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, April 29, 2011
Sure people like me who work full time still get their writing done. But it amazes me how some people can just get up and go right to their writing and have nothing else to do. I hope they realize how lucky they are. I have two sons and a wife who need a lot of my time. So it’s not like I can come home from my job and get to writing. It doesn’t work like that.
Still, I get it done, although it’s not easy squeezing the time in to do it. I spent the better part of last night helping the little son with homework again. What about my wife? She watches her Spanish novellas, and you better not do anything to distract her. I think those novellas are just as important to her as my writing is to me. And it's a good thing! I get a good window to write.
It occurred to me once to try writing one of those novellas. Maybe she would like it. Hhmmnn…
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Now Syria is getting hot. My former next-door neighbors were immigrants from Syria. Real nice people. It’s one of the reasons I made one of my characters (Sanya Muhabi) a Syrian. But none of my conflict takes place in Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, or even Libya. It’s all in Israel. And the larger scale conflict is between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
I have known some Israelis and some Palestinians, nice people all. But the more direct conflict is between one man, (Hiram Weiss) and his feelings towards the people who were responsible for the death of his wife and son. They were extremists. Yes, terrorists. But I make it very clear that not all Palestinians are extremists and terrorists.
The main character, Muhsin Muhabi is a Palestinian merchant. He’s not a terrorist. He’s not an extremist. Heck, he’s not even religious. He’s a man who minds his own business. Even after his eldest son is killed in the conflict. All he wants is to raise his remaining son and sell his ceramic wares. He doesn’t believe in violence and treats everyone with good will.
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could be like him?
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
It's a good idea to keep improving THE VASE, even though it's on an exclusive submission. If it's accepted, then I'm that much closer to a final draft. If it's not accepted, then I have a much improved draft to send to the next publisher who is waiting, and I'm lucky to have two publishers waiting. And there are still two more publishers who were interested when I signed with Virtual Tales that I didn't even notify yet about my contract with Virtual Tales being voided.
So whatever happens, I really am in a good place. Just keep on truckin'.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I've talked about this so many times because it just seems like revisions are never ending. Or will it finally end once it's been published? I mean once it's in print, I won't be trying to change it any more. Not unless I want to make a recall of all books sold and send out the newer version.
So, I figure the time is now or never. Get it done now. Don't wait. Just do it, man. Just do it. How can a publisher mind if an author they are considering wants to keep making the manuscript better? If they already liked what they read, and then they know it's even better now, then you would think they would like that, right?
Or is my prior worry the case? Will they think I'm an obsessive perfectionist? And if I am... is that a bad thing?
Monday, April 25, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
But I believe that with care, good will, and proper preparation, bad things can be avoided and good things can happen instead. It’s not up to Fate. And the road to publication has nothing to do with Fate. It’s more about luck.
When it comes to getting published, I don't believe an author got his/her book published because it was Fate. Or his/her book didn’t get published because it was Fate. But it could very well be that it was for luck.
First, you have to work hard to write a great book with a great story. Then you have to make sure it’s ready to be read by people who work in publishing. They know a great story and a well-written book when they see it. But that’s not all. If a publisher or an editor is looking for a particular type of story, and then your manuscript is next in the slush pile, and it’s just what that editor is looking for, guess what. You’re in luck! And there’s no other word for it.
Now that doesn’t mean a new author can only get published because of luck. That is not what I’m saying. It could very well be the case that an editor is NOT looking for a particular book. But certainly all editors are looking for books with great stories and great writing. In that case, it’s hard work, hard work, more hard work, perseverance, and talent.
And that is not luck.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
It just so happens KOK is my personal favorite story. It has my personal favorite character, and the premise is one that could become a series of novels. (I’ve already written two.)
But if it doesn’t become a series, the first book can stand alone. Or it could finish after book two. I know I said there were some loose ends that were tied in part two, but the first book can stand alone if it had to. Right now, I only wish it was published and it could be left to the readers. It would be great if readers wanted more of Trent Smith. He’s the greatest martial artist in the world, after all. And he hates injustice. You can say it’s a pet peeve.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
I would say not necessarily. I believe a story can be pure entertainment. Like Star Wars for instance. That story really had nothing to teach anyone about anything. Maybe some people can get something out of it if they wanted, but to me it was just entertainment. (The first installment, anyway.)
Another entertaining show did have a lot of topical issues imbued in the storylines. Star Trek. I can think of several episodes that focused on topical issues. And, to me, it worked.
In my stories, I also use topical issues. THE VASE involves the conflict in the Middle East. And the Middle East is rampant with topical issues. Heck, it’s a topical issue unto itself.
And in my KILLER series, I focus on murder, crime, and other timeless issues like justice, injustice, corruption, and drugs. And more drugs. And the fighting sports that are popular today are still more topical issues. The UFC, the MMA, and everything else that involves violence, mayhem, and graphic portrayals of you name it. All these topical issues are covered in both KILLER novels. But one thing of which I never lost sight was entertainment, because if a story is not entertaining, no one will read it.
So if a story loses none of its entertainment, but can teach a lesson at the same time, it's all the better, imo.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
One of the great things about the main character, Trent Smith, in KOK, is that he never used a weapon other than his bare hands. I had no plans to change that in KILLER EYES. But you have to go with the flow. The way things happened in KE is that Trent is forced to use weapons. Japanese Samurai swords – or katanas to be specific. But I did make it clear in KOK that Trent was an expert in the use of several different weapons, so it’s not like I’m suddenly casting him out of character.
And like I said, the events that take place force him to use swords. The fact that he remains a bare handed fighter throughout KOK, I believe, is a credit to both my writing and the way the character handles himself. But when you’re fighting dozens of sword-wielding ninjas, (or the Chinese equivalent,) then you’d better get with the program. And it’s no less of a great story for it, either.
Heck, a good alternative title for KILLER EYES might have been, Trent Smith, the Killer of Ninjas. Let’s just say that even though ninjas are supposed to be elite fighters, to Trent Smith, they are mere fodder. That’s just how great a fighter he is. It's got some new characters, some of the old ones, too, and it's action-packed. Even more action than KOK! Hopefully you can read it one day and find out for yourself.
Monday, April 18, 2011
But during the break, I made a full pass through THE VASE, a near full pass through KILLER EYES, and I even read the first three chapters of KILLER OF KILLERS. Since KILLER EYES is still in the revision stage, I made the most changes there. I already talked about THE VASE. I'm holding off on further revisions until I get word from the exclusive submission.
I regret one thing. That I didn't send that option agreement in "next day" mail. So what if it cost more. Waiting takes a greater toll than money. It will be this week when it arrives at the publisher, and I'm a week behind thanks to that mistake. If I ever have to send a signed agreement again, it will be one day mail. Hopefully I can get a contract, and I'll be sure to send that in one day mail. I did it with Vitual Tales. It's worth it.
Friday, April 15, 2011
In case you’re new to this blog, Trent Smith is the world’s greatest martial artist. He was trained in Japan in the world’s deadliest art. Budo Ju Jitsu, or Bu Jitsu for short. And he is quite the athlete – a real acrobat, even, because the stunts he performs in these two books are quite phenomenal.
Yeah, he's moody, but who isn't?
And although he’s a killer, he will never hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it. Yes, there are so many mean people in this world, unfortunately, and outright evil people. I'm talking about murderers who think they are above the law. And life seems to mostly favor the bad guys. It seems that the good guys die young, and bad guys live on. Well when Trent Smith is around, things even out, and I can dig it.
Because that’s the kind of story I like to read. And it’s the kind of story I like to write. I'm a teacher, after all, and I hope the world can learn a thing or two from my stories.
In my KILLERS series, you learn about karma. You know – what comes around goes around. And in THE VASE it’s coexistence. PEACEFUL coexistence, that is. Like why can’t we all just get along, right? And hopefully, after reading my books, people might start believing it’s something we can do.
If we try.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
And people seem to take one side or the other. So what side am I on? I’m on the side for peace. If you read THE VASE, and I hope you do when it’s published, you will see exactly what I mean. I don’t pretend to know more about peace than all the politicians who have worked so hard to achieve it. I don’t pretend to have any answers. But what I do have is a great story that shows different points of view.
Different points of view, you may ask? Well look at the text below the header to my blog! There are four or five people mentioned there, but there are a lot more characters and points of view than just the ones listed there in THE VASE.
The main character of THE VASE is a Palestinian Muslim. As you can see in the text, he is a simple merchant in Nazareth’s Old City Market. Although he is a Palestinian Muslim, he doesn’t care about the fighting or the fundamentalist beliefs. All he wants to do is survive and sell his ceramic products. But the conflict won’t leave him alone. It affects him, his wife, his sons, and turns his life into a mess.
There’s the Jewish Art Professor, his wife and his own son. There’s the Captain in the IDF. There’s the Mossad director and his pretty assistant. There’s a Lebanese restaurant owner. And there’s an American showman from Hollywood who doesn’t even get involved. All he wants to do is hunt ghosts because he’s a ghost hunter. But are they really ghosts, or are they something else? Let me put it to you this way: Are they just holograms or is there something else? OK, that's enough, are there ghosts or not? Well, you gotta read it for yourself, cuz I sure ain’t gonna tell ya.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I’m pretty excited about this submission for obvious reasons, but I can’t keep sending new drafts over and over again. They might think I’m some kind of overzealous and nerve-wracked writer. And there is no way I want to make a bad impression during this very important period. So I will let it sit and hope for the best. As for who is the publisher, well, I don’t want to jinx my manuscript any more than I think it already is, so I won’t divulge the publisher’s name until I get a positive response. I’ll leave it at this: It’s a publisher with whom I would be very happy.
In the meantime, I will get back to work on KILLER EYES. Don’t forget, I still have high hopes for my KILLER OF KILLERS series, and once I get THE VASE launched, I’ll be able to focus on that. Well… we’ll see what happens. Darn… this is going to be tough.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Virtual Tales asked for an exclusive for THE VASE, also, and then they decided to publish it. Of course we know now what happened, but that's not the point. The point is the publsher with whom I have experience with exclusive submissions, decided yes. So I hope it goes that way again. I really like this new publisher. Fingers crossed.
And speaking of submisions, I did it again. I sent my polished and edited version to the acquisitions manager of the publisher who wanted the exclusive, but I just couldn't resist the temptation to read through it yet another time, and sure enough, there I am making some improvements. Nothing major, and I even caught two or three typos that somehow slipped through the countless passes, and even the editorial pass.
So, when I got the option agreement in the mail I went ahead and sent the latest draft. I believe the acquisitions manager already read the version I sent first, but I said just in case anyone else needs to read it, to go with this one. And there probably will be other reads, so it's just as well. I'll post more info as it comes, but I don't expect to know anything new for at least a month now. Stay tuned.
Monday, April 11, 2011
And I still haven't contacted the first three publishers who expressed interest. No need to give up. Just keep moving. And if you find the door slammed shut like I did last week, you find another one to open.
Friday, April 8, 2011
First, let me point out something that all aspiring novelists already know, or will find out after the completion of their first novel. That finding an agent or a publisher is next to impossible for an unknown writer.
But I managed to do both, and here is what I’m talking about.
After a long search for an agent, Anita Kushen of the AKA Literary Agency signed me to a contract. OK, I got an agent. Great, right? Well, not so fast. Six months later, Anita retires, and hands over the reins of her literary agency to her associates. OK, but then the agent, (Ange Tysdal) who took over my book, KILLER OF KILLERS, also leaves.
So now, AKA is in the hands of a single agent, the overworked and overloaded Terrie Wolfe, who even now I’m not sure has ever read my book.
And after a not so long search, as I’ve documented, I sought out and found a publisher for my second book, THE VASE. It was Dave Law the Chairman of Virtual Tales who signed me up. I was thrilled. But yesterday Dave just sent word through the VT contributors’ forum that he is resigning his status as chairman and moving on to other projects. It’s business as usual, otherwise, he said, and I was hoping that it was just another Anita Kushen thing.
But no. Shortly after Dave’s announcement it was announced that Virtual Tales is going out of business. Which means it’s back to square one for me.
Coincidentally, I just said in yesterday’s post that I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. How strange, it turned out that same day the tunnel collapsed. Lights out!
But that’s life! You move on! There were other publishers interested in THE VASE, and last night I emailed most of them with the news that THE VASE is available again. Two of those publishers have already responded telling me their offers still stand and to send in my full.
And there’s that first publisher who offered a contract... I remember one of the things that made me hesitate to sign it was I had to find my own editor. Well, as I’ve documented on this very blog, THE VASE has been edited! Hhmmnn…
Still, I will examine all my options. It’s nice to know, however, when I turned down that first contract, the very nice man in charge said he would leave his “door open” to me.
You never know…
Thursday, April 7, 2011
But I don’t just take up where I left off. I have found it necessary to reread what I read the day before because it turns out that if I made any changes the day before, those changes might not sound as good as they did then. So if they do sound as good the next day, then they stay. And I can feel good about that. But often they don’t and I change them back or make another change. And then I have to see if those changes pass inspection the next day.
So it’s not just a read-through, really, it’s more like seeing if my manuscript passes the inspection. I would say it takes at least twice as long or three times as long to read it through under that mode.
But it’s the most fun because the revisions are minimal compared to working on a draft that hasn’t undergone major changes yet, and you can see the light at the end the proverbial tunnel.
And hey, I see that light!
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
OK, so maybe she got more than just a taste. Still, it's not wise to throw fuel on any fire. So I pretty much stayed out of it, and withheld my opinion beyond a short comment about the review not really being so bad. Then I made a little joke, and left it at that.
And when it comes to negative reviews, everyone is bound get them. Be ready for them. And don't react to them. If you do, just make a joke out of it. Everyone likes to laugh. That's what I hope to do. That's all.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
But there was something I was glad I didn't have to do. Promote my book to publishers. That's a relief. Because there was this guy at the WonderCon walking around with a sign hanging over his chest that read: Publish My Book! and below that he had the title, and then some writing which I couldn' read. Maybe a teaser or a logline.
I thought to myself, "That's not how it's done, Dude!" You have to have a polished manuscript, which I'll assume he has, but then you've got to have the query process down, which anyone who is reading this blog surely knows about. You have to write a query letter to an agent or an editor of a publishing house that doesn't require an agent. And it's got to be a polished query letter, too. You've got to have a well-written synopsis ready, and an "elevator pitch" to boot. You don't walk around a Comic Convention with a sign over your chest saying, Publish My Book. It was so lame. But then again, maybe he did go the query letter route. Maybe he did try everything the "right" way. And maybe this is what it's come to for him.
But to walk around with a sign on your chest? Maybe this guy should look into self publishing. It's not something I would ever do, but for someone like that it could be an option. OR you just keep trying. You write another book,maybe. You keep trying. You don't just throw your hands up and carry a sign that says, Publish My Book. I would bet that will never work. I just can't believe it would.
So here's what worked for me. First you have got to have a good story and you have to write it well. I did in KILLER OF KILLERS. You query agents, and don't stop revising your MS the entire time. You gotta keep going over that book and over it making it better every time. Then when agents start to bite, you know you've got something. OK, so an agent signed me for KOK, but never sold the book, but you don't stop there. You write another book. I wrote THE VASE. My agent didn't even want to represent it, which made me feel horrible, to tell you the truth. It was like if my own agent doesn't want to represent THE VASE then WTF, you know? So I queried publishers myself. And the whole time, I revised it, over and over, like KOK, and then publishers started nibbling. Partials were requested. Fulls were requested. A publisher offered a contract. Another publisher offered a better contract, and BINGO, THE VASE SOLD!
But the lesson is you don't give up. You keep on working on it. Over and over, you keep working on it. You write another book, and you keep working on it. Someone posted somewhere about a writing teacher who said most people won't get published because they don't work hard enough to get published. Well, that may be true. And if it is, then I can pat myself on the back, knowing that I did indeed work hard enough. But the work doesn't stop there. Once THE VASE is published, I'll have to work hard in promoting it, too. And that's where I began this post, isn't it. So I better be ready for that. More so than I was last Saturday. Because I don't want to be like that guy walking around with a sign that says, BUY my book. That would be just as lame.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Back to the ComicCon or WonderCon. It was funny in a way. So many out of shape people trying to be superheroes. It was funny seeing pot-bellied Batmen, and flabby WonderWomen. I even saw a senior citizen Superman. But it was fun. I probably had more fun watching all the devoted fans, than seeing the legitimate stars, of which there seemed to be a limit.
I saw Lou Ferrigno, but he didn't seem like he was having fun. While I was there, he was on his cell phone talking to someone rather than conversing with the fans who otherwise might have bought his memorabilia. And I saw the guy who wore the Gorn outfit in the original Star Trek show, Arena. I talked to him a bit about what it was like putting Captain Kirk in a bear hug, and missing his attempt to stab him to death. I stated that I know it wasn't his call, he had to do what the director told him to do. But he had an issue with that statement. He said that HE was the one who directed that fight scene, proudly proclaiming that not only was he a stuntman, he was the stunt director. At least for that episode. I didn't inquire further, because I wanted to move on by then.
My youngest son had the most fun, but it was only because I agreed to buy my sons two suouvenirs each, and it's what they looked forward to the most. My little one got a Highlander knife, which the seller said was made in Ireland, and explained what they used if for. It was interesting that when we took it out of the wrapping, it had INDIA stamped on the blade. I didn't care. It's not like I broke the bank for it. My little son was happy. He got a Naruto keychain, too.
My older son, took time from his girlfriend to track me down for a 22 dollar Transformer Decepticon belt buckle, and an air soft mask. The mask has a skull imprinted on one side, which he thinks is so cool. OK, if he likes it so do I.
As for promoting my book, THE VASE, I really didn't get much of a chance to do that, keeping up with my little son, making sure we didn't get separated amongst the jam-packed crowds. If you take your eyes off your little ones for just a moment, it might be that moment you lose them. Parents know what I mean. But I did run into some woman promoting the new IMMORTALS movie coming out soon. What I liked about it is that it's being made by people who made the movie, 300, and it just so happens that 300 is one of my favorite movies. It's even listed as such on my profile. So, OK, I listened to her spiel. Then I told her about THE VASE. I told her to google it and hopefully she'll find my blog. I never got her name, but maybe she'll try it, and read about THE VASE. Maybe she'll spread the word.
Friday, April 1, 2011
It makes me wish that my book, THE VASE, was ready. I’d take it with me and do some promoting of my own. Maybe I still can. Everyone else does. They promote not just comics and movies, but other things like books, magazines, and TV shows.
Lou Ferrigno, AKA, the TV Hulk will be there, and a whole bunch of other past-their-prime actors and stars. Maybe I can get a few words in to prepare for the release of THE VASE. The people at these things are pretty receptive to new things. You can make some great contacts. Plus, my sons will have fun. They always do.