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.
Friday, December 31, 2010
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
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
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
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
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.
Friday, December 24, 2010
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
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
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
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
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
Thursday, December 16, 2010
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
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
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
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.
Friday, December 10, 2010
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.