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, June 30, 2011

On With the Publishing Process

Taking off to LA this morning, so there probably won’t be a post tomorrow, (Friday.)

But THE VASE is rockin’. Alecs has the latest draft now, and it’s going to be very interesting to see what comes back to me for the next round.

She said it was a smooth read and indeed nothing was really changed in my story at all. No scene redos, or dialogue redos, or any kind of plot changes or scene switching or anything. It was just some prose revisions, the likes of which I had already been doing over the past year.

And you know what? It was the same when my Virtual Tales editor put it through her first round and, needless to say, it’s better than ever. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Write What You Like to Read

Not too long ago, I was considering writing a YA novel. Didn't get too far. I was thinking at the time that writing a YA novel was easier, and getting it published was also easier. And it might be at that.

But what I was forgetting was that it's not what I'm about. I don't write YA because I never liked reading YA. Ditto for first person. I don't write in the first person because I never liked reading in the first person.

And interestingly enough, most YA is written in the first person. So there you go. Yes, the YA I began was even in the first person, and I think I got just over a thousand words into it. But it's shelved. Compare that to my John Dunn novel. Even though I'm still in the researching phase, I've already written over seven thousand words, and I'm well into chapter two by now.

So I'm sticking to what I like to read and what I like to write. Adult action adventure. Or Thrillers. I thought that THE VASE was a suspense novel, but the contract I signed with Cogito mentioned it as a thriller. Hey, that's all right. KILLER OF KILLERS and its sequel, KILLER EYES, are thrillers. But they are also action adventure, and I believe my novel on John Dunn can be described as that.

Yeah, it's a historical novel, but it's got plenty of action and plenty of adventure. And no doubt it's a thriller. Just the way I like it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

THE VASE - Final - 2.0

I'm getting ready to send this to Alecs. She's my editor over at Cogito. Talk about focused. I dedicated this entire day to getting this draft right.

Cogito goes with the American Press Style handbook, instead of the Chicago style as did Virtual Tales. One of the differences is the Chicago style wants Okay, whereas the American Press Style wants OK.

Doesn't matter to me. OK, back to THE VASE - final - 2.0. I'll be attaching it and sending it within the next few minutes. Then, I'm sleeping in. Until prabably eight. Maybe nine.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Favorite Time

For a writer, this is great in so many ways. I mean working with an editor. But not just any editor. I mean an editor from a publisher who is going to publish your novel.

I want to be compliant with all the suggested edits, but you know what? There are some that I think are better as is.

I can't wait to finsih this, but it's too late at night right now. Still, I hope to have it done today, (Monday) and sent before they get off work.

The only thing not ideal about my publisher is that they are on the East Coast, and thus three hours ahead of me. (Yes, I'm on the West Coast.) But that's the ONLY thing not ideal. But, hey, that's all right.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Father TIme, Work Your Magic

This is one of the greatest thrills of my life. I'm talking about having a publisher as good as Cogito and working with an Editor-in-Chief.

I can believe that seeing THE VASE in print and in bookstores will top this, however. It's going to be greater thrills every step of the way from here on out.

It's like, right now, I'm GLAD time moves fast. FLY time, FLY!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Edits are IN

Here we go. Cogito's Editor-in-Chief has sent the edited version of THE VASE this morning. I looked through it and she didn't maul it at all. You'll have to excuse me now. Because I'm going to get on it right away!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blogging

You know, there's a ton of writers blogs and that actually makes sense. After all, to blog is to write, and that's what makes a writer. Writing. And what do these writers write about? Well... writing of course.

It's amazing to me how so many people are getting into writing these days. And because they want to be good, successfull, and published, they know to make the most of their time to learn about writing. Sure you can buy and read books about it. But really you don't have to. So much of that information can be found for free. It's because the experiences of so many writers are freely given on their blogs.

Not just their experiences but the wealth of their knowledge, too. I found my first writers blog by googling literary agents. Nathan Bransford came up and I clicked on it. Even though, at the time, he was a literary agent, it was a writer's blog to be sure.

But he's not the only one. A lot of literary agents blog about writing and publishing, and if anyone wants to be a good writer who gets published, then he/she should read those blogs daily.

I must admit there have been some bloggers that I didn't like. One thing about someone who blogs daily is that after a while you come to know them pretty well. And after coming to know some of these people through their blogs, I discovered I didn't like them very much. I may or may not get into the reasons some day. But soon thereafter I stopped reading some of them.

But that doesn't matter, really, because that's the way the real world works. Wherever you go there will be people you like and people you don't. So what's new?

Still, the ones you can learn from, even if you don't like them, I would keep on reading.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Lot of Progress on John Dunn

My research isn't complete, but I have a good start already on my historical novel on John Dunn.

I am finished with the research on the Zulu Civil War battle in which John Dunn fought, and a bunch of stuff about his early life. So I went ahead and started the book. I had about five pages done, as I’ve posted earlier. But today I put in a marathon of writing. Got the first chapter done, and it’s near seven thousand words and 24 pages now. That was over five thousand words and near twenty pages of writing I got in today.

But what a chapter! Talk about beginning a book with a lot of action. How about a huge final battle of an African civil war? I mean the Zulus did NOT kid around when it came to waging war. Anyone who knows anything about Shaka Zulu knows that. We’re talking about 30,000 to 40,000 fatalities here. In one day of fighting. And that includes not just soldiers, or impi as the Zulu called their warriors. But we’re talking about women, children, the aged, the infirm, the whole deal slaughtered on the losing side.

A River Runs Red. That’s what happened to the Tugela River when the killing was over. It ran red with the blood of Mbuyasi’s clan. I think it’s a great name for a chapter. Maybe even for the book. I don’t have a title for it yet. (John Dunn as a title just doesn’t cut it.) But A River Runs Red sounds good. That will be something I’ll consider, anyway.

And I found out in my research that John Dunn wasn’t the only white man to fight in that battle. It’s true he was the only white man on Prince Mbuyasi’s side. But not to be outdone by his brother, Cetshwayo went and got a white man to fight for his side, too. That is a fact, but I had a little fun with it, and in my story the two faced off for a showdown of their own. I don’t have to tell you who won. (Hey the book’s about John Dunn!) So I got a little fiction in there. It’s based on the true story of John Dunn, but I’m going to spiff it up a bit.

Heck, I don’t have to spiff it up too much. I mean how much spiffing up does a guy with fifty wives and a hundred plus kids need?

Monday, June 20, 2011

This is the Week!

Regarding THE VASE, this is the week that I can expect my first round of edits from Cogito’s Editor-in-Chief. I will be on it right away, and probably get the manuscript back to her by the following weekend. I’m telling you, this has got to be the most exciting period yet for an author looking at his/her first book being published. It was when Virtual Tales was editing it. And now, it’s even more exciting. I truly believe that everything, for me, worked out for the best.

I’m talking about Virtual Tales going out of business. Sure I feel for the authors who were with Virtual Tales, especially the ones with books under their belt. But for those, like me, who hadn’t even had their books published yet, it turned out to be an opportunity to get a publisher who’s even better.

Many of the VT authors have been sharing their success on the VT forum. I haven’t told them yet about THE VASE being picked up by Cogito. I would like to wait just a little longer before I start spreading the news. Look what happened the last time. I’ll write about it on this blog, of course, but that’s because this blog is about my journey to publication. And that includes all the ups and downs.

It included finding a publisher in VT, and then it included the setback when VT folded. So it also includes finding a publisher in Cogito, and it will include every step of the way. Until I actually see THE VASE in print, I’ll consider the road to publication not completed. But right now, it’s a very exciting time for me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Road to Publication!

Well, I found out that Cogito is in the middle of editing THE VASE right now. I told them I made additional improvements, but they said to insert them after I get the first editing draft. So I surely will.

And get this: it's their Editor-in-Chief who's editing it! That is so exciting for me. She said I should get this first editing draft some time next week. I've made this blog a chronical of my journey to publication, so I'll keep you posted the whole way.

You know, I'm actually going through this a second time now. But from what I can tell, Cogito is a more established publisher than Virtual Tales was, and I'm confident that this time, the editing process will go through without threat of them going out of business.

Three cheers for Cogito!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Covers!

So Cogito told me that they are working on a cover for THE VASE. Now that is exciting. I know that covers are very important. A lot of people buy books based on the cover! I know when I was a kid, I did that. Of course, THE VASE is not a kid's book, but still the importance of a cover cannot be understated.

Here is one of the greatest covers of all time:



And here's another:

















And another:













Of course, these are all Conan covers, and they are painted by, imo, the greatest artist of the 20th Century, Frank Frazetta. And when I was a kid, boy did those covers ever work! How could a boy NOT want to read about the guy on those covers? Unfortunately, Frank Frazetta passed away recently, which was truly a loss to society.

But from what I know of Cogito and Transit, they mostly go with photography for their book covers, and since Frank's not around anymore, that's just as well. I've seen the Cogito/Transit covers, and I think they're all great. So I'm sure they'll come up with something perfect for THE VASE. Can't wait to see it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Inspiration

I've lamented before that I'm not as lucky as many writers who have the support from their loving spouses and a network of friends when they write.

Well, I must give some props to my brother, because he is so into my writing that I really am lucky. He's been my Beta reader, and his enthusiasm for my novels equals my own.

It was my brother who got the writing bug when we were kids. And it was he who inpired me to write books, too. But college and a career as a lawyer put his novels on hold for near thirty years. For me it was art and music, plus my own college and my teaching career that steered me away from writing books. Alas, I was still being creative. And all these years later,I decided to get back into writing.

And now, I am the one who has inspired him to get back to writing. He's working on the story he left off thirty years ago. I'm sure it's going to be a great one.

So yeah, I'm not without support from someone in the family. And what's so great about it is that it's real.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

John Dunn vs. Theophilus Shepstone

I've read through THE VASE yet again, and still improved the prose even more. But I'll just wait for the editing process to begin, and go with it at that time.

Meanwhile, I am still researching John Dunn, and even though I have typed over 1500 words and the first five pages, I should wait until all my research is done before I proceed.

But I have found the perfect antagonist. Theopholis Shepstone. He was the Secretary for Native Affairs in Natal, and he didn't like Dunn's native lifestyle. You know, Dunn lived with the Zulus, and he had fifty Zulu wives. And Dunn's white wife wasn't white. I just learned she was half white, and half black.

And even though Shepstone hated Dunn, the other white men admired him and secretly wished they could live the life he was living. That's what it says in the book, The Washing of the Spears, by Donald Morris, one of my main sources of information.

Furthermore, Shepstone harbored a secret wish to become a ruler, himself, at first of a native land, but then he had his sights to become a ruler of the annexed Boer land called the Transvaal. But he needed them to want him, and he needed a conflict to make them want him. (Otherwise, if everything was hunky dory, they had no need of someone who, like Dunn, spoke Zulu and had a way with the natives.) So it was Shepstone who had a part in stirring up trouble that contributed to the war.

Yes, it sounds as if this Shepstone fellow will make the perfect antagonist for the hero, John Dunn.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Next Novel

I keep revising THE VASE, and it’s better than ever. But since I’ve already sent what I thought was my best draft, I’ll get back to writing my next novel.

So where was I regarding John Dunn? Oh yeah. The Zulu Civil War. He hadn’t met the Zulu Prince Cetshwayo yet, because it was the other prince, Mbuyasi, who came to the English colony at Natal for help. (I’m considering putting that in as a flashback.) The Natal government didn’t want to get involved, but John Dunn, being young, (22) and full of youthful zeal for adventure was eager to assist the prince. Boy was he in for a surprise. He was headed for one of the most brutal experiences anyone could ever experience. And I’m talking on a world scale that equals some of the worst horrors in history. But it’s how his unique story started. And it’s how I’m starting the book.

OK. Let’s go. Can’t just sit around waiting. May as well WRITE!!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Waiting Game

Well now that I’ve signed a contract for THE VASE to be published, and now that I have sent them my latest and most polished draft, I find that it’s all about waiting again.

Waiting to see what the cover of THE VASE will look like. Waiting to see whom my editor will be. Waiting for the editor to get started and then waiting for him or her to send me his or her editorial suggestions.

One thing I know for sure. When these things happen, THEY won’t have to wait for me to respond. I am so excited for my debut novel that I will respond immediately.

I know that when the proposed cover comes, I will be on it in a heartbeat. I will probably send my input within minutes.

When the editorial contact is made, I will be sure to respond that very day, and when edits are suggested or proposed, I will get to work on it that very day. I remember with Virtual Tales, I worked on every set of edits immediately. I know I’ll do the same for Cogito.

Can’t wait. Oh wait, I have to. This waiting is a different kind of waiting, but it's still not easy.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Never Get Tired of Writing

My brother, who has returned to writing his fantasy novel, told me that after a spell, he gets too tired to write. It made me think. That never happens to me. Except maybe when it's three o'clock in the morning. Sometimes I don't even get tired then.

Over the summer vacation, when I begin a new book, it's not unusual that I find myself writing through the night. It's the rising sun that reminds me to stop and get some sleep. But even then I have to force myself to quit.

And as long as that's the way it is for me... I'm going to keep on writing!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Latest Draft to Publisher

Well, last night I sent my latest and finest draft of THE VASE to my publisher, and I am only oh so glad I kept putting in the time to keep making it better while I was waiting out the exclusive submission. It's got to be the finest writing I've ever done. And that means I made some already fine writing even more fine. So with that, I can rest easy. At least until they put it through their own editing process.

For now, what's next is the cover design! Wow, to see my cover for the first time, what a moment that will be. I suggested that they take a look at the photo in the header of this blog. It's how I envision the vase in the story to look like. What they do from there will be very interesting. I can't wait to post what becomes the final cover design onto this blog. (I hope I know how to do that!)

At any rate, the ball is bouncing now. It is something for which I have worked the past four years. And three manuscripts later, it's happening. I still hope to get KILLER OF KILLERS published. I love that story, and maybe COGITO will too. But I think THE VASE will have a wider appeal to readers around the world, both men and women, and people of all ages. It should be a great read for anyone who likes intrigue and the Middle East.

I can't say too much more about it, because I don't want to give too much away, but from the info at the top of my blog you'll get a good idea what the story is about. Just don't ask me what happens cuz I won't tell you. You'll have to read the book, and in about a year or so, you'll be able to do that. Whoohoo!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Writing Community

The writing community, I have noticed for a long time, is one of the nicest communities you'll ever come to know. I began writing seriously about three, four years ago, when I started my first novel, KILLER OF KILLERS. I used the internet to look up everything I could about writing and the publishing world. I read Donald Maass's book and discovered Nathan Bransford's blog, as well as several others. And I am astonished at how selfless people in this business really are. They're so giving and generous in their willingness to share their knowledge. And wow, has that knowledge helped me as I've soaked it up over the years.

Make no mistake, the teaching community is a great one, too, especially at Monroe where I've been teaching for the past eleven years, but you know what? It's not the same at every school. I have taught at some schools where the sense of belonging, or plain old good will just wasn't there. And I just haven't seen that happen with writers. It's like we're all in this together and we empathize with each other every step of the way.

I am so glad I decided to write. It's the best thing in the world, and the people are the best. Hands down.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Next Step - An Editor!

So now that I've signed the contract from Cogito, and sent it back to them in one day mail, what's next? I remember that Virtual Tales assigned me an editor, but that didn't happen for more than a week after I sent them the signed contract. I wonder how long it will be until I start working with Cogito's editor. Well one thing is for sure. THE VASE is a lot closer to being a finished product now than it was when I signed that Virtual Tales contract. It's because not only did my manuscript go through one full editing process with a VT editor, but I put it through not one, but two more rounds of extensive revisions since then.

I have been in pretty good contact with one of Cogito's editors because their acquisions manager is also one of the editors. I hope I get to work with her, but it really doesn't matter who it is. I would think that, like VT, they will have a senior editor give it an editing round as well. At any rate, I know THE VASE is close. I fixed everything there is to fix in that last read through. Still, you never can be sure. If there is anything I've learned about the revision/editing process, it's that no matter how many times you've revised it there is always something about a manuscript that can be improved, and no manuscript is finished with the editing process until it has been published.

So if any aspiring writers are reading this, please take that last sentence to heart. KEEP REVISING YOUR MANUSCRIPT. That's how you will get it ready for publication. And it's the only way you'll make it better. And you do want it to be better. That's all.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Never Give Up

I have learned that writing, as hard and time consuming as it is, is really only about half the work on the road to publication. Maybe even less than half the work. Sure you have to spend a long time writing a great book. And you have to spend even longer revising it. Because if you don't, then you are guaranteed to have a poorly written book. It's the revising, and the additional revising, and the editing, and the additional editing that makes a book great it terms of its writing.

And even after all of that, I say it's less than half of the work. Because unless you are a celebrity, or married to one, it's even harder to get someone like an agent or a publisher to give it the chance it needs to be recognized as a great work. I know that many unpublished writers are much better writers than many published ones. But the circumstances that led to those published writers getting deals were not there for them.

So how can they get around that? It's the age old advice. Don't quit. Keep pounding away. Cuz if you do quit, then you automatically remove yourself from any chance at all. I know it's tough. I've been there. Sometimes the luck is just bad. And it's true, luck is a factor. But you'll only have a chance at finding good luck if you keep at it. And don't quit. That's all.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

THE VASE FINDS A HOME! (again)

Wouldn't you know the day I'm lamenting exclusive submissions (yesterday) is the day my novel, THE VASE, is accepted for publication based on that exclusive submission. And it was a truly glorious day. It's been a long road, and still not completed, but a momentous day, indeed.

So here are the specifics. About two weeks after I had signed the contract with Virtual Tales for publication of THE VASE, I received an email from a Canadian publisher I had queried with a partial during the same period of querying that landed VT. This publisher was COGITO MEDIA GROUP, and its subsidiary is Transit Publishing. Despite being a relatively new independent publisher, they have aleady successfully established themselves with bestsellers. I'm talking about REAL bestsellers. Anyway, the email requested a 90 day exclusive submission, but of course I had already signed with VT, and I let them know that.

But a couple months later, Virtual Tales folded, and the rights reverted back to me. I didn't waste time. I emailed Cogito's acquisitions manager and asked if her offer to review my manuscript was still open. She emailed me back the next day and said yes, and to please send her the full manuscript. I asked about the exclusive part, and that's when she said to just make it a one month exclusive submission. So that was certainly reasonable, and I agreed.

And as I've chronicled here on this blog, it's been an awefully slow month, but it passed and the contract came yesterday.

So I am flying high right now. (A natural high, to be sure,) and it was a great, great day for me. I've signed that contract, and you can bet, I will send it today in NEXT DAY MAIL!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Behind Blue Eyes

No one knows what it's like... Yeah, that was a great song by The Who. Behind Bue Eyes. Well, I don't have blue eyes. They're green. And a lot of people, actually, do know what it's like. But I'm not talking about eyes. And I'm not talking about "bad" guys, either. I'm talking about writers. They know what it's like to be waiting on a submission.

The funny thing about exclusive submissions is that they make sense and they don't make sense. They make sense because you gotta understand where a publisher is coming from when they are reviewing a manuscript. They don't want to take several weeks deciding whether they will publish it or not, and then, right when they're on the verge of going for it, they get a call from the author saying, "Uhm, you know that manuscript I sent you? Well, I just signed a contract with another publisher."

But on the other side of the coin, exclusive submissions don't make sense. Not for the writer, anyway, because his or her manuscript is being held up for what, a month, two months, sometimes three months, and even up to four. And if that publisher at the end of those months decides, "Naahh... it's not for us..." then damn, all those months are wasted. And yeah, completely wasted. You can't get that time back. All those months you could have been submitting to several other publishers, one of whom may have actually decided to accept it. But because it was held up with someone else instead... someone who didn't want it afterall, it didn't happen.

It's true. For writers, it just doesn't make sense. Agreeing to exclusive submissions could take several years to find a publisher at that rate. Whereas, mulitple submissions might have found a publisher in a fraction of that time.

So when a reputable publisher asks for an exclusive submission, what do you say? You say yes. That's what you say!