing, and/or rewriting The Vase, Heart of a Zulu, and Second Chance, they are already tons better. One of the reasons is that I redid all the things my previous editors didn't want in there. For Second Chance that includes a few scenes or a few parts of a few scenes. For John Dunn, it only includes rearranging some parts, and for Second Chance it includes returning an entire scene in the beginning.

They were still great, but in my opinion, they're better and it's because they are back to the way I wanted them to be. Of course when you go over something again after a while, you always think of new ways to make it better and that's especially true for a novel. I'm making the story and the writing a lot better for the John Dunn book because I'm thinking of new ways to make it better.

For one thing, I made a bigger deal with Dunn's acquisition of the Snider breech-loading rifle than I did at first. And I made note of another Zulu chieftain who appears in the beginning and ending. I put him in the middle too, so as not to have forgotten about him, only to see him return in the end.

In Second Chance, the initial scene that shows Tony in the alley is returned. The story ends with him in the alley, and in the way it was published the reader is surprised to find him there. But now it's back and the reader will know why he's there in the end because it's where he was at the start. At the story's conclusion we return to the scene, so to speak.

With The Vase, there were all sorts of changes that I changed back to the way I wanted them. For example, when Captain Mathias and Mary Levin fight the terrorists, I had it so that the terrorists had found Mary's gun and threw it off into the night before they engaged her in a fight. That had been deleted. But now it's back and better than ever.

So yeah. For the next few months, I will keep on making these three books better. But heck, they're already much better. Well, they'll be getting better still. All the better!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Year - New Hope

Well the new year is here, and with it comes new hope. I have two books with a publisher who doesn't seem to have any inclination of going out of business. That would be Melange Books, the publisher of Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes. Melange has treated me well, and the books sell, seemingly well enough, albeit with inconsistency. But what do I expect? Melange is a POD publisher, and that means no bookstore placement. All sales are online, either through the Melange website or Amazon. I think there are other online sites, too. Like Smashwords, and such...

But the new year brings the fact that one of my other publishers will go out of business. Knox Robinson, as I had said in an earlier post, is throwing in the towel. I had placed them as a higher ranked publisher, because I was under the impression they were not a POD publisher and would get their books into bookstores. Alas, that was not to be, because they are folding this month, and that's that. The rights to John Dunn and Second Chance will be reverted to me and with that reversion comes new hope.

And what is that new hope? Another shot at the Big Five. I think an author can truly call his career a success if he makes it to the Big Five. But that takes a connection, I suppose. You look at several of the Big Five books, and many of them suck. Worse than Disney's Star Wars, too. I mean really suck. You ask yourself how is it that the Big Five published these books, when they suck so much. It's an unanswered question.

But whatever. I have three books now that are available to be placed with a new publisher. I can go with my remaining publisher, Melange, but again, I want higher stakes with those books. Melange is good for my Killer books, since they were the first publisher to believe in me. But with The Vase, John Dunn, and Second Chance, I will shoot for the moon. Why not? They are great books, with great stories, and great writing. You never know unless you try.

So while I'm still kickin' I'll keep on trying. Never give up, never surrender. that was a line from Galaxy Quest. That was a great movie, btw. Loved it.


Friday, December 29, 2017

New Star Wars sucks Part 2

I explained why Star Wars - the Last Jedi sucked in my last post. But that focused on the trend of political correctness and feminism in movies and TV shows that's taking place in Hollywood right now. Meaning the female characters in most shows are the dominant characters and the men mostly weak. It's been prevalent in TV and Film for the last several years.

But there's another reason the last two (in particular) Star Wars have sucked. Oh, they don't suck if you ask any Star Wars fanatic, of which there are millions. And because there are, the producers don't care about anything original. And that's what I mean regarding why the last two Star Wars sucked. (Aside from the feminist thing, I mean.) They sucked because they were just carbon copies of the first two Star Wars movies. Or Episode IV and V, as they would have them called.

The first Disney Star Wars was nothing more than a retelling of Episode IV. Except, of course the Luke Skywalker character was now a girl. And the Darth Vader character was now Princess Leia's son, complete with black robes and full face helmet/mask.

And this new one, The Last Jedi was nothing more than the retelling of Episode V, complete with the traveling of the female Luke to a distant planet to be trained by Luke, instead of Yoda, and then we find out later that she's not even Luke's daughter, as was the only thing that might have made sense of it all. But no. We don't even get that.

I understand why Disney is rehashing the original trilogy. They paid four billion bucks for the rights to make these movies. They can't take any chances for their versions to flop. Meaning, they don't dare try something original. Meaning an original story, with original characters, and an original premise. Which would have been so much better. Sure it would be in the same universe. You know, the one long ago and far, far away. With references to the original characters who might have appeared in cameos and such.

But no. It had to be the same characters: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbaka, the two robots, a "Darth Vader" character, etc. And with the same story of a wayward character unaware of his, (now her) destiny, and the exact same premise: a rebellion against the same "evil" empire.

In a Science Fiction story, the concepts for stories are endless. Like in the original Star Trek show, almost every single episode had a completely different story, and almost all of them worked. Disney wanted to take no chances to get their 4 billion back. And they're not complaining. Because they are getting their money back. It's all they wanted. The bottom line. Money.

So expect more of the same. Disney will be happy with their money. The fans will be happy because they get to see Star Wars movies. But people who like original stories and a fresh new premise are disappointed. Doesn't matter to Disney. They still get their bank account filled. That's all.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Star Wars - The Last Jedi - It Sucked

With the exception of Justice League, I've been very disappointed with blockbuster movies of late. I hated Thor, and now I just saw Star Wars, the Last Jedi, and I hated that one too.

Sure, the Star Wars junkies love it. They'll love anything that has the Star Wars name on it regardless of story, plot, acting, and now political correctness. For the record, I did disagree with the original Star Wars lack of female characters. It only had one female character, that being Princess Leia. But since Disney took over the Star Wars franchise, (three movies now and counting) it's all about female characters. Meaning any character that's strong, brave, commanding, self assured, and plays the role of a leader, it's going to be female.

What's wrong with that picture? It goes back to what I've been saying before. Star Wars is about, um, I think, um, maybe, um... a WAR. And fighting wars has never been the role of a woman. Maybe different kind of wars, but not shooting wars where you get killed or maimed. And just why would a woman want any part of that? So they could look good in a movie maybe? Jumping, and running, and wielding a light saber, looking flashy and dashing?

That is all show of course. But a war is not flashy. Nor is a war dashing. It's not even a glorious thing like the 19th Century might have you believe. War is a horrible thing. It's a messy thing. It's painful, disastrous, tragic, and has nothing to do with looking good.

War is all about destruction and killing. And in war you get killed. You get maimed. And I've made the point before that any woman who wants to be a part of that is not right in the head. Women should be thankful they are not required to fight in wars. But for some reason some women, (those women who are not right in the head, I guess,) want to be required to fight in wars. 

So in Star Wars, we get women fighters, and of course, all the leaders are women. We get the general who's a woman. Then we get the next in command, the admiral, who's a woman. You get some little Vietnamese girl who has more gumption and know-how than the black guy. And of course, she has to save the guy's life because he's behaving foolishly on the battlefield, so yeah, that's what we're getting in the latest Star Wars movie.

Any male leaders in the show lead the bad guys. And that's the only male leaders we get. The evil ones. The disgusting ones. The ones audiences will root against. The girl leaders are the good guys, the ones we want to win. And of course they're the ones who do win. 

So, if you want a feminist Star Wars, you got it. You've been getting it for the last three Star Wars now. And it's looking like every Star Wars movie from now on will be a feminist movie. The women will be the assertive ones. Women will be the brave ones. Women will be the strong protagonists and the heroes. Women will be the leaders, the generals, the admirals, and any other commanding role. 

The Star Wars men from now on will be the weak ones, the rash ones, the foolish ones, and the secondary characters, playing second fiddle to the female characters. They'll be the bad guys, the evil ones, and the idiots. 

Bottom line is this: if you want the female characters to be strong and dominant, while at the same time the male characters are weak, tentative, and submissive, you'll love the new Star Wars movies. It's as if the producers have laid the ground rules to be no more strong male characters in Star Wars movies. Only weak ones. And the women only strong.

To be clear, I do approve of strong women characters. I know damn well women are strong characters. Women are strong characters in all of the books I've written. (Five and counting.) And I plan on keeping the female characters in my stories strong and brave characters. But they don't fight in wars. They never have as a matter of course. (I know there's exceptions, which is why I said as a matter of course.) And I believe they never should have to. Don't you?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Good News, Bad News

Yes, there is both. Good and bad news. Let's start with the good news. It's not all that monumental, but good news is still good news. And that is The Vase is better than ever. I've always said that rewriting makes a book better. And The Vase sure is better. And that's because I've been rewriting it for the past couple of months big time.

Yes I sent the first hundred pages to Macmillan Australia. And I've even rewritten some of those pages as well. I've got a couple months under the belt now with that submission. That leaves four more months to wait as they said it takes about six months to get back to you.

So in the meantime I've just been rewriting the prose of the story. Certainly the story is the same. But with the prose so much better, that can only help my cause. Fingers crossed.

Now the bad news. And that is yet another of my publishers is going out of business. Or in their (her) words it's "closing." That would be KRP, AKA Knox Robinson Publishing. I got the word a few days ago. Yes it is sad. I thought KRP had a lot of potential, not just for my books, but for all their books. I thought they were going nowhere but up. And with two of my books on their list, Second Chance and John Dunn, I was glad for that.

But not to be. But this bad news carries with it a silver lining. And that is the same silver lining that the closing of Penumbra Publishing had. Which is now I have another chance to rewrite those two books also. And I certainly will. Not that the writing actually needs to be improved. I've already pointed out that no matter how good the writing is, it will always get better with rewrites.

I'm focused on The Vase right now. And then I'll get back to John Dunn and Second Chance. And once the rights to those two books are reverted back to me, I'll start submitting them again for publication. It's a chance to crack the Big Five again. I will take that chance and I'll make the most of it. Which is exactly why I'm considering the closing of KRP a silver lining. Like Penumbra and The Vase, the books will be a lot better, and the chance to crack the Big Five will be highly improved.

So, really, I can't wait for it all to happen. I'm so thrilled with how good the writing is in The Vase, and I'll have the same thrill for John Dunn and Second Chance. As for Macmillan Australia? Like I said. Fingers crossed. The New Year has a lot to look forward to.