Will iconic images recorded in the grooves of an ancient vase unite the Holy Land or rip it further apart?
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.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
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 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
Since I'll be out of town, I may not post tomorrow.
Back on Monday, though. Enjoy the day, everyone.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
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
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.
Monday, November 22, 2010
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
I am only in the beginnings of making a platform. Lot of work ahead.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
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
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
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
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.