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.




Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

As the new year begins tomorrow, I have decided to prioritize my priorities.

Of course, family comes first. A writer can easily forget that. Once you've attained that "zone" as I call it, when the creative juices are flowing and you're getting a lot accomplished, it can be easy to forget you have other people waiting on you.

And of course, the day job. It pays the bills..

But then you have your writing. For me, it used to be art. Painting, drawing, and sculpture took a large part of my time, and music, also, but it's been writing for the past three years that has consumed every spare minute.

And so it will continue to do. KILLER OF KILLERS and THE VASE are finished. Getting them published is on top of the list. Then completing revisions for KILLER EYES. I got a lot done towards that goal last night. And I will want to finish my YA novel, INSIDE THE OUTHOUSE and write a screenplay adaption for KILLER OF KILLERS.

One year from now, I'll be blogging, hopefully, that they all got done.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year's End, 2010

The end of the year 2010 is upon us. Boy, does time fly. At least I got some things done. I completed the first draft of KILLER EYES, the sequel to KILLER OF KILLERS. Still a long way from finishing revisions, but still, it’s an accomplishment as any writer knows.

I did finish the revisions to THE VASE, at least as far as submitting manuscripts is concerned, and I have some interested publishers checking it out. I am confident it will happen, and I'll be able to post publication as one of my accomplishments for 2011.

It would be great to post two publications for 2011, as I still have high hopes for KILLER OF KILLERS. But since KOK is a martial arts action thriller, and those kinds of stories are always popular in the movies, I have decided to write it as a screenplay this coming summer. And since I've already started my fourth novel, INSIDE THE OUTHOUSE, I guess that means I'll be undergoing two separate projects.

So, yes, it's been a productive year. Mostly in revisions since summer, and mostly in submissions since October. Here's hoping it all works out great. We'll see.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More on Holidays

For me it's Christmas, but for some of the characters in my second novel, it would be Hanukkah. My main character in THE VASE is a Palestinian Muslim, but many of the other characters are Israelis, and Hanukkah is when those of the Jewish faith celebrate the defeat of Antiochus III of Syria who took over Judea in about 200 BCE.

As I understand it, the Temple in Jerusalem was to be purified by burning oil for eight days. But when they only had enough oil for one day, they lit it anyway, and it lasted eight days.

Hey, I'm no religious scholar of any sort, but I can read Wikipedia as well as the best of them.

But I did more in my research for THE VASE, than simply refer to Wikipedia. I researched a ton of information on Nazareth, and the region in which Israel is located. I researched the Palestinians, and the many factions that vie for control of their destiny. It's a complicated setting, and I don't pretend to be an expert on it. But I researched enough to write a story about a vase-maker.

I do claim to know a lot about ceramics, and it is that on which I focused my story. It's about a simple ceramicist who is caught up in the conflict, even though he doesn't want any part of it. And the story is mostly about a simple vase. Well, it's not so simple, really. It's quite a special vase. I think you'll be able to read why very soon.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Holidays

I hope everyone had a happy holiday. It's an interesting time. Used to just say Merry Christmas, but now it's gotta be Happy Holiday. It's a religious holiday, of course, and there's not just one religion. Sure all the different branches of Christian celebrate Christmas, I think, with perhaps a couple exceptions, but they are the exceptions. Then there's the Jewish faith which celebrates Hanukkah at about the same time, and the many other religions who don't celebrate anything this time of year.

But for me, it's about writing. Yeah, I have a family, and spent the time well with them. But I'm getting writing done during the times everyone is asleep. Like over the summer. I can afford to stay up late and write. That's when I get the most done. Some people tell me that they write in the early morning, like six to seven or eight in the morning. Not me. I'm really not a morning person. And it's just as well, because when school's in session, I've got to be in my classroom during those hours anyway. No time to write then, so I shouldn't be getting used to writing during those hours.

For me, it's about ten or eleven at night to when I start getting sleepy, which is about two or three. You get a lot done during those hours. No kids calling for dad. The wife's asleep. The phone's not ringing. The dog next door isn't barking. Yeah, nice and peaceful. Just the way I like it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Good Idea

No matter how many times you've read and revised your manuscript, it's a good idea to read through it at least one more time before you submit it to a publisher or even an agent. I've noted many times on this blog that the revision process is an endless one. I've even said that I would revise THE VASE again before I submitted it to the latest publisher who requested a full. And I did.

But then I read it again, and sure enough, I found an error, albeit a minor one, and revised a paragraph that, imo, improved the prose 100% for that paragraph, anyway. Enough to make me want to resubmit it. I figured they couldn't have read it yet, so send the better one, (electronically, thank goodness,) and just say to replace the last one with this one.

But now I will lay off of it. From now on, my writing will be limited to the revisions of my third novel, the sequel to KOK, KILLER EYES, and maybe even make more progress on the YA I began recently, INSIDE THE OUTHOUSE.

That's all.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fellow Writers

Well, it's Christmas eve, and I feel the Christmas spirit. But one of the reasons I feel it is because I feel that I'm a part of the writing community! I have never been a part of something so selfless as being a writer.

Sure, teachers, also, are a great community. They go out of their way to help fellow teachers in their schools and/or districts. But there is just something about writers. I have received so much help from other writers who don't even know me. All they know is that I claim to be a writer, and it's like they bend over backwards to offer advice and help.

Check it out. You've got writer/agent blogs like Nathan Bransford, one of many who helps uncounted writers and aspiring writers in their writing and publication journeys.

There are other writers, too, like Victoria Strauss who goes out of her way to help anyone in their quest toward publication.

These are just two of so many more I would love to tout. The people in the writing world are some of the greatest people on the planet. I truly believe it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Be Ready

Well, I'm certainly glad I gave THE VASE another reading because I will want to send the best version possible to this new publisher who wants to read it. I certainly didn't expect any response from a publisher smack dab in the middle of the Christmas season. But there it is. Glad I wasn't just sitting on my heels there.

I have to say that it feels great to have your best draft available when someone important wants to read it. And in this case, who can be more important than an editor at a publishing house? And when they contact you with a request for a full, you know you've done something right.

Like I said before, it's important to have options, and it looks like I may have some. In the meantime, keep writing!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Another Request for a Full

Another request for a full came in. For THE VASE. Don't know why KILLER OF KILLERS isn't generating this kind of interest. To me, KILLER OF KILLERS is the superior story. It's about the world's greatest martial artist, after all. The plot revolves around a drug that cures all disease and even stops aging! There's a secret society of immortal supermen. It has romance, tragedy, and cover to cover action! Yeah, it's my kind of story! That's why I wrote it.

THE VASE doesn't have any of that. But publishers are requesting to review not only partials, but fulls. One has offered a contract!

I mean, it's a great story, too. It's more of a suspense story than a thriller. But at this rate, it looks like it will be in print first. Hey, that's OK.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Revisions still more Revisions

Can't say it enough. I said the last pass through THE VASE found some sentences in need of improving. But last night, I've found two major errors, and it gets me because I must have read this thing near fifty times, and I don't know why I never caught these errors before.

First one, I established in about the middle of the book that the IDF, (Israeli Defense Force) will be enforcing a curfew in Nazareth. Then in the very next chapter, there are protesters chanting through the night, right until morning. Now what happened to that curfew? OK, I fixed that one. Now they're protesting until curfew.

Second, there's a fourteen year old character who is running from "authorities" and climbs into a hiding place. (I don't want to give too much away here.) Anyway, he was carrying something, (again, don't want to give it away just what he was carrying,) but when he climbs to his hiding place, I made no mention how he climbs while holding his item, because if he was holding it in one hand as I wrote earlier, it would be impossible to do that climb.

So, now I fixed that. Which makes me ultra glad that I'm giving this ms another reading. Even my beta readers never caught those mistakes. But I will finish up by tonight or tomorrow, and I will send this improved version to the publisher who has my full ms in review. I know it's taboo, but the editor did say I could contact her at any time if I wanted to, and now I have a very good reason.

I know she meant if I wanted to inquire as to the status of my ms in their review process, but I'll tell her that I had to make some changes that improved the ms, and it is worthwhile to replace the first submission with this later one. Fortunately, they accepted electronic attachments, so it will be a snap to just send this latest one in.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Writing Over the Holidays

I salute anyone who can write and make significant progress writing during this Christmas holiday. I'm understanding a bit better why publishers all but close down over the holidays. What with relatives and family, kids and wives, and/or husbands, there is little time to sequester yourself in your writing room, or even at Starbucks with your laptop and write away.

I don't go to Starbucks to write, btw, I just thought I'd say that since I seem to see so many other people do that.

Anyway, I hoped to get some significant writing done over Christmas, but I'm not sure I will. Oh well. I'll get to it soon enough.

Friday, December 17, 2010

In a Hurry to be Published?

The best advice I have been given is, essentially, don't be in a hurry to get published. If you jump at the first opportunity, it might not be the best opportunity. If you have options, weigh them. If you don't, that is an issue to deal with, of course, but seek out options. That is good advice, really, in most aspects of life, and/or business. Have options, weigh them, figure out what is best for YOU. That's all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Heroes vs. Non-heroes

Does your novel feature a great hero? Or is it simply a great story? Maybe you have both. I know it doesn’t take a great hero to make a great story. But it does take a great story to make a great book. For someone like me, it’s better if you do have both.

My first novel, KILLER OF KILLERS has a great hero and a great story. Trent Smith, after all is the greatest martial artist on the planet. He doesn’t see himself that way. But he is. And he uses his skill to avenge the innocents. He hates murderers. It really bothers him when murderers get away with their crimes. In KILLER OF KILLERS, anyone who murders and gets away with it better watch out for him. It’s to Trent’s advantage at the start of his journey that they don’t know about him yet. But in the sequel, KILLER EYES, they know by then to watch out for him, and the antagonist is doing just that.

It makes for an even greater hero, and Trent Smith is up to the task. After all, he’s the greatest martial artist on the planet. He’s a great hero.

But in THE VASE, there really isn’t a great hero. The main character is a simple Palestinian vase-maker named Muhsin Muhabi. He has a wife who left him, and a son who is all he has left in this world besides his pottery shop. He isn’t religious, and he doesn’t care about the politics that took the life of his first-born son. All he wants to do is provide for his surviving son and run his shop. Isn’t it weird that for people like Muhsin, who just want to mind their own business, there are others who take it upon themselves to interfere in their lives? But it’s true. It really does happen.

And it’s what happens to Muhsin. He didn’t do anything to anyone, but people are butting into his life and making what might have been an otherwise peaceful and fulfilling existence a tormented one instead. Just thinking about it makes me mad. If it wasn’t for that vase…

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Multiple Manuscripts

How many different manuscripts can you work on at the same time? I used to only focus on one at a time, but lately that's not the case. Right now I’m reading through THE VASE again, and revising it still. But I really call it a completed manuscript, so much so that I have submitted it to several publishers. It doesn’t mean I’m not still working on it though as this latest reading proves.

I’ll probably read through KILLER OF KILLERS again and more than likely find enough in need of improvement that it, too, can be considered a WIP.

I’m in the thick of revising KILLER EYES, and it’s a long way from anything close to completion. And I’m in the beginning stages of INSIDE THE OUTHOUSE, my first effort toward an MG/YA novel.

So that’s four different novels I’m working on right now, but I’m concentrating on making THE VASE as good as it possibly can be.

It’s a good feeling when you’re reading your own work and you find yourself thinking to yourself what great writing it is.

It would be great if an editor thought likewise. Oh, but there’s that subjective thing again. Still, if what I’ve read in bookstores can be considered good writing, then I believe I have a chance.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Make that MS even better

So you think your manuscript is done, and you’ve started submitting it. You find publishers interested, and you send the full. One wants to publish it. Before you commit, you figure to read through it again, just to make sure. No problem, you think to yourself, because the last time you did that it was good to go after a couple minor revisions, maybe a word or two here and there. For sure this time, it will be a clean read.

But no. And it’s not just a word here and there. I’m finding whole sentences in need of revision. And not just one or two. It’s very upsetting. Why? Because I have documented so many times on this blog that no matter how many times you believe your manuscript is finished, there’s always going to be places in it that can be improved.

And it’s particularly upsetting because THE VASE is under review with several publishers right now. I can’t just contact them and say, ‘Hey, read this new improved version.’ You can do that with your agent, but that’s as far as it goes.

There’s only one consolation to finding imperfections in a manuscript that’s on submission. If it’s accepted, there will be more revisions anyway. It’s why editors exist, after all.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Contracts

When you're offered your first publishing contract, you want to be happy. But there are too many things to consider before breaking out the champagne. Is it the right contract? Is it the right publisher?

Hopefully, you did your homework and submitted your manuscript only to those publishers who are acceptable to you, and that's what I did. I made sure that no publisher to whom I submitted was a self publisher, or a vanity press, or a subsidy press.

And when I submitted, I did the multiple submission thing. I can't submit and wait six months to get rejected before I submit again and so on. Who knows how much time would go by before I finally found a publisher. At that rate, it could be several years. No way.

Fortunately most publishers allow multiple submissions, and that's the only way to go, imo. Rejections trickle in but some of them request the full manucript. And when one of them says yes, you wonder maybe you should wait to see what the other publishers will say, and if they also say yes, you wonder how their contracts might compare.

That's where I am right now. I don't want to jump for the first contract that is offered. I'm glad I have one, and I am glad that THE VASE is on a sure track to be published. I must remind myself to be patient. And I am glad that the publisher is not putting me under any pressure with a deadline. That's a point in their favor. So I am proceeding with their expectations, but if I have alternatives I need to know what they are.

That's all.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fridays

Fridays are my favorite days during the school year because I can stay up really late at night. I'm the kind of person who needs to go to sleep at a reasonable hour if I have to get up extra early the next morning. And since I set my alarm clock at 6 a.m. when school's in session, I want to hit the sack by 11 the night before.

So Friday nights see me up until very late writing away, and it's the day that I get the most writing done. It's why I write my novels over the Summer vacation. For me, over the summer, every night's a Friday.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Birthday - No Time Off for Me

Do you work on your birthday? Some people I know take their birthdays off. Don’t know what they do, but they don’t work. I always go to work. Even on my birthday. Like today. I figure that teachers have enough days off, that when it’s a school day, and the kids are expected to be in class, then so, too, should the teachers.

Heck, I’ve listened to teachers tell me in confidence that there are days when they call in sick just to go to the beach or a ball game. They think I understand, I suppose, but I don’t understand.

So, birthday or not, here I am getting ready for class. I used to come to work even when I was sick. Didn’t matter how sick, I didn’t skip being in my classroom no matter what. There was a stretch of about nine or ten years straight I didn’t miss a single day of school as a teacher. Not even an inservice day. Those are the days teachers have to be at work even when the kids are off.

There was a day about three or four years ago, I was sick, must have been the flu, and my wife told me to call in sick. But of course, stubborn me, I said I never call in sick. Next thing, it's first period and I’m getting dizzy, and couldn’t even make it to the nurse’s office before collapsing, and hearing the principal calling 911.

Yep, there I was on my way to the hospital in an ambulance. So, OK, lesson learned. If you got the flu, call in sick and get better.

But I’m the same way about my writing. Don’t try to get me to stop, because I won’t. Too much work to get done. I’m glad I’m like that. It’s what gets the book completed. And so it goes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Time off Work-Xmas vs. Summer

You would think that with time off of work you'd get a lot of writing done. But I'm not sure it will happen over the Christmas break. I managed to complete the first draft of three novels the past three summers. KILLER OF KILLERS, a martial arts action thriller led the way, followed by the suspense novel, THE VASE, and then the sequel to KOK, KILLER EYES, which, of course, is still being revised. (Got back to that last night.)

And even though I have begun a new novel, recently, an MG/YA, tentatively titled, INSIDE THE OUTHOUSE, I don't expect to really make serious progress on that until this coming summer. I'll get a thousand words done here and there until then, but the first draft won't be done until August, I'm sure.

I am, however, taking a break from submissions during the holidays. I'm waiting on a few things, and I really think THE VASE is close to finding a home. I wish I could say the same for KOK, since KOK really is my sentimental favorite. And not just because it has a cool title. As the title suggests, there is a lot of killing. But mostly, as the title also suggests, the people who get killed are killers who deserve to be killed.

But the events that happen in KOK are impacting and memorable for more reasons than just killing. Trent Smith is the greatest martial artist in the world, and there's cover to cover action. There's romance, tragedy, and philosophical exposition throughout.

When I wrote it, I was determined to write a book that I would want to read, and it's just what I did. Hopefully, other people will feel the same as I. Got to find that editor who feels the same first.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Don Meredith, RIP


This blog is not supposed to be a harbinger of bad news, nor an obituary of any sort, but Don Meredith was someone who I thought was a person with natural talent. He was part of the original Monday Night Football team of announcers that also featured Howard Cosell. Teamed with Frank Gifford as the play by play announcer, both Don Meredith and Howard Cosell provided color commentary. Meredith, being a former NFL quarterback, also provided meaningful analysis.


Here they are as they appeared on Monday Night Football.

And the three of them really made Monday Night Football successful, not just on the field, but in the booth. If anyone ever listened to them, and knew football, then you know what I mean. The thing is, when Howard wrote his autobiography, he admitted to never liking Gifford, but confessed a genuine appreciation for Meredith. I have to believe it's because Meredith was real. I mean a real personality, like Howard, who had that natural flair, that natural charisma, the kind of person who people like, just because he was a naturally likeable person. And that's why he was successful in the booth.

Don Meredith, RIP.

Monday, December 6, 2010

December

So we're into December, and that's good and bad. It used to be only a good thing for me. After all, I was born in December, and after my birthday, there's Christmas. As a kid, December was great for me. On top of birthdays and Christmas, we got a couple weeks off of school and some special time to spend with my cousins from L.A. and Palo Alto.

But now, I'm not so enamered with December. Yeah, my birthday still happens and Christmas is still nice, with a two week vacation from school, (as a teacher, the break is still a welcome one,) and having two sons on whom I can bestow presents.

But it's hard to wait out the slow down in the publishing world, especially when I have two books on submission, and THE VASE is actually being seriously considered. I would like to talk about that a little bit more, but I am deliberately withholding information regarding that. Don't mean to be vague, but I will reveal more as the situation becomes more concrete.

What I can say right now is that for THE VASE things are looking pretty good. More later.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Killer of Killers-the Women

For my female characters, I hadn't really settled on actresses like I had with actors for my male roles. I considered Jessica Alba for the lead part of Samantha Jones for the way she appeared in the Fantastic Four movie. But then I thought that even though she had the looks, she really didn't have the presence. I went back to the drawing board to find another actress and found Scarlett Johanssen.

Even though Scarlett Johanssen wasn't my first choice, when I found this photo, I became a believer.

Going by this photo, Scarlett Johanssen has it all. Looks, personality, and the right age. She's 26 right now. Samantha Jones is about 28 in KOK, so that means, like Casper Van Dien, she's got about five years to still be in the right neighborhood agewise.


For Susie Quinn, the exotic dancer who becomes infatuated with Trent Smith, I have to find a strikingly beautiful black actress who not only is beautiful, but looks like a professional dancer.

Here's one of the most popular black actresses right now. Gabrielle Union, who has starred in many movies and TV shows. She's certainly pretty enough, but I'm not really convinced that she is perfect for the role. One knock against her is that she's already 38 years old. Susie Quinn, in KOK is about 28. That's ten years too old. So it would have to be someone like Gabrielle Union, but ten years younger. I'll keep looking.

For Trent Smith's Japanese love interest, Yoshiko Wada, it was a little harder for me, because I don't really know any Japanese actresses, at least not any American ones. I googled Japanese actresses, and here's a couple that seemed to jump out at me almost immediately


This is Ryoko Shinohara, who is popular in Japan. I was struck by her dazzling appearance. The woman has to be beautiful, but she also must look like she can handle herself in a martial arts competition. I think she's just right except for one small detail; she's 37. And as is the case with Gabrielle Union, that's too old.


So here's Yukie Nakama as an option. She's 31, which means the timetable is close to passing her by, as well. I'll have to keep looking. But if the movie were made today, she would do fine.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Killer of Killers-What if...

While I wrote KILLER OF KILLERS, I would often think to myself what if it got made into a movie, who would be the best actors to play the characters. And most importantly, who would be the perfect actor for the main character.

Well, for my main character, Trent Smith, one name came to me, and I think he would be the perfect actor for the role, IF the movie would be made within the next five years. Casper Van Dien. And there's a whole bunch of reasons why. Because in every category, Casper Van Dien is perfect for the role. But again, ONLY if the movie was made within the next five years.

He's the perfect height and weight, the perfect build and the perfect face for the role. Trent Smith is 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and about 190 pounds. When I checked Van Dien's bio on the internet, that's just what he is. Trent Smith has a strong square jaw, brown hair and green eyes, and so does Casper Van Dien.

Trent Smith is the kind of guy who is attractive to women because he's a naturally handsome guy, with the type of looks that women are attracted to, and although he tends to be moody, he really is a likeable type of guy. Even the main antagonist in KOK, Abraham Soriah, finds himself liking the guy, (like in a man's man type of way.) And all of that is Casper Van Dien.

And Casper Van Dien is just the type of actor who would probably be available. I mean, it's not like he's in the same category as a Brad Pitt or a Tom Cruise who are probably booked with roles through the next ten years.

But as I said, it would have to be within the next five years, because in KILLER OF KILLERS, Trent Smith is around 39 or 40 years old, and Casper Van Dien will be 43 on December 18th. So, I'm afraid that five years from now, he will be too old, and that's the problem with the whole thing. No way will KILLER OF KILLERS get made into a movie within the next five years. Heck, I'm not even sure it will ever get made into a book. (Though I am optimistic it will.)



Here's Van Dien as he looks right now. Just imagine a goatee on him, and his hair a little more shaggy, but not too much longer than it is in this photo.










And here's Van Dien as he appeared in his Tarzan movie. You can see that he's strong enough to play the muscular Trent Smith. It doesn't matter if he's had martial arts training or not. It's all about acting, and I believe he's a good enough actor to pull it off. After all, David Carradine admitted having no martial arts training when he starred in Kung Fu.





For the main bad guy, the aged Abraham Soriah, the perfect actor would be Max von Sydow. Soriah is tall and lean, and so is Max von Sydow. In KOK, Soriah is in his eighties and so is Max von Sydow. His stately appearance and commanding voice are perfect for the part. Again, it would have to be within the next five years, because when you're that old, the years seem to go faster, and so does your health.

And Soriah's right hand man, Charles Morgan, who really is more like his adopted son, the actor who came to mind while writing the part was Dennis Haysbert. You know that guy in the Allstate Insurance commercials.

For Trent's aged Japanese mentor, Shoji Wada, two different Japanese actors came to mind, Toshiro Mifune and Mako, but both have passed away by now. But if you're familiar with these two guys, then you have an idea of what Shoji Wada is like, and what kind of actor might play him.

That's enough for now. Tomorrow, I'll try to figure out who would play the female roles.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Word.docs

So I went online and found out what these docx files are, and why my attachment files are labeled as such. As I suspected, it’s a result of the installation of the Office Word 2010 I recently chronicled.

What I learned is that these newer Microsoft Word.docXs are more advanced and efficient in that they take up less space, contain more features and/or tools, and are less prone to corruption. The drawback is that if anyone has versions of Microsoft Word that are dated before 2007, then they won’t be able to open those files.

And so far, at least one publisher has that problem, and wouldn’t you know it’s one of the publishers who might have been more likely to publish my book, KILLER OF KILLERS, because they are looking to publish novels with a Japanese bent.

And as I have written a few times on this blog, the main character in KILLER OF KILLERS lived and trained in Japan for over twenty years. In most martial arts stories, especially movies, the art and the characters are Chinese. In KILLER OF KILLERS, the art is Japanese. Trent Smith’s expertise is a combination of Budo and Ju Jitsu, and I combine them in my story as a type of hybrid art called Budo Ju Jitsu or just Bu Jitsu.

So in my eagerness to submit to this publisher, and being unfamiliar with the new docx format, and failing to heed their request not to submit in that format, it’s exactly what I did.

And that in itself might have ruined any chance for consideration with that publisher. Even though I discovered the mistake and resubmitted with an acceptable format, (and an apology) you never really know, since these publishers, like agents, claim they are swamped with submissions so much so that any deviation from their guidelines means instant rejection.

Man, oh man.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Swamp Fox

You know when I talked about Leslie Nielsen yesterday, I mentioned what I thought was his best role, which, in my opinion, was a star ship captain in the movie, Forbidden Planet. Most people these days, I'm sure remember him for his comedies, like the movie, Airplane and the Naked Gun movies, of which there were three, I believe. There were some TV shows that also featured Nielsen in his Naked Gun role, but they didn't take, so there weren't too many.

And speaking of TV shows, I forgot to mention the role he played that has something to do with me. Well, not me, personally, but with my online handle, Swampfox. I mentioned before on this blog, that Nielsen was the actor who played Francis Marion, the original Swampfox, in a Disney TV show called The Swamp Fox. How negligent of me, considering it was this TV show that introduced me to the real life swampfox character, and the nickname.



So here is Nielson as Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, back in 1959.

Here is a quote from the show, as Nielsen explained how he, as Marion, got the nickname.

"My name is Francis Marion. I fought the British Redcoats in 76. Hiding in the Carolina swamps by day, surprising them with swift strikes at night. They called me a tricky swamp fox. So, a Swamp Fox I became..."


Here's Nielsen as the action hero on a horse...



...with an old fashioned pistol...



...and wearing a feathered hat.

OK. That's all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Leslie Nielsen, RIP




Leslie Niesen passed away yesterday, and since I talked about him before on this blog, I thought I'd give him props.

His best role, imo, was in the movie I talked about recently, Forbidden Planet. Most young people probably never heard of it, but it really is one of the best SciFi movies ever made. If you've never seen it, go ahead and rent it. It's worth seeing. In many ways it's better than most of the Star Wars movies. Well, it is better than the Star Wars movies. Actually, it's better than the Star Trek movies, too, which I couldn't stand, and I'm a guy who loved the original Star Trek TV show!



Here's Leslie as he appeared in the movie. That's a youthful Anne Francis next to him. She was, of course, the female lead in the movie. Actually, I think she was the only female in the movie. That's alright. If she looks as good as Anne Francis, then it's OK to only have one female in the movie. (You hear that Star Wars? Nothing against Carrie Fisher, but she was no Anne Francis!)



Here's the movie poster that features the robot, Robby holding what is supposed to be Anne Francis.


Leslie Nielsen, RIP.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, that goes to everyone. No matter what happens, I have to admit, I have a lot to be thankful for, and I hope that anyone who reads this can say the same thing.

Since I'll be out of town, I may not post tomorrow.

Back on Monday, though. Enjoy the day, everyone.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Email vs. Snail Mail

Here we are, well into the 21st Century, and with all the uproar over saving trees and going green, you would think that everyone, or near everyone would be on board with the electronic communication thing. I'm referring to submissions, of course, since that has been the subject on which I have focused the last few days.

Not only is not everyone on board with electronic submissions, not even near everyone's on board with it. It's true most agents will accept equerries, but even a good portion of them only accept snail mail queries. And when it comes to publishers as I'm full into submitting to them right now, I would say, at this point, it's a little over half of them accept equerries, and the rest are adamant in their refusal to accept any electronic submission.

You better go by the guidelines if you want any chance to get published. You might have written the next American classic, but if you stray from a publisher's submission guidelines, it'll never get reviewed.

Thing is, even those publishers who do accept equerries and electronic submissions, you better be careful. I'm still learning about all the variances in word.doc submissions. I was sure I had, you know, the normal word.doc. And on this latest submission I made, just last night, the guidelines said NOT to attach any word.docx.

Word.docx?? What the heck is that? They said they will accept word.docs and rtf formats. I know about rtf because I ran into that with a prior publisher's submission guidelines.

So, anyway, I attached what I thought was my normal word.doc and sent it. And then I tended to family things, you know, the wife always complaining she wants more attention and the kids need rides here and there. When I got back to the computer a couple hours later, I checked the "SENT" section of my email to double check the emailed submission, and to my horror, I noticed that my attachments were word.docX!!!

Now how my word.docs suddenly became word.docX is beyond me. My only guess is that when I changed back to the latest Microsoft Word 2010 Office Professional recently, it somehow made them word.docx, but I'm just guessing. The thing is, the guidelines of that particular publisher specifically said NOT to attach any word.docx and there it was...plainly labeled as a word.docx attachment. Oh sh...t!!

So I repeated the submission after changing the attachments to rtf, and apologized, hoping that not too many submissions were made in the couple hours between my submissions, that they were close enough so that whoever was reading these things will see the repeated submission with the RTF attachment noted in the subject line.

It's an argument for snail mail because this kind of thing could only happen with electronic submissions. But what the hell. What's the problem with word.docx, anyway? Sheesh. It's always got to be something to make things more complicated. So it goes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Premonitions

Time moves fast, we've heard it often, and it really is true. The last few years I have marveled when the school year ended because it seemed as though the school year had just begun not so long ago.

When I was a kid, the summer vacation seemed to be a very long break from school, and now it's little more than a blink of the eye. Now, not only has the summer break ended, but the first trimester, which is about the same length, has also just ended. Yesterday was the first day of the second trimester, and I am sitting here in my classroom pondering today's lessons on this second day of the trimester.

It's still a time getting to know my new students, because, unlike core teachers, I get a brand new bunch of students every trimester. There's positives and negatives to that, but for me, it's like starting all over again, with putting down the rules and expectations just as I did on the first day of school.

One thing I want to do over the Thanksgiving holiday is get back to revising KILLER EYES. I've been busy submitting THE VASE, and I've been wanting to get back to KILLER EYES. I feel optimistic about both of my novels getting published. Sometimes I get these feelings that I can't explain, and they come to pass. Premonitions, maybe? Maybe. I have had that gift, but it's more of an intermittent one. Don't want to dwell on it. Don't depend on it. Probably most people have it. I think good things are in store.

Can't wait.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Week

I'm trying to decide if I should stop submitting now for the holiday break, and renew after New Year's. Still, I can't believe that everyone is going into hibernation over that duration. The consensus is that publishing slows to a near stop, and it's just as well you do, too.

Maybe, I'll slow down, but I won't stop. Thing is, since I last talked to my agent, I have made about a dozen submissions for THE VASE. Yet, in that time I haven't heard from her about a single submission she's made for KILLER OF KILLERS. I stressed to her in my last communication that I wanted to know when she submitted and nothing so far.

OK, so she's got a lot of other clients and other business to see to for many of them. And it's holiday season. OK.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Two novels, Both equally Great

I have two completed manuscripts, and both are great stories, but they are not related to each other at all, other than the fact that the same author wrote them. (Me) My first book, KILLER OF KILLERS, I would describe as an action thriller. More specifically a martial arts action thriller. It revolves around one main character, but of course it's embellished by several supporting characters.

But it's the story of Trent Smith, who was also known as Midori no Me no Tora in Asia. It means the Green-eyed Tiger in Japanese. That was his "nom de guerre" in the fighting circuits of Japan. It has a lot of martial arts action, a lot of thrills, thus the genre, but it also is a love story. Trent happens to fall in love. It was weird that he did, because when I started writing it, I had the idea that he was running away from love. Not that he had anything against his Japanese fiancee, but he had a greater agenda. In pursuing that agenda, he falls in love all over again. Still, I wouldn't classify it as a love story. Well, maybe a little.

Yet the story has tragedy, and complications, and loads of tension; all the things that Donald Maass would have in a novel, as he explained in his book Writing the Breakout Novel, which I read during the writing process of KOK.

THE VASE is nothing like KILLER OF KILLERS. It's not an action story at all, and really doesn't have a lot of action, though it has some. It's a suspense novel, as far as genre goes. At least, that's what I would call it. Although it revolves around a Palestinian potter whose marriage is on the mend, I wouldn't call it a love story. It has a lot of tragedy though, most of which is revealed in scenes from three years prior. That's when the potter lost his eldest son to the conflict that plagues the region. Another main character, a Jewish Art Professor also lost his son to the same conflict.

But both men react in different ways. The Palestinian, a poor man who works in a pottery shop in the Old City Market of Nazareth, simply tries to survive as a single father to his remaining son, due to the fact that his Syrian wife abandoned them. He rejects his religion, he ignores the conflict, and concentrates on his business and remaining son.

The Israeli professor is consumed with hatred. He wants revenge and goes about the process of seeing it through, no matter what else happens around him. In my story, a peace treaty is finally signed between Israel and Palestine. But the professor is only enraged further. He goes about fulfilling his agenda. I don't want to give away the crux of the storyline, but it's the vase that has a major impact on how everything turns out. A simple ceramic vase. How can that be? Well, you'll have to read the story. Suffice it to say that it's an original idea. I don't believe it's ever been in any other story, be it a book, a movie, or a TV show. That's the thing I'm hoping will attract the interest of publishers.

And so far, it's working. Fingers crossed, but it might get published before KOK. What's weird is that KOK is the one that is agented. I'm on my own with THE VASE, and I'm thinking I'll find a home for it very soon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Partials and fulls

When I talked about the differences in submission guidelines between different publishers yesterday, I didn't even mention formats. Most publishers accept your partials or fulls in word.doc formats which is how your manuscript is created. But some require you to change it into rtf or pdf, or whatever else. It's not hard to do, really, so I don't really mind doing it.

But yesterday, when I changed a partial into a pdf format and was ready to attach it to my latest submission, I happened to read, (again) the pages, because they looked so different in that format. What surprised me was I caught a flaw in the writing. I found it on page 18. At the end of a scene I used the word "landscape" and then at the beginning of the very next scene, I used that very same word again. For an atypical word like landscape, you don't want to repeat it so close to each other. It was about three, maybe four sentences later when I repeated that same word.

I must have read that section of the ms about fifty times, at least, and I just don't know how I missed it all those times. Even my beta readers never caught that.

It was no problem to fix it, I changed one of them to the word "horizon," but I've sent out about a dozen partials or fulls by now, and for all I know, editors will catch it on their very first read. It only goes to show, no matter how many times you read, reread, or re-reread your manuscript, there's going to be something you missed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Different Guidelines

It really is odd that so many different publishers have such wide differences in their submission guidelines. Some are adamant in their refusal to take equeries, some are just as adamant in their refusal to take hard copy queries, and some want only a query, yet others want a partial with the query, and others want the query with a partial and a synopsis, and others want just the synopsis, and some even want the full manuscript right off the top.

But I've got everything ready. Email really makes it all so much easier, you just cut and paste your ready-to-go query, (which is the cover letter for hard copy only submissions. I've got the first three chapters in a separate file, and a synopsis, too.

It's the hard copy people that make it more of an effort. You've got to print everything out. Synopses and partials are not so much of a hassle, but when they want the full manuscript with the first submission, that's the most trouble. Not just because of time and effort, but because you use up your ink cartridge and you run out of paper so much faster.

However, I actually like to submit my full manuscript, because I believe that gives the editors the best opportunity to appreciate my book. Otherwise, it's like seeing only a movie trailer or beginning a story that gets cut off, and maybe your best parts are still to come, and they make a decision based on the part that isn't what makes your book great.

They'll say it's a sample of your writing is all they are looking for at that point, and sure, you understand. I'd rather an editor make a decision on the whole instead of just the part. But who has time for that? They always say that they are swamped with submissions. It really makes me shake my head to realize just how many people are trying to write books. It's got to be the computer age. I know it's why I've done it. I've said it before, if it weren't for these computers, and the word doc programs, I wouldn't have written any books. But I have, and so have a lot of other people.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Holiday Season

Well, with holidays coming up, publishing slows down. So I've been told, so I've read. Holiday Season used to be some of my favorite times. Can't say that anymore. Not when I'm seeking publication for not just one but two of my books. Even my agent, Terrie Wolf, during our discussion the other day, mentioned that. So I'll probably have to wait until January or later before I hear any further word on the submissions I've made. But I'll still keep going. It's probably going to be a good time to catch up on those revisions to KILLER EYES. Or continue that YA I began.

I haven't made a lot of progress on either one of those WIPs. I have really put KILLER EYES on hold for the last couple months, polishing up both KILLER OF KILLERS and THE VASE. Not a lot, as both are pretty much finalized, with not much more I could do to either one. But yesterday, once again, I did find a couple places in THE VASE that I revised. Just a couple added words in the first chapter, and I changed the lyrics to a song that was in there.

I had used the words to a real song, thinking it would be possible to get permission from the artist. But just in case, I had an alternate song ready to go, which I used in the copy I sent to the LOC. One of the editors to whom I submitted advised I use the alternate lyrics because getting permission was going to be too much of a hassle. And since I already had the alternate song ready, it would be just as well to use it. So I did. It's just as good with it, so why make more work? Got enough of that already, being a teacher and a father and a husband. It's all good.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Future of Publishing

I was very surprised, to say the least, when Nathan Bransford announced recently that he was leaving publishing, meaning he was no longer going to be a literary agent. Even though he said it wasn't because of any concerns for the future of publishing, I still wonder. With the surge of epublishing, and the new ebooks coming out more than ever, how can you help but wonder.

The bottom line is the profit these companies make. Isn't that always the bottom line? And I keep hearing that profits are down. And it's understandable that the epublishing thing and the ebook thing may very well be responsible for that, because I can't believe fewer people are reading. With the population ever increasing, logic would suggest that more people are reading. Still, there are reasons to believe fewer people are reading.

Look at video games and television for instance. When I was a kid, there were no video games. I remember the fist video game came out when I was a teenager. Remember that very primitive ping pong video game? What was it called? Video Pong or something like that? It was so basic, I might have played it a few times before I lost interest. Then when I was in my twenties, more video games came out, but they were those big machines that you played in arcades. You know, where the pin ball machines were. I never got into Pin Ball. Even the song by The Who never got me interested.

Then there's TV. When I was young, you had a few channels on VHF and a few on UHF and that's it. Maybe a dozen total channels. Now the number of channels on TV has increased to hundreds. Incredible. My two sons could last an entire week in front of a TV if I let them. I remember watching a cartoon when I was a kid, and you had to wait a whole week before you could watch that cartoon again, and now these channels show the same cartoon over and over again, one right after another. THE SAME CARTOON!!

Then Video tape came out, and you could tape your favorite shows and/or movies and have your own personal video library. Amazing. Libraries were no longer restricted to just books. You can have a video library of movies, TV shows, sporting events, you name it. Then CDs and DVDs replaced tape, and now iPods and DVRs are replacing that.

So, maybe it all cancels each other out. More people in the world, to be sure, but much more entertainment to go around. Still, books are eternal, imo. Even if the Star Trek episodes are right, as I mentioned, and ebooks are the future, I hope with all my heart that good old paper books never go away.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yes, Keep an Open Line

Just got off the phone with my new agent, Terrie Wolf, and I am so glad the lines of communication are open. I say "new" agent, because, even though she is with the same agency I signed with, she is now taking over my situation. My former agent, Ange Tysdal is on sabbatical, and the transition had some bumps, and it seems my case got lost in the shuffle.

It's why I hadn't heard anything since last May, as I was talkiing about this past week. But once Terrie worked out the kinks, it's "all systems go" from now on. Those are her words I quoted there.

So even though I was right, that nothing was submitted since last May, I am confident the ship is righted and, again, "all systems go."

I'll still be submitting THE VASE on my own though. I agree to let Terrie handle one book at a time, (per author) and KILLER OF KILLERS will be hers to place. It's my favorite book, and here's to fingers crossed for both of my novels.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Moving Along

As most people know, the publishing process is a long one. I'm moving along pretty well right now, with two completed and polished manuscripts being considered by some pretty decent publishers.

But not just any publishers. I've found that in the writing business there are some absolutely great people, and then of course you have the other side of the fence. Scammers, they're called. People who take advantage of authors desperate for publication, and then take their money, as a result.

That's why I promised myself, as I've said before, that I won't spend a dime to get published. So if any contract, be it a Literary Agent's or Publisher's, calls for me to pay them, I walk away.

Some great online resources are Writer Beware, Preditors & Editors, and Absolute Write. These websites help authors discern which agents and publishers are good ones, and which ones are bad. One of the most wonderful people with whom I've had the pleasure to converse is Victoria Strauss. She's an author and she runs the Writer Beware website. She also chimes in a lot on the Absolute Write Forum.

If you have any doubts about an agent or a publisher, she will go out of her way to help you. People like Victoria Strauss make me believe in the greatness of the human condition. Thank God for people like her.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Communication Important

If you have an agent, you've got to keep those lines of communication open. Not so sure my agent does that. I'm still waiting to see who they submitted my first book, KILLER OF KILLERS, to since last May. I talked about my agent(s) before, and how she (they) don't want to represent my second book, THE VASE. I never heard of anything like that, but OK.

Because I like the responses from publishers I've been getting on my own regarding THE VASE. Three publishers are considering the manuscript right now, and I don't even know if any publishers ever responded with that kind of interest in KOK. When I inquired last May, my agent told me which publishers she submitted to and which ones passed, and which ones were still being waited on.

But no word if they submitted to anyone since then. My conclusion is they haven't. But I shouldn't have to make "conclusions." It's better that the lines of communication are open, and I don't have to guess. Sure, I understand agents have other clients and they're busy as all heck. But it's not a good idea to keep anyone in limbo about anything. That's all.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rowling's Idea Not Original

Yesterday, I commented on Nathan Branford’s blog about his topic of Harry Potter. He was gushing about the J. K. Rowling series, and, seemingly, everyone shared his enthusiasm. But after I posted, I reread my comment, and I thought maybe I shouldn’t be raining on everyone’s parade. It wasn’t that bad of a comment, really, but you never know how some people might react. I’ve found that sometimes if you don’t agree with someone, especially on forum-like platforms, they take it so personally, and you make an enemy forever. That is not the purpose of my internet presence. So I figured discretion was the better part of valor in this instance. Besides, I never read any Harry Potter book. I can only go by the first two movies I saw with my two sons, but I’m sure the premise is true to the book, and it is how I based my opinion of what Rowling did with Potter.

But my opinion is not in par with everyone else’s, who, like Nathan, raved about the books and the characters of the Potter series. No. My opinion was about how Rowling ripped off the X-Men. And since it was the only negative comment, I deleted it. If anyone is interested, I cut and pasted it for my own blog. The comment was as follows:

Never got into Harry Potter. 



IMO, Rowling ripped off the concept of the X-Men. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the X-Men, they are not witches or sorcerers, but youngsters born with special abilities, not unlike Harry Potter, who are recruited to enroll in a special boarding school, much like Harry Potter, to learn how to develop their special abilities, exactly like Harry Potter.

Of course, like Harry Potter, they run into all kinds of bad types of their ilk. 

In case you think the movies are the first appearance of the X-Men, no they aren't. The first X-Men comic came out in 1963 and even then the Xavier School for Gifted Youth was the established premise of the series.


TV's "Heroes" was another rip off of the X-Men, btw.

Back to now. I have talked about the X-Men only a little bit on this blog. I do like the concept. It was completely original, and as a kid it was my favorite comic book. I still have issues one through three hundred something. Don’t collect comics anymore. I was thinking about passing them to my sons, but they never got into comics. Maybe I’ll put them up on eBay.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Submissions and Agents

Well, my friend made it over and set me up with the 2010 Office Word Professional Plus, and I'm back in business. Sending in a few more submissions, but since three different publishers are considering THE VASE right now, I decided to start submitting KILLER OF KILLERS. I emailed my agent, not Ange Tysdal, she's on sabbatical this year having gone back to college. I'm under the wing of the other agent at AKA, Terrie Wolf. I asked her to send me a list of all the publishers they had submiited KOK to, and I hope she responds today.

I have decided to take my own situation under control. Yeah, I know the biggest and best publishers only take subs from agents, but you know what? My agents haven't sold my book yet, and I don't even know if they are still trying. So since I got interest from publishers on my own regarding The Vase, I thought I might try for KOK, too.

This is what I told Terrie, but I thought it wise to know just who they submitted to already. Isn't your agent supposed to tell you this stuff without you having to ask? Well, I asked. Hope she answers. Today.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Platform

The unfortunate part of writing is when you have no platform. People who are famous for whatever reason have an automatic platform. They also get nice advances. Unless some publisher is convinced you wrote a soon to be best seller, it's likely you won't even get an advance, but that depends on the publisher. On top of that, you will have to work your butt off to establish a platform.

I am only in the beginnings of making a platform. Lot of work ahead.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Marketing

These indie publishers want you to contribute in the marketing of your novel. Some expect you to carry the load completely. I don't mind doing some things, but being 100% responsible for marketing? That's a big deal I'm not sure I can handle.

Here's what I believe an author should be willing to do:

1-Mail/email friends, acquaintances, and get the word out about your new book. Why wouldn't anyone do that? You're excited about your first book being published, right? Ride that wave of excitement and let people know about it.
2-Increase your online presence and connect with others though the internet. Blogging, websites, forums, stuff like that. It's why I write this blog.
3-Make yourself available for book signing events at bookstores and readings at libraries which will promote sales.
4-Call your local newspapers, even your former schools, high school and colleges, so that they have something to talk about in regards to one of their own becoming a published novelist.

Agents call this a platform, I think. But I do expect the publishing company to do their part, too. I expect them to get my book into as many bookstores as possible. People browse at bookstores. If they don't see your book on a shelf in there, it will be unlikely they'll buy it. I don't believe it's up to authors to go into a bookstore and tell them to stock their books. I wouldn't feel good about that. But maybe that's what I should do. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Microsoft Word

Yesterday I talked about my computer word program going haywire. When I got home from work I checked it out, and it was all back to normal. It's like the computer is messing with me. So, do I want to still reinstall the 2010 word or leave the 2007 word in there now that it's working right.

The old adage don't fix what ain't broke may apply, but I was used to the 2010, and it is a faster program, and I like the fast response time, and the look, too. So, if my friend can still make it over, I'll have him reinstall it. If not, well, it's all working now, so I'll just go with it. We'll see.

Meanwhile, I'm still getting more positive responses from publishers. A couple rejections, too, but hey, you only need one yes. Things are looking good right now for THE VASE.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November

I understand from everything I've read on agent blogs that November is the month to get your submissions in, because over December most people have the holidays in mind. Not that everything comes to a stand still, but with vacations, shopping, family reunions, etc, other things are happening and it all makes sense. Things will get back to normal in January.

So things are cracking with my query process for THE VASE, and wouldn't you know that my Word Program suddenly quit. Yeah, this past weekend, day before Halloween, and a publisher replied to a query asking for some sample writing to be pasted into an email. Then my file wouldn't open, and none of my files would open. I got the pop up window telling me that my Microsoft Word, 2010 had expired, and I had to uninstall the software.

I am not a computer geek or anything resembling a computer savvy person. In fact, I am only the next step above a computer illiterate. I know how to write on word docs and use email, I can research stuff on the internet, but that's about as far as it goes. Whenever my wife wants me to download, or even view photos she receives, or has taken, it's a major deal just to make that happen. I'm mostly guessing, and if I succeed, it's because I was in a hit or miss mode, and I don't even know what I did to make it happen.

Anyway, it seems that when my friend downloaded the Word Professional 2010 last December, it was only a temporary trial run thing, which neither of us realized. I happened to have one more download of Home and Student Word 2007 available so I managed to download that. But then the pop up windows kept telling me to uninstall the Word 2010. On the phone with my friend, I got it done, but then all my documents got fouled up.

Thank goodness, I didn't lose the information, that would have been a disaster. But then I noticed my word counts were significantly lower on all my manuscripts. After closer inspection, I discovered it was because at random locations in the manuscripts, the words got scrunched together on most of my files. Now, if I need to send attachments or cut and paste for submissions, I'm screwed. So my friend said he'd come by on Friday and reinstall the Word 2010 in the hope or making all the files right again. Sheesh. It's one of those WTF moments. Hope it works.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Progress

Well, after querying about a dozen indie publishers, I am making some progress toward publication, as some have already responded with positive interest. Let's see how many offer a contract. I want two things. I want my book in paper. Not just an ebook. I want it in print, even if it's a trade paperback. And second, I will spend no money in the process of publication.

I already made sure that no one to whom I submitted is a self-publisher, vanity press, or subsidy press. That just wouldn't count. I promised myself when I started my first book that I would not spend a dime in the process. Now when it comes to marketing, that's something to think about. I'm all for book signings and library readings, stuff like that. But I am averse to hiring a publicist, or buying a ton of my own books.

Still, I understand being a debut author entails more effort toward self promotion than an established author. I hope my promise of not spending money is not broken. Fingers crossed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Writing Contest Again

I usually don't participate in these, but I mentioned before that I like to participate in the ones held by Literary Agent Janet Reid. I like hers, as I've said, because they are short ones. 100 words or less. I even like the part about requiring five preselected words. You have to use them in the paragraph and make them all tie in.

This time the words were Paris, Temple, Kids, Loathing, and Cullen. At first, my reaction was...WHAT?? They didn't grab me like some of the preselected words in her prior contests, but she hinted that they all had something in common, and whoever guessed what they were would get bonus points.

So, OK. My entry is as follows:

Paris, 2099. Two decades since the Eiffel Tower fell. Matt Cullen viewed the temple that replaced it, and he barely remembered the once-great, metal-laced landmark. Kids threw rocks in the pits where studded concrete bared ambition, greed, and glorified decadence. He considered the good times when people cared, but those days were done. Now, just a loathing of anything capital drew societal nods. In a few short years, the world had plunged from the heights of private self-sufficiency to the lower depths of state-run depravity. But the reavers in the street didn’t mind. Their time had come.

No, I don't expect to win, but that's OK. My satisfaction comes from putting the five words into a paragraph that, to me, anyway, tells a great story in one hundred words or less.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Good Writing is Key

I mentioned Star Trek yesterday, so today I thought I'd add why it was such a great show. It was the writing. Sure, it's true, the casting was great. Shatner as Kirk, Nimoy as Spock, etc. But if there wasn't such great writing to carry that show, especially during the first two seasons, it would never have had the resurgence it had later. The characters were right on, their acting was right on, but the stories, the writing was the key to its success.

It's when the writing suffered during the third season, that's when the plug was pulled on the series. Sure there were some good episodes in the third season, a couple really great ones, but overall the writing suffered and the show ended. Of course we all know what happened next. From reruns, a new generation fell in love with Star Trek, and then the movies came back with the original cast.

But the movies sucked. I was astonished at how horrible the first one turned out. You would think with an opportunity to reclaim a place in Sci Fi annals, they would put their best foot forward, but no. They rehashed an old plot, and played up a romanctic angle with some newbie character, and thought it would fly.

Sure the audience came, after over a decade of waiting, and the success of Star Wars, they were bound to come. But the bottom line was it was a lousy movie, a lousy plot and lousy writing. In my opinion, all the Star Trek movies were bad, and that goes for the latest reboot, too.

Don't even get me started on the Next Generation show. Yuck.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Indie Publishers, E-Books, and Paper

I've been submitting THE VASE to some Indie Publishers because, mostly, they are the ones who don't require an agent. I'm hesitant, however, to submit to those publishers who only do E-Books. I'm old school, like I've mentioned before, and I still have that dream of seeing my book in print. You know, the kind of print that you can hold in your hand, and turn paper pages.

I don't doubt that the future of publishing is electronic. I still remember that Star Trek pilot episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" when Gary Mitchell, played by Gary Lockwood, was recovering from that psychic shock, and he was reading at super fast speeds. Well, the books he read were on a computer monitor. Even back in 1966, Star Trek had it right about the future of books on a computer screen.

Yet I also remember another Star Trek episode, the one called "Court Martial" where some old school lawyer had filled Captain Kirk's quarters with old-fashioned style books. And he raved about his preference of them over computers. Yes, as right as Star Trek was about books being on monitors, they also allowed for the still-in-existence old-fashioned paper-bound books.

I hope they got that right, too. Like I said, I don't doubt the future of publishing is electronic, but I hope, like Star Trek portrayed, that the good old-fashioned paper bound books don't go the way of the dinosaur.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Instant Best Seller

Just read an article about Keith Richards who was interviewed with questions about his book, "Life" which is coming out about now. The article said that the book was a best seller before it was even released. Well, if you are a big name like Keith Richards, a founding member of The Rolling Stones, you have that going for you. I suppose any name from any popular band will promote sales to the point of a best seller. It's not anything fictional after all. It's the story of their lives, and how they became famous.

For the rest of us, it's about the writing. We invent the story, whereas memoirs, like that of Keith Richards, lived the story. It could be true what they say, that truth is stranger than fiction. But I believe it's up to the writer. I believe it's very possible to write a fictitious story that's even stranger than truth. Ha, ha.

Monday, October 25, 2010

P & E, Absolute Write

These two sites are invaluable to aspiring writers, and it makes me realize what great people are out there. In P & E, AKA Predators and Editors, you have a wonderful site that not only lists prospective Literary Agents and Publishers, but also gives tons more info on about every aspect of the publishing process.

With Absolute Write, you have a forum of writers, both established and prospective, who offer advice and information to anyone who seeks it. If you take the time to check out either one, before or after you query, you can get the lowdown on any agent or publisher. My advice is to check one or both of these sites before signing with any agent or publisher.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Great Writing?

It happened again. I'm talking about a literary agent who gushed about a sample of writing, claiming it was something wonderful. She posted the sample and went on to explain why she thought it was so great. I will agree that her point made sense, but her explanation pertained to such a small portion of the sample that you were left thinking what about the rest of the writing. It wasn't so great at all.

I didn't comment, but I felt validated when other people commented with the same opinion I had. One commenter even said that the small part she talked about was in common use in her country. It was really just an ordinary use of words, and overall just an ordinary paragraph. I've seen/read great writing. That sample did not qualify. But, once again, we have an example of subjectivity. Was it great writing? It was in one person's opinion. Maybe that's all it takes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

To Be or Not to be Agented

I have an agent for Killer of Killers. But when I told her (them) about The Vase, recently, she (they) didn't want to represent it, because it takes place in the Middle East and involves paranormal elements. That's what they said. I was surprised because they didn't even read it.

Maybe I should have discussed it with them before I wrote it. I think the "Middle East" scared them, but the gist of the story requires it to take place there. It makes it more interesting, more relevant to the story. And as far as the paranormal part, it might not be paranormal at all. I don't want to get into the details, but it's up to the reader to interpret, and that "element" doesn't even happen until the very end.

So I'm submitting it to publishers who don't require agents. Meanwhile, my agent(s) told me they were committed to Killer of Killers. OK. It will be interesting to see which book gets published first.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Multiple Projects and Characters Based on You

It's possible to write more than one book at the same time, but does that make a difference in the quality of your writing? I'm not sure. I am currently revising KILLER EYES, and have started planning a new book, the YA I mentioned. I've even written the first two pages. But while doing so, I felt guilty for not putting the time into KILLER EYES. For my first two novels, I finished the one before I started the other. Well, for the most part. I finished KILLER OF KILLERS, and found an agent for it before I started writing THE VASE. Of course, every so often, I did reread KOK, and as I've chronicled, made changes every time.

Still, there was a point where I left KOK alone and concentrated on THE VASE completely, until I completed the first draft. Then I would volley between the two, giving a full reread on one, and then the other. Once both were "done" I started planning the sequel to KOK. It's still my sentimental favorite. Maybe because, as a first novel, a lot of "me" is in there. I read somewhere, I forget once again who, but it was someone who knew about writing and writers. This person said that an author's debut novel will contain a MC who is based on themselves. I think it's true that a lot of Trent Smith's personality traits are indeed based on my own.

For example, Trent Smith is a loner. I like to be a loner, although with a wife and two sons, I'm not so much a loner anymore. Trent Smith hates cigarettes and drugs, especially recreational drugs. In fact, he despises them, and so do I. Trent Smith is roughly the same size person as I am, too. He's quiet and opinionated, but keeps his opinions to himself, until drawn from him by circumstances.

So, aside from the fact that I've never killed anyone, I'm a lot like Trent Smith, or vice versa.

In THE VASE, there is no one like me. But that was the point of the article I read. It's the debut novel that contains the like character. So now that I'm on my fourth book, it's no longer happening.

Just hope that working on multiple projects doesn't affect the quality of the material.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First Person

Never liked first person. Every time I pick up a book and find it's written in first person, I put it down. It bothers me to "be" someone else. Can't relate. Particulary if that someone else is female. Nothing against females. But since I'm not a woman, I don't like reading a book that turns me into one. At least, that's the way it seems to me.

I should probably read the book as if it's someone else's diary. That way all the first person perspectives make more sense. But I still don't take it that way. When I read a book, I like to pretend I'm watching a movie. I know a lot of movies are narrated, as in first person, but that way seems different. I know in both cases, you have a narrator telling me their story. It's just that, to me, anyway, when I read it, instead of hear it, it turns me into that person.

I write in third person, and I think the advantages of third person outweigh those of first person. A year or two ago I read someone's blog which was about all the reasons why they hated first person. I wish I could remember who that was and link to it, because I was nodding my head in agreement. Every point they made was right on.

For the YA novel I'm planning, I considered writing it in first person. Don't think I will, though.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Perseverance

WIthout it, forget it. That is if you're without connections in the publishing world. If you aren't a celebrity, the usual line is that publishers are very hesitant to take a chance on you. Even if you wrote a great book. Even if your writing is way better than that of others who have been published. It's just a big risk that publishers don't want to take. They want to make money. Period.

And who can blame them? They aren't in the business to produce great literature, after all. Nope. None of them. You could write the greatest book in a long time, and the chances of never getting it published are against you, if only because no one ever heard of you. If it's your debut novel, finding a publisher is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. The only chance you have of finding that needle is if you keep looking. Eventually, you may find it. You may not, but you'll never know if you don't at least try.

The time spent in trying might stretch beyond your tolerance. You may throw your hands up in frustration. Especially when you see less talented people find that publisher, and reap the rewards of recognition. You might say to yourself that your book is way better, your writing superior, your ideas, more clever, and you're probably right.

So persevere. It's the only chance you have. And when it does happen, don't pat yourself on the back too much. In my opinion, it was more about luck and timing. You already knew your writing was excellent, your book, great. That was required from the start. Without that, you shouldn't be writing a book. No, it was timing and luck. Here's to wishing all of you that luck, and may your timing, also, be right.

Friday, October 15, 2010

To Blog or Not to Blog

There has been a debate on some blogs that it really isn't necessary to blog, or to network, or to have a platform. The usual advice is to do all of the above. Even Twitter. Whatever that is. I have no clue how to Twitter, and I'm not even sure I know what it is. Is it something like email? As far as I can tell, it is. Or is it more like texting?

Anyway, the argument against it is that authors such as J.D. Salinger were very reclusive, and they didn't need to do any of that. But now, the trend is to be outgoing, get known to as many people as you can BEFORE you are published, and I admit I have fallen for that concept, and I'm not sure I am right to do so.

I was a lurker for a long time on many blogs, learning about the publishing business, and I learned a lot. Then I started commenting on one or two, and then, finally, (last May) I started my own blog. But I am not sure I agree with the necessity of it. I mean, authors were successful before the internet. They didn't rely on cyberspace.

But then again, I'm a guy who didn't get a computer or even a cell phone until years after they became available. I'm an old school type, but I eventually get with the program. I suppose it's called progress.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Originality?

Yesterday, I mentioned originality to be the key to great characters. But I've been rethinking that thought. I mentioned that Susan Richards in the Fantastic Four was an original character. But her powers, (invisible powers) really aren't so original. Isn't H.G. Wells the writer who created the first invisible person? Susan Richards is called, "The Invisible Woman." H.G. Wells wrote THE INVISIBLE MAN first. So its not so original, then, to have an "Invisible Woman."

Even Reed Richards, himself, has powers that are not original. His stretching powers were first possessed by DC's character Plastic Man, and I believe a second character called Elastic Man, as well.

Let's take a look at literature. Shall we visit TWILIGHT? You've got vampires and werewolves. Now, how original is that? In Harry Potter, sorcerers and magicians are not so original, but maybe the concept of the school setting is, yet, maybe not. That concept was done in The X-Men comic. Yes, it was a school for youths with special powers that was the setting for the X-Men. These were kids who were born with their powers, unlike the typical superhero who acquired them somehow.

Like Spider-man who was bitten by a radioactive spider, or Captain America who was injected with a special serum, or Superman, who came from another planet and attained his superpowers from the rays of our yellow sun, or Green Lantern who gets his powers from a special ring, etc...

No, in the X-Men, they were born with their powers, (original idea) and then recruited by a professor to his boarding school, where he not only educated them, but trained them in the use of their individual powers. Sounds to me like that's where J.K. Rowling got her idea.

Batman is original, no doubt. A man whose parents are murdered, and then he trains himself to be a crime fighter. With no special powers other than his own commitment, he becomes a superhero. But the characters who copied that blueprint are countless.

Maybe originality is not key. Maybe it's more about the writing, the plot, and the details surrounding the character. Or maybe it's all about timing and plain luck.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Female Heroes in Comics

Yesterday I mentioned that men or boys tend to read less than women or girls. But when it comes to comics, I believe the opposite is true. Like sports, the comic book industry has tried to bring more women into the fold. Female characters and superheroes are featured today more than ever.

I discovered the greatness of comics when I was twelve, and there were some genuinely great comic books back then. I don't read any now, and haven't bought one since my first son was born 14 years ago. That's OK with me, because I don't think comics are as good now as they were then, and I don't miss them.

But back in the day, the Marvel brand was tops. It was when DC had sunk to the level of Television's portrayal of Batman starring Adam West. But Marvel enjoyed a true Golden Age, even though they referred to it as their Silver Age.

Back to the point of Female superheroes. Besides Wonderwoman, it seemed that all the writers back then would just make a female version of the popular male superhero. You had Superman, so they made Supergirl. You had Batman, so they made Batgirl. Marvel checked in wtih Spiderwoman and She Hulk. To me, it was ridiculous and lazy. I have nothing against female superheroes, but it was really a horrible idea to just make a female version of a male superhero.

The superhero groups did it better. In the Fantastic Four, you had Susan Storm, who became Mrs. Richards, but she was no Female clone of a male superhero. She was original. The Avengers had The Wasp, Janet van Dyne, who became Mrs. Henry Pym. (Henry Pym was Ant Man.)

In The X-Men you had Jean Grey, AKA Marvel Girl, (which name was dropped) and she was an original character. It's the X-Men that really took off with female heroes, by adding Storm, Rogue, Jubilee, Psylock, and The Scarlet Witch, (who actually never was an X-man, because she started off as an innocent inductee to Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and when she turrned to the good side, she became an Avenger.)

Originality is the key. Sure there will be fans of the female copies of male superheroes, just like there are people out there who like anything, even those gawdawful Conan movies, but who would argue besides them that an original character tops the carbon copy gender bent hero?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Men and Reading

What's with men and boys when it comes to reading? I've said that I never liked reading books as school assignments, but that's different. Because over the summer vacations, I read H. G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs, and I thought the stories were great. As a young man, I read Robert E. Howard, and I thought the stories were beyond great. I mean with covers like this one, how can you not be interested in reading about that guy?


But when I asked my friends if they read any books, it was almost a given that they would say no. I told some of my friends about some books that were great, and it was like I was asking them to go to the dentist. One friend even told me he didn't read books because there were no pictures.

So no wonder publishers are more prone to publish books for women. If your name isn't established already, like Patterson or King, it will be a long road to publication if you write books for an adult male audience.

Monday, October 11, 2010

MG/YA Easier Road to Success?

I read other blogs where writers talk about being frustrated with the publishing process. They’re frustrated, obviously, because they have not been published yet. I read samples of their writing when they offer it, and usually I agree that their writing is very good. And often it's better than a lot of writing I’ve read that is published.

I've talked about that before, but I want to cover something I haven't previously discussed. Generally speaking, I know that very good writing is not good enough for a new author seeking his/her first deal. It has to be absolutely great writing. Of course, it's all subjective, right? How many times have we heard that? Yet many works are published without being great writing. Or even good writing.

I don't want to harp on Stephenie Meyer, and I am glad she is successful, but I have heard so much criticism about her writing. No, I haven't read her books, so I can't offer my own opinion on her writing. But here's where I'm going with this. Stephenie Meyer and so many other first time authors seem to be finding their success in the YA or MG genres. Indeed most debut novels being published are those of authors of MG or YA books. Of course, Meyer and J.K. Rowling are the current giants in that field. But my question is would they have found that success if they tried to write books for adults.

My guess is no. So those of us who are finding success so elusive might follow their lead. Therefore, I am considering writing an MG/YA book. No, it won't feature vampires or wizards. But it will be just as interesting. My hope is that it will be more interesting. I’m going to shoot for fascinating. I'll just have to keep reminding myself to write it for teens. Shouldn't be too hard. I'm surrounded by Middle Schoolers everyday, after all. Like almost a thousand of them. Everyday.

Someone told me to use that as an inspiration. She was right.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dr. Strangelove


Have you ever seen the movie, Dr. Strangelove? Have you ever heard the term, “Dr. Strangelove” mentioned by someone in reference to politics or policy? It’s a hilarious movie that Stanley Kubrick made the same year as Henry Fonda’s movie, Failsafe. Failsafe, as you may or may not know, is a movie that offers a possible consequence of an accidental nuclear attack by America against the Soviet Union.

In Failsafe, the American president, played by Fonda, orders a nuclear bomb to be dropped on New York City, to prove to the Soviets that the bomb dropped on Moscow was an accident. I suppose the reasoning was that one city wiped out in each country was preferable to an all out nuclear war. I don’t agree with that solution, but whatever…it’s just a movie.

So, anyway, Kubrick‘s movie starred Peter Sellers in three separate roles, and he played each role with hilarious precision. He played the president of the United States, who had to speak to the Soviet premier via hotline in an effort to convince him the imminent attack is an accident. Second, he played a British officer stationed at the American Air Force base from which the attack was launched. And third, he played Dr. Strangelove, an ex-Nazi weapons expert, who is now an advisor to the White House.

In Dr. Strangelove, as in Failsafe, the bomb gets dropped, and a Soviet city gets destroyed. But I must admit the solution in Dr. Strangelove is preferable to the solution in Failsafe. Of course, the conditions are different in Strangelove, as the Russian ambassador divulges some pertinent information that redirects the thought processes of the men meeting in the war room.

I won’t spoil it for you, because if you haven’t seen it, do so, and you’ll be glad you did. It’s a comedy after all, and you’ll find out why the alternate title makes sense: “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Time

I wish I had more time to write. Being a teacher is a great career, but I really wish I had more time to write. I wish a lot of things. I wish I began writing much sooner. With these computers, I might have started writing in the nineties. But I was slow to even get a computer.

I mentioned that I began writing my first novel when I was about eight years old. My brother was about ten, and he gave me the inspiration because he was writing his own stories. Now, he’s a lawyer, and he writes legal stuff. I’ve been writing teacher stuff for twenty years, but only in the new millennium have I been on a computer.

I would love to quit this day job, like most aspiring writers and put all my time into writing. I have a rough draft to clean up, KILLER EYES, as I had documented on this blog while I wrote it. I have other ideas for other novels, and I wish I could just bury myself in writing them, and revise what I’ve written.

You know, I probably would if I was still single. But that’s not an option anymore. The biggest problem is that when I come home from work, I am not in the mood to write. I find myself in the right mindset in the evening, after I’ve unwound and settled in to being home again.

But then the kids are home, and the wife gets home, and for the distractions, I am hard-pressed to make progress. Still, KOK and TV got done. So too will KE. As long as I get something done each day, I can feel contented to a degree. It’s when I get nothing done, that’s when I can’t shake that empty feeling. Writing a daily blog helps that feeling to produce. It’s writing, after all.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Great Writers



Yesterday, I talked about how Ayn Rand started a new philosophical movement. Before that, I mentioned how Robert E. Howard created a new genre. I consider both authors to be among the best of all time. Sure there's a long list of great authors. Melville, Dickens, Hemingway, and Twain are only a few off the top of my head. But how many really were as original, as unique as Rand and Howard? To actually create a new philosophy...to create a new genre...man, it doesn't get too much better than that.

As for me, I'll be happy to just get published. When/if that happens, only then will I be concerned about how my work affects the world. I hope to increase awareness for victims's rights in KOK. I hope to increase awareness for intercultural understanding in THE VASE. But that's more like an awareness day. Like the NFL last Sunday was breast cancer awareness day. All the football players wore pink to promote it. That's great. The more people who are thinking about that, the more people might get checked, and maybe some lives are saved.

But what about art for art's sake? Sure. I can remember reading Howard and being blown away by his great writing, his use of prose and poetry to bring the adventures of a prehistoric barbarian into my home. It didn't save my life, but it sure entertained me. That is something that deserves credit unto itself. Even if a life isn't saved, or health improved, great writing, great stories and great characters are worth reading.

The key is the writing. Literary agents almost always talk about "voice." And every time they try to explain what "voice" is, they really don't. They say they're looking for a great voice...a unique voice...a voice that grabs them, pulls them in, a voice that hooks them.

You know what I call it? I call it great writing. If it's good, or great writing, then you've got a good, or great voice. It's as simple as that. What a crock, this "voice" thing. Just call it what it is. That's all.