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.



Thursday, March 31, 2011

I don't want to be influenced

Many blogs give writing advice and virtually all them say that if you want to write books you should read a lot of books. I know you can learn from reading other people’s books, but I’m not so sure it’s great advice. Why? Because I don’t want to be influenced by another author’s style or get ideas from his or her stories.

It reminds me of when I was into composing and playing music. A friend told me that if I want to be in a band and write my own music, than I should go to music concerts and listen to other bands. I didn’t believe that. I don’t want to go listen to other bands. I don’t want to be influenced by other people’s music. I want my own music to be original and not a version of someone else’s.

Same thing for my books. Yes, I have talked about how much I appreciate Robert E. Howard. But I read his books over twenty years ago. I do intend to go back and read his work again, but I am not going to do it while I’m right in the middle of writing my own novels. I don’t want to be a Robert E. Howard wannabe, nor do I want my work to be compared to his.

Yet if I were asked what writer might have influenced my writing more than anyone else, I would have to say Robert E. Howard. But that's because I include tension and conflict, and in KILLER OF KILLERS, tons of action. But I wouldn't say I write like him, because no one writes like Robert E. Howard.

Still, I am convinced my writing will hold up to the scrutiny of critics. I’m sure I will get my share of bashing, as it’s been pointed out that any work of art will have those who love it and those who hate it. And I don’t care about anyone who trashes my work. There will always be haters. But I know it’s going to be appreciated, too.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Having a Publisher-Feels Great

When I emailed a publisher about my book, THE VASE, being sold, and that I had to retract my submission, he emailed me back, congratulated me, and then invited me to submit again to his company in the future. At first, I was tempted to tell him about KILLER OF KILLERS. It’s my first manuscript, and my sentimental favorite. But then I thought, wait a minute. I have a publisher already.

Still, it’s flattering when the chief editor of a publishing company personally invites you to submit a manuscript. I don’t even know if he read THE VASE yet, or if he assumed that since another publisher bought it that I must be a worthy writer. Whatever the reason, it’s great to have that going for you. Right now I am fortunate to have a publisher - Virtual Tales. I’ll probably submit KILLER OF KILLERS to them after THE VASE is released. That is, if my agent hasn’t sold it yet. We’ll see what happens.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's with kids and books?

I’ve been a teacher for twenty-some years, so I know kids pretty well in the school setting. And since I have my own two kids, I know how they are at home, too. And, hey, I used to be a kid. It wasn’t so long ago that I forget what it was like to be one.

And as an art teacher, I have learned that kids love to draw and they love to do art. I did, too, as a kid. But do kids like books, and do they like to read? Uhhmm…sure, some kids do. Like maybe one out of ten.

Let me say that I know for a fact that schools bend over backward trying to get kids to read. They have silent reading time, group reading time, advanced reading, remedial reading, reading logs, book reports, book fairs, time taken from regular class to read, time given for homework to read, it’s read, read, read, everyday encouraging kids to read. But if you were to ask your average kid if he/she likes to read, what answer do you think you would get?

I remember while growing up, I was not an avid reader, but I wasn’t averse to it. A lot of my friends sure were. My own two kids are not avid readers, either, but they do well enough when they are required to read. But I never see them seeking out books on their own to satisfy a natural need to read. It just isn’t there.

I’m not offering any solution, because there are tons of books that are aimed at kids of all ages, and it doesn’t seem to matter. We all know tiny tots love it when a parent or teacher reads them a picture book, but what happens when they grow old enough to pick up a book and read it on their own? Something happens. Is it the distractions? Video games, Gameboys, PSPs, DSs, DVDs, DVRs, iPods, and all the computers? I don’t really think it is.

Because when I was a kid when those things didn’t exist, kids were the same when it came to books and reading. As hard as schools and teachers encourage reading and promote books, most kids just don’t take to them. Again, some did and some still do, but not the overwhelming majority. They can’t stand books. Will it ever change? Probably not. And sadly, as these kids grow up, the numbers may improve somewhat, but not enough to change the aforementioned percentage of about one in ten. IMO.

That means for those of us who like to write, we are writing for only about ten percent (or less) of the US population. So if that means there are 300 million people in America, then we are writing for about 30 million people. I guest those are good enough numbers, but what if it was more like 90%, or even just 50 percent? Makes you wonder.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Evoking Revisions

Even when you don't think revisions are necessary, when your editor suggests something changed, or a whole paragraph to be deleted, it's best to give it some serious thought. Because last night, Ti suggested the removal of a paragraph and suggested just a couple sentences to replace it. At first I didn't want to revise that part, but I gave it some serious consideration. It turned out I changed a good portion of it, leaving elements of an essential sentence, and incorporated her suggested sentences. It reads great now. Always, always consider the suggestions from your editor, and you'll have a better manuscript.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Life Gets in the Way

Can't move as fast on those edits as I want to because I spent most of last night helping my little son complete that special book report for his school project, and today is my 22nd Wedding anniversary. If I want to see a 23rd, I better spend the better part of the day with my wife. Still, I intend to dive into these final chapters and have them completed by Sunday. The plan after that is to read the entire thing through, and send it back to Ti. I like what I've seen of her suggestions. She's hitting the nail on the head. It's a fast ending, and a large part of the ending is what the reader wants it to be. That's one of the intriguing things I think THE VASE offers readers. The ending is up to each individual and their unique interpretation of the events as they unfold. That's all.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Editing Necessities

No doubting the necessity of having an editor. I might have believed my manuscript, THE VASE, was ready for publication after my own multiple revisions. But after the editing job it has undergone, I realize it was not ready. Even now, after a first round of editing, it’s probably not ready, although it’s a lot closer to being ready.

Ti sent me the final chapters yesterday, and she said that the manuscript is very close. She said that it will probably be ready to be sent to the senior editing staff after only one more round. That makes me feel great, because I understood the first editor made three passes. Well, it’s not time to pat myself on the back yet. Let’s see what happens during this second round, and then we’ve yet to see what the bigwigs have to say!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is It Ever OK to Zonk Your Reader?

Finished editing through chapter 19 last night, and I am eagerly awaiting the last five chapters from my editor. I hope that the parts I left unedited survive the second round. As I explained, I didn’t change everything suggested, but that’s not the problem, as Ti made it clear her edits were optional suggestions. It’s when I get to the senior editing stage is when the real test of staying power is going to happen.

I don’t write in an unusually unorthodox way or anything like that, but some parts might be open to critique. And if the senior people opt for it to be changed, then I suppose I’ll have to do it. That is if I want THE VASE published and I do.

Mostly I’m thinking about the very first paragraph. I make it known right away that the weather is unusually hot, and I use a few different ways to convey that. Now I’ve said before you don’t what to zonk the reader over the head with a description, but Ti noted right off that I used perhaps too many references to the overwhelming heat.

But right now I want it that way. I want the reader to be zonked over the head with that heat, just as the characters in the story are zonked over their heads with the heat, and I think it works.

So as the author, I would like it to stay. But if I had a large following like, say, Nathan Bransford, (over 5,000, wow) I might even go ahead and post that first paragraph and have a vote on whether to keep it or change it. I might do it anyway.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Virtual Tales' Policy of Free Chapters

Nothing wrong with touting your own horn when it comes to trying to promote your own book but I really never liked doing that. Not in serious conversation, that is. I remember when I was young, and in the prime of my youth, I would prefer to keep my accomplishments or personal achievements to myself. If someone else wanted to say something about me, then so be it.

But in writing, it’s totally different. You had better have written a great book in the first place, and if it’s signed on by an agent, (KILLER OF KILLERS) or a publisher (THE VASE) then that’s evidence that the writing is there. And who will tout that horn? No one. Because no one out there in the general populace has read even a sample of either book.

I have no qualms about saying both books, KILLER OF KILLERS and THE VASE, are really well-written books, and each with a great story. And as such, it is a good idea that Virtual Tales offers the first four chapters to readers for free so that readers may see for themselves if they like the writing and the story, at least to that point. My book, THE VASE is still too far away from publication to have those first four chapters available now, but as I understand it, after the manuscript goes through the senior editing stage, that’s when it will be ready for that. It's a policy of Virtual Tales to promote their readership. And it’s a good policy.

Because then potential readers can find out if they like what they are going to buy before they buy it. Sounds like a real good deal to me. After four chapters, if a reader doesn’t like where the story is going, or doesn’t like the style in which the book is written, then they don’t have to spend a penny. I’m hoping that anyone who might have an interest in THE VASE, will be sold on it just as soon as they read the first chapter, let alone the first four.

And the people at VT will make the free part available not only on the VT site, but they also make it possible so that each VT author can make it available through his/her blog. But for me, we’re talking another six months or more before that happens. Still the time will go by faster than you know it. We’ve talked about that before, too.

Stay tuned.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Virtual Tales Publishers

I’ve been pleased with the process so far at Virtual Tales. They have the author’s forum, which includes all the people associated with Virtual Tales, and they post about anything that has to do with their experiences regarding their books, the publishing process, and the company in general. I mean everybody posts something about something. Most of the authors are actively posting, the editors are posting, the Promotion/Marketing Director posts stuff about marketing and promotion, and the top guy, David Law, posts something once in a while.

I’ve only posted congratulations to new authors who have signed on after I did, but when I have more to say I will post more, and I certainly want to contribute as so many others do. Some people even post their personal business, and that’s OK, I figure it’s a way they can express themselves. It’s not what I would do, but, hey, only I am going to do what I would do.

I would call it a community of authors, and what these authors have in common is that they (we) are all Virtual Tales authors. I truly believe that the books offered by Virtual Tales are great books, and I will get to reading some of them soon. But right now, as most of you already know, I am 100% involved in the editing process of THE VASE, and I have time for only that.

Don’t forget, being married with kids means you have got to portion a good chunk of your time to the wife and kids. Yesterday, for instance, I spent the better part of the day helping my little son read through a kid’s version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And then we had to write a first draft for a special type of book report assigned by his teacher. So just as soon as I have my part of the editing done, which will be soon, I will be looking forward to some of the stories my fellow VT authors have written.

I’m particularly looking forward to RIVER BOTTOM BLUES by Richard Bush. It’s a debut novel by a former teacher and current music critic about a killing in the music world. I believe it's due to be released this summer, and I should be ready to read by then. So it will be good timing.

OK. That’s all for now.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Don't Be Redundant

Talking about editing and revisions, yesterday I revised a paragraph that wasn’t even touched by my editor. Sure it looked good already, the wording worked and the meaning was clear, but when I read it this time, something hit me. There were two adjacent sentences saying the same thing but in a different way. And I have learned not to hit your readers over the head in an effort to get them to picture whatever it is that you want them to picture. So I deleted the redundant sentence, and then I found myself rewriting the whole paragraph. At first it’s frustrating, but it’s still fun. And as long as it is, I’m going to keep on writing. It’s a good thing THE VASE is getting published to make it all worthwhile. Can’t wait for my other books to get published, too.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't Be Sensitive

If you are a writer, you better know not to be sensitive to any editorial advice. And you better be open to it every time it comes in. It’s really just an extenuation of the revision process.

I have found myself looking forward to all of the edits when they come in. And I dive into the process the moment they do. But I don’t go with all of the suggested edits in THE VASE. Keep in mind that I am implementing the majority of them. I would say about 75% of them so far. But not always in the way my editor suggested. I mulled them over and over, and found what I believed to be the best prose possible. And there’s always the chance I’ll improve it again the next time I revise.

And the 25% that I left alone, it’s because I truly wanted it written the way I wrote it. Maybe it’s not grammatically correct, or worded in a conventional way, but I did it for a reason. Is that called literary license? At any rate, it’s my own take on how I want it to read. I guess it can be called a personal choice. But will those “personal choices” survive the senior editing stage? We’ll see.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Being a Perfectionist

How much time should you put into a paragraph when it comes to editing or revisions? There was a passage in THE VASE where I discovered the word, “but” appeared in two consecutive sentences. Not that it’s a mortal sin, but to me it didn’t work in that instance. Sometimes I don’t want it appearing twice in the same paragraph, let alone two consecutive sentences.

I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote, and hashed it about, changing sentences, changing the whole paragraph, leaving some sentences alone, changing others, changing them back, and found myself starting over from scratch several times. After a couple hours, it was back to the same original paragraph. Finally I combined a couple of sentences, and deleted some, and it started to work. By that time, four hours had passed!

Today, I went back to reread it, and it still looks good. I have found that if you stick to it, if you don’t give up, eventually you come up with something that not only works, but is a truly superb example of writing. And when you achieve it, you'll know it when you see it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Time Flies

Talk about time flying. Already the third trimester at my school has started. Swoosh…there go the first two trimesters. And before you know it, it will be summertime. Nothing wrong with that. It will be time to write a new book. Maybe complete that YA I started a couple months ago. I put it on the back burner because of THE VASE. And nothing wrong with that, either. THE VASE is getting published, so I have to make it as perfect as possible.

Since I found out how good a real editor can be, it makes me wonder even more how the senior editing will go. Maybe those optional edits won’t be optional anymore? It’s logical. At this stage, as Ti told me, the edits are optional. I can take them or leave them. Mostly I take them, although it’s true, sometimes I don’t. Which makes me think that when the MS is in the senior editing stage... We’ll see.

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Chunk of Edits

Talk about keeping that ride rolling, I was hoping to get the next chunk of chapters, and then there they are. This is so cool, because just as I finish going over one chunk, I have just enough time to review it, and the next chunk is there.

At this pace, we'll be through the first round in no time, and I understand there will be about three rounds. That's with Ti. Then the "senior" editing happens. But again, we're doing it like greased lightning. I couldn't be more satisfied with the process. So far I am very pleased with my Virtual Tales experience.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Editing Continues to Progress

Finished with my pass through chapters, 5 – 10. Well, at least my first pass. And I can honestly say the manuscript is way improved - Chapters 1 – 10, anyway. Since I have 24 chapters in THE VASE, that leaves 14 more chapters. So while I’m waiting for Ti to send the next chunk, I’ll read Chapters 1 – 10 again, to see how the improved prose sounds.

Whenever I read parts of the manuscript that have been changed, it feels strange because I’m so used to reading the original version. But as I made the changes, I knew the prose was better, and some of the sentences made more sense. Some of them fit better. And some of them have better research supporting the information.

I have said that I didn’t change everything Ti suggested. Whenever I thought it better to leave it as is, for whatever reason, I was fully cognizant of the fact that I might change it anyway later on. Now is the time to see if it happens. If not, there will certainly be other reads.

I’m eager to see how it sounds. I know the changes I did make will stick, unless I change them again; not back to the way they were, but improving them even more. That’s happened a lot. It means the manuscript is getting better and better.

It’s thrilling to me, really, because I know when this book is done it’s going to be a superbly written work. It will be like when I finished a great painting or sculpture. But I’m betting it will be an even better feeling than that. We’ll see.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Right Time in my Life to Write

Sometimes I wish I had started writing my novels at an earlier age. I see people in their twenties publishing novels and having success so it made me wonder what if…?

But then I realize that it would not have worked if I wrote to get published at an earlier age. But wouldn’t it have meant sooner success in regards to being a published author if I started sooner? Perhaps, but at what cost?

I have to look at it this way. Right now, I have accomplished all the important things that I need to accomplish in life. I have come to realize that all the decisions I made up to now have been the right decisions in order to do that. I’m talking about an education, a marriage, kids, and a career...

If I was writing novels, something would have suffered. Either the writing or those other things. Had I been holed up in a room writing all day and night, then no way would I have had the time to meet my wife, date her and marry her, and have the two sons I have. If I was spending 24/7 at a computer writing a novel, I would have missed the most important time in my kids' lives.

And I also needed to spend time learning the ropes of being a good teacher in a classroom full of students. After twenty years, I have that down. But if I was distracted by writing novels, I might not have become the teacher I am today. And it’s a career that is both rewarding and necessary to support my family.

So now I spend a lot of time writing. It’s true my wife thinks I spend too much time doing it, but it’s really nothing different than what she has known since she met me. In the beginning, I was doing art, then I was in the music phase. Now it’s writing, and as I said in an earlier post, it's even more complex and time consuming, thus the reason for today's post. But hey, I need to be creative. Just like all writers, and artists, and musicians.

That’s all.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Second Son's Birthday

My second son, Michael is nine today. He’s a great kid. Smart, happy, creative, just like his dad and older brother. I’m so thankful every day for his health. It was a difficult birth for the little guy. My wife was in a long labor, and he wasn’t coming out. The doctors were worried. So was I. After inducing the delivery, he finally came out, but with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, not once, but twice over. The doctor unwrapped it right away, and put him in some lit up machine.

I left out a lot of details that added to the scariest day of my life, but I will cut to the point where he turned out fine, and I am so thankful that both of my sons are healthy, energetic, and happy little youngsters. Well, my oldest is 14. I suppose that’s still a youngster, but he’s not so little anymore! Even Michael is growing fast. Time sure flies. You know, that's worrisome, too!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Art Forms All

So how are drawing, painting, sculpting, composing music, and writing novels different? They are all art forms, of course. Each is a unique endeavor unto itself. Even the different forms of Fine Art are unique. With drawing you draw. With painting, you begin with a drawing, but you take it further with the application of paint. Sculpting is not even in the same ballpark. You may start with a drawing of something you want to sculpt, but not necessarily. And unless it's ceramics, you have to construct a sculpture with an interior skeleton or frame. Well, sometimes even with ceramics. Then you add to it, with clay, or whatever. And the three--dimensional aspect of sculpting, to me, makes it a more complex endeavor.

Then again, with drawing and painting, you need the skill to make a two-dimensional work look three-dimensional, but there’s a science to that. A science you may ask? Well, yes. A science. You learn it in college if you are lucky enough to have had the right instructor. The method was invented by a great artist from the past. The one and only Leonardo Da Vinci.

There is a great feeling you have when you complete a great drawing, painting, or sculpture. And it’s just as great when you write a great song. I’ve had original tunes buzzing in my head since I was a kid. Often I would play them on the piano, but since we had no recorders, they would be forgotten and lost.

But when the electronic keyboards came out with those floppy disc drives attached, it made writing music easy, since you could record so many tracks and layer them over each other. It would sound like a band playing. You could go back and change something if you decided to.

Which is like writing a book. But to me, writing a novel length book is the most complex art form yet. The characters, the plot, the storyline, the buildup, the complications, the climax, the denouement, it’s all so very important for it all to meld. Not unlike a great song. More like a symphony, really. Yeah, that would be the right comparison. Writing a great book is like writing a great symphony.

But forget the symphony. I’ll stick to writing books.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Editing Notes

Rolling along with Ti on the editing of THE VASE. She does four chapters at a time, and then sends them to me in an attachment. I loved her edits in chapters 1-4, but like I said before, I didn't use all of them. There are some parts, afterall, that she may suggest a change, but due to sentimental reasons, or even personal taste, I don't make those changes. I mean, there might be some part where the grammar is not proper, but for literary license, it's the way I want it to be. And there's a few places that happens.

Now we're on chapters 5-10, and I've made my first pass through chapter five, six, and I've started chapter seven. But it doesn't mean I'm done with them. I thought I was done with Chapters 1-4, but I went back over them, and sure enough, I made some more changes. Some changes I changed back. Then I changed them again. Then I changed them a different way. Writers know what I mean. And through it all, it is a lot of fun. A different kind of fun than art. It's more similar to writing music. You might write a song one way, and then decide to change it to another way.

Last week, I said I was going to talk about that. I think I'll post something about it tomorrow.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Total Focus

Have you ever heard of losing yourself in your work? Well, that’s what happens to me, and it’s great. It’s like no matter what else is happening in my life at the moment, be it good or bad, it’s completely out of my mind when I’m working on my manuscript. Whether writing the first draft or revising for the umpteenth time, everything that is going on outside of my office is nowhere in my mind.

Fortunately for me, I have the ability to focus on what I’m doing. It’s the way I have always been. When I used to paint and sculpt, I would get into that “zone” and stay there for hours. Yeah, it drove my wife crazy, but she understood it. And when I composed and played music, I would be at that electronic keyboard for hours on end, completely oblivious to the outside world.

The thing about me is that there is ANOTHER world. A CREATIVE world. And my entire life, be it art, music, and now writing, I have been completely focused on whatever it is that I’m doing until I have completed what I set out to do. And right now, for THE VASE, I am in THAT world. This past week, so many things were happening that might have otherwise taken up my mental space. But once I sat down in that chair in front of my brand new Sony Vaio, I was transported to Nazareth, Israel, and into the lives of the Muhabi family, Hiram Weiss, Captain Mathias, Harvey Holmes, and Mary Levin.

I was absorbed by my characters' current situations, and even their past ones, as those first four chapters contain two flashbacks to events that happened three years prior.

And as I sit content for how it turned out, I find myself itching for Ti to send the next four chapters so I can dive into those. Was art and music ever this much fun? Yes, but it’s apples and oranges. One day I will try to explain how these different creative experiences compare. Maybe real soon.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Importance of Editors

After I had revised my manuscript so many times already, I was really wondering just what could an editor do to make a difference. Well, after only the first chunk of edits, (the first four chapters) I found out for myself. It is really a win/win situation for everyone involved. My editor, Ti, has made it clear that her edits are really only suggestions for me to implement if I choose to do so. And most of them, I do indeed choose to do so. Sure there are some parts that I have not chosen to change. And there are other parts that I did change, but not the way she suggested.

And there are parts where she suggested a change might be needed, but did not offer an alternative, which is cool, because I take that as her believing I'm capable of finding a workable alternative on my own.

Interestingly, there was a part where I really didn't think my writing worked, but in my countless revisions of the ms, never did I change it. She caught it on her first pass. And as I went over her edits, I got busy on making it work. Now the ms is a lot better for that, and for the other edits.

And it's very possible, that the parts I left alone may still get revised. This is, after all, only the first round of edits. But I gotta tell you. It's a lot of fun.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beginning Lines to THE VASE

I begin THE VASE by setting the tone for the weather. I pictured in my mind’s eye a blistering sun in a bare sky. If it was a movie, the first thing the audience would see is a blazing sun with those white lines emanating all around it. Then a bird’s eye view of Nazareth and the Galilee regions baking in the heat.

So what words conjure an image of a blazing sun? A merciless sun? A hot sun? A sun that takes no prisoners? Take into account there is a potter who works outside with no roof over his head. I thought that, to him, it would be a spiteful sun. Yeah, that’s it, a spiteful sun. So bingo, I nailed it. My first three words are: A spiteful sun. But again, I want my readers to picture those white lines that shine from a spiteful sun. What words would conjure those white rays you see when you squint your eyes at the sun?
White-hot tendrils. That’s what they are.

Now that I’ve established a reference as to what kind of day it is, I wanted to establish a point of reference as to where these white-hot tendrils are taking the reader. And what do these white-hot tendrils do when they get there? They shimmy, I believe, and the rolling hills of Galilee is where this story begins. So my first sentence reads like this:

A spiteful sun sliced the cloudless sky in white-hot tendrils that shimmied over the rolling hills of Galilee.

So from my first sentence, the reader already knows it’s day time, it’s a sunny and hot day, and it’s somewhere in the Galilee region of Israel.

Next, I want to give a more specific reference to what the place looks like, and what’s happening there. Well, most of the downtown buildings in Nazareth are roofed in red tile, and the streets are paved in black basalt. And at this point, the main idea I want to convey is the horrible heat baking the place. So my second sentence reads like this:

Red-tiled roofs and black streets of basalt scorched in dismay to the stellar onslaught.

By my third sentence, I want to introduce the main character, and his thoughts of the unusual conditions. So I went with this:

Throughout the region temperatures soared, and Muhsin Muhabi knew well it wasn’t normal for this time of year.

So let's put them together. Here we go:

A spiteful sun sliced the cloudless sky in white-hot tendrils that shimmied over the rolling hills of Galilee. Red-tiled roofs and black streets of basalt scorched in dismay to the stellar onslaught. Throughout the region temperatures soared, and Muhsin Muhabi knew well it wasn’t normal for this time of year.

Now as the editing process continues, some of that or maybe all of it may change. Hey, it's what revisions are all about, right? Let's see if they stick.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Weather

I spent some time in the cold during last week’s break, and I find myself, now, in a cold classroom. Of course, the room’s heater will warm it up soon enough, but it gets me to thinking about how a writer will depict the weather, or the temperatures in the course of his/her story.

In KILLER OF KILLERS, weather was not really a factor in the story. It takes place during the summer, and on both of the American coastlines, the weather is not so extreme. At least, not so much as to influence the storyline. The days are sunny, it’s not raining, and the night stays warm.

But in THE VASE, weather plays a huge role in the storyline. As a matter of fact, it’s because of the weather that the events unfold the way they do. My book begins with extreme heat in the area of Nazareth, Israel, which is not normal, because all my research has indicated that this area has a mild climate in the Spring. But I make it clear from the get go that the temperatures are NOT normal. The sun is acting up, and it’s because of the solar maximum phase that is taking place when my story starts. You see, the sun, (in real life, and in my story,) undergoes an eleven year cycle of what scientists call a solar maximum phase. And guess what, we are currently undergoing a solar maximum phase right now, this very year of 2011. The last one was in 2000 and 1989 before that, and so on.

But what happens during this solar maximum phase, and what does it have to do with my novel?

Well, during solar maximum phase, sun spots are increased. They can range in the dozens to the hundreds during solar maximum. Solar activity is increased along with the sun spots. Solar flares are more numerous and much larger, too. And with these solar flares, a lot of solar material is projected into space. This material includes dangerous radiation that travels across space via solar winds, and they do impact the atmosphere of earth. Fortunately for us, earth has its own magnetic field that deflects most of the dangerous material, but the magnetic field is affected by the radiation, resulting in what scientists call geomagnetic storms.

And during these storms, electromagnetism is affected. And what are among the things controlled by electromagnetism? The sounds and images that are recorded onto vinyl and DVDs, that’s what. (And in my book’s case, hardened clay.) So without this solar maximum effect, and the solar flares, and the resulting geomagnetic storms, the events in my story wouldn’t take place.

That’s why the weather plays a huge role in THE VASE. And I begin my story laying that foundation. It’s a very hot day in Nazareth, and Muhsin Muhabi is well aware of it as he sits on his outside pottery wheel getting ready to throw a vase.

For those of you who are not familiar with the ceramic term, “throwing a vase,” it doesn’t mean he is literally throwing his vases into the air or against a wall. The term “throwing” means when you put a clump of wet clay onto a circular surface, and that surface spins around or rotates, powered manually, or these days powered by a small electric motor.

Since it’s the 21st Century, Muhsin has the electrical kind. Now I have heard some writing advice that says don’t start your story by describing the weather. But weather is the whole premise of my story. So I do start that way. I mean, only the first two or three sentences, I make it clear that the weather is unusually hot, and then I introduce Muhsin, who he is, and what he’s doing. Tomorrow I'll give you an idea how I introduce the weather along with my main character. You’ll see how it turns into an extremely intriguing story.