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.



Monday, January 31, 2011

Revisions Again!

Once again, revisions, revisions, revisions. I really thought I had nailed THE VASE when I began submitting it to publishers. Now, on the verge of receiving professional edits, I decided to go through it again, from start to finish over the weekend, and I have made a lot more revisions than I thought I would have. Mostly words and sentences, but one or two paragraphs had to be completely revamped, to both sound better, and make better sense. I'm on page 223 out of 323 pages. So a hundred pages to go, and then the real editing begins!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Different Mode

Now that THE VASE is on track for publication, I will be in a different mode. Something I'm not really used to, but all writers will have to get used to it if they want to sell any of their books. I'm talking about marketing and promotion. I've never been a good salesman. I still remember when I was a kid I was asked to assist a friend in going door to door trying to sell newspaper subscriptions. Didn't sell a single one.

But with this media revolution of the computer and the internet, at least I won't be going door to door. It's the main reason I started this blog. For promotion. It's why I changed the name of the blog to THE VASE. I had a teacher's website already, and I'm promoting the book there, too. I have an author's website now on the Author's Den website, and I joined a Writer's Group.

It's kind of fun, come to think of it. That's about all I can do until the book is actually published and available for purchase. Then I'll link the purchasing sites, like Amazon or even the Virtual Tales site to the websites. I've already got Virtual Tales linked to my blog. I'll do what everyone else does and link it through the cover of the book.

Now there's another thought. What should the cover look like? I'm thinking I like the photo right here on my blog. I think that it would be a good cover, just by itself. Just a black and white photo of the vase with that same all black background - with a caption like the one I have there, or something similar. It works for me...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Still Work Ahead

Now that an editor will be assigned to my book, THE VASE, I will be going through yet another round of revisions. I'm curious about that because I've gone through this manuscript literally dozens of times, revising and revising over and over again. But never with a professional editor involved. It will be interesting.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gracious Publishers

I sent off the emails to the rest of the publishers who were considering my manuscript. All of them accepted the news with grace and wished me well. It just reminded me of how respectful people in publishing are. They congratulated me and expressed genuine good will toward me and my accomplishment of finding a publisher.

As I've found to be true in the teaching world, the publishing world is a wonderful bunch, and everyone involved has nothing but a willingness to be helpful to others who make their best effort in the business.

Of course I'm looking at it as a writer on the verge of publication. I will admit there was a spell early on when I felt less than encouraged. But that wasn't because of anyone cheating me. It was only a period of learning the ropes. That's true of any profession. You begin at the bottom and work your way up.

That's all.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Look to Blog

I said in one of my earliest posts that when I signed a contract with a publisher to have one of my books published, I would change the name of my blog.

So today marks the beginning of a new era for me, because I am officially on the road to publication. It's no longer a blog in the bog, as I called it.

You may or may not remember that I originally named my blog The Swamp because I was in nowheresville in the publishing world. It's why I took on the handle Swampfox, which is an alias for an anonymous outcast. But I'm an outcast no more. Now that Virtual Tales has signed on to publish THE VASE, I have officially changed the name of my blog to THE VASE, and my name to who I am. Mr. D.

I figure to go with Mr. D. because I am a teacher after all, and my students might be reading this blog. Since they know me as Mr. D, well, that's who I am and who I will stay.

Welcome to THE VASE, and join me on my road to publication, as it is finally happening. I hope my fellow writers can share in this happy occasion, and find their own success, as well.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Premise for THE VASE

One of the points I made in my queries for THE VASE is that there is a completely unique and original idea incorporated in the storyline. But I have never said just what it is in my blog. So now that a contract is signed, and THE VASE is on the road to publication I will reveal just what is so original and unique about it.

My novel, THE VASE, features actual video recordings from antiquity! But how can that be, you may ask, since the technology of making recordings wasn't invented until the late 1800s, right?

Well, that’s right. Thomas Edison managed to record sound onto tin foil wrapped around a spinning cylinder. People my age remember our first experiences with like devices as spinning vinyl discs we called records. But spinning technology is nothing new. Potters make vases by spinning clay on what they call a throwing wheel, and it's been done since way back when. And a lot of those vases have grooves encircling them. Yeah, grooves like in vinyl disks.

Since the technology involves electromagnetic fluctuation, powered by electricity, does that mean in ancient times, it wasn't available? Certainly not, as we all know that Benjamin Franklin proved that electricity is a natural occurrence, and scientists also know that electromagnetic fluctuation is another natural phenomenon. With the greatest source of electromagnetism being the sun, and since magnetic storms have bombarded earth throughout history, my story includes a natural recording of events onto spinning vases during periods of unusual solar activity that penetrated our atmosphere.

It begins with the accidental release of an ancient recording during an unusual geomagnetic storm focused over the Middle East. Imagine the history that could be recorded onto spinning ceramic vases throughout time. It's the idea a few publishers found intriguing, and now Virtual Tales has bought in. Look for THE VASE soon.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Being Published

Being published is not the end all. That's why it's not wise to jump at the first contract that is offered. Hopefully, you did your homework before submitting to publishers in the first place. What I would recommend is to at least check the P & E site for any publisher to whom you are considering sending your manuscript and see what they have to say about them. If P & E does not recommend them, you can bet that they are not a publisher to whom you want to submit. When I was on my own submitting THE VASE, I systematically pored over that list on P & E and did not submit to any of the ones who were not recommended.

But, there is another factor. It's one that I was not too concerned about, but maybe I should be. The main reason, I believe, that publishers will not be recommended is because they are vanity publishers. You know, the Self-Publishers, the Subsidy Publishers, and any other type of publisher that charges the author fees to be published by them. Then there are the other types that don't call themselves that, but still they charge fees. They just mask those fees as some kind of charge that they justify for whatever reason.

The bottom line is that you don't want to pay to get published. Not even for editing, and not even for marketing. And this is the other factor. If you have to find your own editor, as I was asked to do with the first publisher who offered a contract, that is a red flag. And the next thing, and possibly a very sticky topic, is marketing. Most, and maybe even all of the small, independent publishers will require the author to have some kind of role in marketing his/her book. But if the publisher has a hand in it, too, at least you won't be on your own.

It's a team effort. Find out if the publisher has a marketing plan. Check their website and see if they have a marketing specialist on their staff. If they do, that is a good sign. Better yet, go to the bookstore and see if any of their books are on the shelves. That's the best sign of all.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Contract is on the Way

Signed and sent the contract via Express Mail. That means they should be getting it sometime today. This will be an interesting experience, since it's what I've worked and hoped for. I am on the verge of being a published author, and THE VASE will be my debut novel, even though it's the second novel I wrote. More on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Music Score

Since Nathan's talking about favorite songs over on his blog, it got me to thinking. Have you ever wondered while writing your novel what kind of a music score would best fit your storyline? I have. At least for KILLER OF KILLERS, I have. Since KOK is an action adventure, mostly fast-paced thriller, I would put rock music to it. And since Heavy Metal is my favorite rock music, I would go with a lot of heavy metal riffs. Especially during the action scenes.

And during the tender moments of romance, obviously, slow it down with some ballad-like tunes.

For THE VASE, I would go with Eastern sounds, of which I am not too familiar, but I gotta believe it would be more fitting for the location over there in Israel, and also since it has some Palestinian main characters. Of course, I could have some conventional music scores mixed in there, too.

But no heavy metal for THE VASE. The mood is different in this story. Way different. Two different stories, thus two different types of music scores. It's a good idea to ponder.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy and Sad, (but not really so sad)

Well, I let one publisher know - the one who was first to offer a contract for THE VASE. It was sad to do that. Writers like me work so hard to write the book, and then work so hard to find an agent or a publisher, and then when you find one who believes in you and your writing, and offers a contract, it's tough to tell them no. But even though I'm sure this guy is a stand-up guy, the contract had flaws. Just wasn't good with getting my own editor. Not too thrilled with the 10/20% royalties either.

So here's to 50% royalties! Getting ready to put that contract in the mail. THE VASE is on the road to publication! Before I even get home, I'm stopping by the post office. Feel like putting it in for a one day mail, too. Let's get this ball bouncing, baby!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Another Day Off

Not teaching today for the holiday, and it's why I don't approve of teachers taking days off when it's not a holiday or other vacation day. I've already talked about it on this blog, so I won't go into it again.

Because what's on my mind most is that contract I just signed. It's in the USPS Priority Flat Rate cardboard envelope sitting on the table by my front door. Can't mail it today because the Post Office is closed for this holiday.

I've composed three emails which are sitting in my Saved Drafts folder of my email page on the computer. I guess I'll be sending them today. It is kind of a sad feeling, really. Here were real publishers taking an interest in my book, and I have to tell them no thanks, I've got another offer, and/or a better offer.

It does make me wonder. What if a better offer, still, is just around the corner. I mean, if this offer is better than the last one, why wouldn't the next one be better than this one? I can go crazy thinking like that.

Should I even think like that? I did before, and it came to be true. Why shouldn't it come true again? But then again, maybe I shouldn't push my luck, either. A contract in hand is better than two in the bush, right?

Friday, January 14, 2011

To Do List

OK, with this second contract in hand, I have to get this ball rolling. I'll have to sign it, and fill out the tax forms, etc, and mail them back to the publisher. I'll have to contact the other publishers, of course, to let them know that my novel sold. I think acting quickly on the publishers part is a good indication of how much they want your book. I do feel bad for that first publisher who acted the fastest of all, but, hey, when you consider the two deals, it's no contest. 10 %, and 20% compared to 50% is not even close. And the editor issue? Again, the decision is an easy one. Now to get the word out. Can't wait to post the book on the blog. THE VASE is coming soon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Second Contract Offered for THE VASE

Yesterday, I received an email from Virtual Tales Publishers. They said they want to publish THE VASE. I had a feeling they would when they requested the full manuscript. So this is my second contract offered for that book. I said I wanted options, and now I have two. The first one offered royalties of 10% for print and 20% for eBook. And I would have to find my own editor. Now you know why I wasn't quick to sign that contract.

But this new one is a better contract in that the royalties are much higher. 50% for both print and eBook. Plus, they have their own staff of editors, and one will be assigned to me and my book. So there's two big reasons to go with Virtual Tales.

Like I said in Monday's post, it looks like THE VASE will be published soon. Hooray.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Robert Culp, RIP


I've said before that this blog is no obituary, nor is it supposed to be a harbinger of bad news, but yet another one of my childhood favorite actors has passed away. Just yesterday at age 79, Robert Culp passed away. I remember him most from the TV show, I Spy, in which he costarred with Bill Cosby. But he also played the main character in the best Outer Limits episode of them all. Yeah, I know he was in two of them, but I'm talking about the one called, Demon with a Glass Hand, written by Harlan Ellison. In that one, he played a pivotal character on whom the survival of the human race depended after earth was conquered by invaders from outer space. It was a terrific episode, and it has a connection to my first book, KILLER OF KILLERS.

I didn't plan on revealing this until much later, but given the unfortunate circumstances, I will spill it. I named my book's main character, Trent Smith, after the role played by Robert Culp in that episode. Culp played an amnesiac from the future who wakes up in contemporary America, and all he can remember is his name. Trent. And in case you haven't seen that episode, I will not say what happens because I don't want to be a spoiler here.

But when I began writing my book, I proceeded with the idea that my main character would begin his path of Justice with an assumed name. Never do I reveal just what his real name is. But in molding the character, I figured to give him a name that he might have thought up on the spot. Thus, the last name of Smith. But I wanted something a little different than James or John, Luke, or Henry. It's when I remembered Robert Culp in The Outer Limits, and the character, Trent. So I figured, yeah...Trent Smith. I liked the sound of that. Thus in honor of Robert Culp and that episode, I went with Trent.


Here he is as the "Demon with a Glass Hand."

Robert Culp, RIP.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

eBook Publishers

So you want to get your novel published, and you are trying on your own with no agent. You have a zillion options, and might even have a better chance getting a book published on your own anyway. That's because your agent is zeroing in on the big houses, and you can't. So you focus on the small houses, and many of them are eBook Publishers. Are you game for having your book published electronically? It's still published after all. You still earn royalties and often ebook royalties are higher than those of print.

But having my book published as only an eBook is not what I want. Sure a lot of authors go that route and that's cool. For them. But not me. I am really an old school type of person, and even though I do embrace technology and the latest in most things electronic, I do want my books in print. Sure, I'll eventually own an eReader of some sort, be it Kindle, or a Nook, or whatever else those things are called. And I won't mind in the least if people choose to read my book in that format. Heck, the more people who buy it the better, no matter what format.

You write to be read, and who would argue that point? So if anyone else chooses to be published in the "e" format or read a book in the "e" format, no problem with me. But I do want my books in the old fashioned print format. So, unless a publisher offers both formats, I am not interested. Fortunately, nearly all publishers I have researched do offer both. That's the best of both worlds, and I think the only way to go. For me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Vase - Soon

I'm pretty sure my second novel, THE VASE will be getting published within the year. So I better start promoting it. It has a very unique and original premise. I have decided that when I sign a contract and the ball is finally rolling toward publication I will reveal just what it is. I really believe the idea behind THE VASE has never before appeared in any book or movie. Right now as many as four publishers are considering it. One has offered a contract. We'll see what happens, and I'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 7, 2011

UK Publishers

I've been thinking a lot about publishers in the UK as a possible avenue toward publication. My novel, KILLER OF KILLERS could be a good fit over there. The British are well known for their love of anything kinky, and my story is plenty kinky. The thing I like most about Trent Smith's experiences in KOK, is that his road to justice is filled with a lot of quirky turns and unexpected developments: From a death struggle in an exotic nightclub, to a near fatal beat down in a comatose patient ward.

Not to mention the exotic women with whom he shares steamy romance. A beautiful blond, a gorgeous black girl, and a Japanese hottie. Yes, the Brits would be very keen for this story. I already sent word to my agent on that. We'll see.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Exclusive Submission?

The latest publisher requesting a full wants an exclusive submission. But wait a minute. By this time, I've submitted to a bunch of publishers. I have to assume they know that. So they must mean stop submitting until they make a decision. I let them know that I've submitted to other publishers and three of them are already considering my manuscript. They didn't seem to mind, and said they are reviewing my full right now.

I can wait for a few weeks, as long as it doesn't drag out. So, I will hold off submitting for a bit. It's great to know that editors are giving you a chance. It looks like THE VASE will be published before KILLER OF KILLERS. That's OK. They're both great stories. My sentimental favorite is KILLER OF KILLERS, though it might be because it's my first novel. It's the kind of story I like. If I wanted to read a book, it would be one like KOK. If I wanted to see a movie, it would be one like KOK.

THE VASE is different because it really doesn't have a lot of action. It does have a lot of tension, otherwise it would fail Donald Maass's requirement of tension on every page. Rest assured, it's a book that has a lot going for it. Can't wait to put it up on the blog when it's published. You know, like so many other writer blogs have their books featured with pictures, or photos, and links to buy their book. It's what I'm waiting for now. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Feeling Good About Chances

I'm still waiting on word from the publishers who have partials and fulls. Now that the holiday season is over, the responses are likely to come. I wonder how many responses will arrive from those publishers to whom I only sent queries.

I have gone through this before with agents, and everyone seems to have their own way of saying no. IMO, a simple "not for me" or "doesn't fit" is a cool rejection. But I don't buy it when they say things like, "the writing isn't there yet." Since I have an agent and a contract in hand, that's all the proof I need to believe my writing is "there." So when an agent or editor implies otherwise, I know to take it with a grain of salt. These agents or editors probably didn't even read the material. That's OK, just spare me the BS, that's all.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Anne Francis, RIP

Another sad day yesterday for the passing of Anne Francis. She played opposite Leslie Nielsen in FORBIDDEN PLANET, a movie I’ve talked about more than once on this blog. She was a very beautiful actress, and, I might add, would have been great for the part of Samantha Jones, in my novel, KILLER OF KILLERS, if it would have been made into a movie back when she was in her prime. (But, of course, I hadn’t written it yet.)








Here she is when she broke into Hollywood.










Here's Anne in her prime.













And here she is in a more recent photo.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Back to Work

It seems like a long time has gone by since I've been sitting in this classroom. But after two weeks, here I am in this classroom. Doesn't look like anyone has set foot in here in the meantime. No one, not even a custodian. That's OK. The kids will be here in half an hour, and it will be like old times.

But now is when the publishing world will kick back into gear. I was mildly surprised to receive a request for a full from a prospective publisher on December 22nd. Because I was believing no publishers would be working during those two weeks. But it came, I sent the full, and they told me their "board of directors" is reviewing the manuscript even then. I guess it only means that not all publishers go into hibernation over the holidays.

But I did get my two finished manuscripts finished even more, and I am content that KILLER OF KILLERS and THE VASE are good to go, at least until some editor makes professional edits while working with me toward the publication of one or both of them. This particular publisher said they typically take two months to make a decision, but people from Absolute Write advised that they can take as little as two weeks. It's better than the typical six months that publishers will take to make a decision.

But if you snooze you lose, and I think it's why one publisher already offered a contract for THE VASE. They thought it was good enough for them to decide at their earliest opportunity. That feels great, but as I said before, I can't just jump at the first contract offered because it may very well not be the best contract for me. We'll see what this latest one has to say. And who knows...now that the holidays are done, maybe some of those other publishers might respond. You never know.