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.



Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writing For Yourself?

So why do people write? A lot of people say they write for themselves. But really? Why? Because they enjoy it? I suppose that could be the case, but speaking for myself, I'm not so sure I write for myself. I actually want people to read what I write. Otherwise, why write?

I suppose one could say one writes because it's fun. But so are a lot of things. So why do people write? Besides the fun, it's a form of being an entertainer. Stories or books, should be entertaining. Thrillers should thrill people, mysteries and romance should be such that one is entertained by them.

I guess it's not so different than the other things I've done, like artwork, music, and even athletic endeavors. They all entertain people. So, yeah, writers are entertainers. Just behind the scene type of entertainers. That's all.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Emotions

So do you get emotional when you read? Do books evoke emotion from you? One thing that I like about some movies is that they do succeed in drawing out emotions, even from me. I'm not really an overly emotional guy, but I do have them. I figure everyone does. And when a story can pull emotion from you, then I think it's a well told story.

But a book has never done that to me. Except my own books. Every time I re-read KILLER OF KILLERS and THE VASE, there are parts in there where I feel emotional. I don't want to insert a spoiler here, but they are parts where something tragic happens, and I feel my emotions stirred. And I must have read those parts near a hundred times each, yet I still feel it when I re-read them.

I have to believe I wrote them well. I guess I'm more in touch with the characters I created and the stories I wrote than I ever can be with another author's characters and stories. What else could it be? I said it happens to me in movies, but I think it's good acting that gets the credit for that.

And I think it is a good sign of writing if you can do it in a book. Maybe I should read more.

Naahh...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Don't Fear the Middle

I've read about so many writers and their loathing of the middle section of their book. And I've even heard about readers not liking the middle. As a reader and as a writer, I never experienced that. The middle has got to be there by its definition, but the complaint is that a story bogs down in that part of a book.

Well, it didn't in my first three books, but I am experiencing a slowing in my writing endeavor during my WIP, John Dunn. Not for lack of material or for lack of story. There are specific events that are true, and that I want to get in there, but I have a life of my own, and that's what has slowed me down at this point.

No, the story has not slowed down, as Cetshwayo has just been crowned king, Shepstone is acting on his plans to bring down Zululand and Dunn with it, and the Anglo-Zulu war is imminent.

If anything, the story is picking up. I just need to get back to full writing mode.
That's all.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Each sitting

When I sit to write, sometimes I write as many as five thousand words at a time, and a complete chapter or more. I don't really put a limit or a minimum goal on myself for each sitting, but I can be satisfied with at least one thousand words. Because if you look at it this way, that would be 90 days or sittings for a 90,000 word manuscript.

But life is full of distractions, and sometimes I can't even achieve that. But usually I do which means my WIP, John Dunn will be done in about a month. Whatever the amount is, the bottom line is to keep going, and don't get away from it. If you lose sight of your story, then that means you're not excited about it, and how can you expect readers to be if you're not? That's all.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Zulu War Imminent

So 61,000 words into my WIP, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu, the year is 1873, and Cetshwayo has just been crowned king of Zululand. But it's a short reign. It's no spoiler, it's history after all. In five years Cetshwayo will find his country being invaded by the British Empire. And it's sad, really, because he had always considered the British as his friends.

It was the Boers on his northern and western borders who were trouble for the Zulus, and Cetshwayo considered the English colonists to the south in Natal the friendlier neighbor.

But although the Boers and Zulus were in constant disputes over land issues which broke into vicious fighting now and then, they never really had an all out war. Leave that to the English who declared war against the Zulus in 1878. Poor Cetshwayo. He tried his best to get along with the English, but they had other ideas: The fall and subsequent annexation of Zululand.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

WIP 60,000 Words

Well, I hit the 60,000 word milestone for my WIP, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu. I wanted to get there by last Friday, but it's only four days later, so I can be content with my progress on that. And Cetshwayo, the first born son of King Mpande has finally been crowned king of all Zululand.

To his credit, he never tried to kill his father. He killed a lot of his brothers, but he left the old man alone. And when King Mpande died it was a natural death. A lot of things happened in the meantime, which kept the story moving along.

And it's historical FICTION, so I threw in some things to embellish the action. It's a novel after all, I want it exciting. And there is a lot of that.

So I figure I'm about two thirds done. I'm targeting 90,000 words, but that's not a certain thing. Once I get all the events in, and the conclusion, then it will be done. Of course.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Protagonists/Antagonists

I started talking about characters last week, and I thought I'd elaborate on the main character, also known as the protagonist and antagonist. I mentioned that the reader has got to be made to care about him or her. At least that's what the writing books will tell you.

The reasoning is if a reader doesn't care about the main character, or about what is going to happen to him/her, then the book is put down and no one reads it.

So what makes sympathetic main characters? Well, they can be nice, caring, or interesting persons. In my debut novel, THE VASE, the main characters are Muhsin Muhabi and Hiram Weiss. Muhsin is a Palestinian potter, and Hiram Weiss is an Israeli college professor. Both have lost sons to the conflict in the region. But that's about all they have in common.

Muhsin is an unassuming merchant in the old city market of downtown Nazareth. All he wants to do is support his family. But scheming terrorists interfere in his life, and Weiss blames him for the death of his only son. Even though a storm of hatred and revenge swirls around him, he remains focused on running his pottery business.

Weiss is part of that storm. Absorbed with vengeance, he plans to destroy Muhsin's shop, and everyone associated with it. But with all storms, the winds settle, and vision clears. What's left of their lives is where the story leads.

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day of School

Getting ready for a classroom full of 7th and 8th Graders. Everyone who ever taught school knows what that is like. So please excuse this brief post, and we'll get back to writing tomorrow.
Until then, tally ho.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Character in Novels

Novels, imo, are about characters. Sure some are about events or plots, but all my novels are more about the characters. And if you want a great novel, which I'm pretty sure you do, you have to have great characters, like Trent Smith in KILLER OF KILLERS, or very interesting characters, like Hiram Weiss in THE VASE, or sympathetic characters, like Muhsin Muhabi in THE VASE.

You have got to make the reader care about them. That's some common advice any writer will learn before too long. I believe that all three of the characters I mentioned will attract the interest of the reader. The reader will want to know what happens to them. And because of that, the reader will read on.

And don't forget the bad guys, the strong female, and the supporting cast. I'll talk about them next week.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Writing and the Waiting Game

All aspiring writers probably know about this ridiculous waiting game. Writing a novel is already a time consuming experience. I truly believe it takes a full year to write a good novel. Sure, a writer can probably write an entire first draft within a three month period, if they can put the hours in everyday to get it done. I've done it myself. But it certainly doesn't mean a novel is finished.

To have a good novel you absolutely have to reread it over and over again. And each time you have to revise it and make it better. That will take the rest of the year. I'm talking about ten drafts or so.

And once that manuscript is polished into the semblance of a very well-written novel, you enter the waiting game. As if the long wait for completing the novel wasn't enough already. You have to wait for agents to respond. And if you're unlucky enough, none of them will, or they won't respond positively. Especially if you are an unknown person.

And then there is the waiting game of finding a publisher. Mostly they won't respond either. But if you are lucky enough, as I was, to find a publisher who wants to publish your novel, then you have to wait again for them to finally get it done.

There's no solution to the waiting game. Just have a life, and have a career, have a family, and live to the fullest. Get other projects done. The time will pass, and you have a lot to look forward to. That's where I'm at right now.

It's just the way it is.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

School Begins

For teachers, that is, school begins. The kids come back on Monday. So even though I didn't reach my goal of 60,000 words for my WIP, I did get to 55,000, and I can be happy with that. Mostly this past week I was reviewing what I had written and making sure it all connected and flows smoothly. It does now. OK, back to work

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blogging Blues

For some reason my blog is malfunctioning. I can't comment as myself on my own posts in my own blog! And I can't do the short cut edits!

For instance, if I want to respond to a commenter, my comment is made as an anonymous. If I want to edit a post, I have to re-sign in and go to the comments site, and hit the edit and then hit edit again.

There used to be a pencil icon on the main page for those shortcuts. But it's not there anymore. But the feature that enables it in the settings page is still activated.

On my work computer it's not like that. So since school starts next week, it won't be a big deal. but the thing is, my home computer is a Sony Vaio J series, and a far superior computer.

So why is it doing that? Oh well, back to writing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Moving Right Along

OK, this new week brings the end of summer vacation, and my two sons are getting ready to resume school. My oldest is entering his sophomore year in high school, and it's amazing how fast and how big he has grown.

My youngest is still a little guy, nine years old, and entering the fourth grade. It's really great still having a little one. Because high school gives you football, a more stressfull grading system, and... girlfriends.

Oh well. Back to writing.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Contest Entry

I'm smack dab in the middle of my fourth novel. It's historical fiction, and my other three were fiction thrillers. Although none of them would be classified as humorous novels, I do incorporate humor into the storylines. All of them have scenes that are funny.

And I truly believe that's the way real life is. We've all had a good laugh that resulted from random events that happen now and then. And a great story really should have some lighter moments in it.

But I chose not to use any excerpts from my novels for the contest. I would have had to abridge them to meet Nathan's 350-word limit guideline. So I wrote a brand new scene which comes from no work I've ever done. It's just for the contest.

I want to clarify that my stories are nothing like this sample, btw. This could be a scene from a kind of 'Animal House' type story. But I figure it will qualify as humorous. So here is my sample:

Sample has been deleted.

Ok, that's it. It clocked in at 348 words. It's weird that several entries far exceeded that guideline. But most of the people who entered could count. So I made sure I could too. I don't expect to win. But it was fun. That's good enough for me.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

So Many Writers

Sometimes it seems that there are more writers than there are readers. For instance there's about 200 people already who have entered that writing contest on Bransford's blog right now. I remember some contests he's held that drew over five hundred.

I'm still going to enter. But I just want to reread my sample first. I'll post my entry tomorrow. It's not a typical sample of my writing, but just a fun effort. Until then.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Entering Contest

I talked about that writing contest on Nathan Bransford's blog yesterday. I think I'll enter it. Not for any prize or even a chance of winning, which I put at near zero. But for the fun of it.

I mean if you can't write for fun, then maybe you shouldn't be writing. I've had a lot of fun doing a lot of things during my life. From all kinds of different sports to art, painting and drawing, sculpture, playing music, composing songs, sheesh, the list goes on.

And I can truly say I never earned any significant amount of money doing any of it. So now it's writing. Maybe I'll earn some money at that, but who really knows at this point. Time is going by so slowly since I signed that contract with Cogito, that it will probably be an eternity before I see my debut novel, THE VASE, in print.

That's OK. In the meantime, I'll just keep having fun writing. So I took the afternoon off from my WIP, and wrote an entirely new scene for the contest. The contest guidelines limit the piece to a mere 350 words. But I think that's just about right.

I know I was thinking about cutting and pasting an excerpt from one of my stories, but I decided against it and wrote something that is completely unlike anything I've written before. It had to be humorous. And so here's hoping I did a good job.

Perhaps tomorrow's post will be that sample. I'll see how it reads and if I still like it, I'll enter it into the contest and put it on my blog.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Writing Contests

I used to enjoy entering writing contests on various writing blogs. But I haven't entered any for a while now. I suppose I would still enjoy doing it, but I have been so preoccupied with writing my WIP, and editing THE VASE over the past year.

It takes time, you know. Throw in a high school aged son, and a younger son who's nine, and there goes most of your extra time, even over the summer vacation.

It doesn't mean I'll never do it again. For instance, right now on Nathan Bransford's blog he's running a writing contest. It's a humorous one. I'm no humor writer, but my stories do have humorous scenes in them. Maybe I'll just cut and paste an excerpt. I have until Thursday, so I'm thinking about it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

KILLER OF KILLERS

I love this story so much, I just have to get back to submitting it. I am happy for THE VASE finding a publisher, and I hope they will want to publish KILLER OF KILLERS, too. I'm just not sure when Cogito will be ready for it, since they're smack dab in the middle of preparing THE VASE.

It's a book that will attract a diverse readership. Men will love it, and women will, too. It has action, adventure, and exotic locations.

I mean it features the world's greatest martial artist! Right there is a hook that an action lover can't pass up.

It has strong female characters, too. It has romance. Intrigue. And did I mention tons of action?

Come on, what do readers want? Great writing? Yep. It's written every bit as well as THE VASE.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Networking Takes Effort

I like to blog daily, because it keeps me in touch with the blogging world. It's the networking that sells books, I'm told. Word of mouth is key. It's how a lot of people have sold their books. It's what I hope to do when THE VASE comes out.

Of course the bottom line is a great story told with great writing. But if nobody knows about that great story, they won't read it. And then they won't find out about the great writing, either.

So for all of us aspiring authors, keep on blogging. Let it hang out. But I have found a lot of blogs go dormant. I have found some that had their last post written months ago. Some even years. And I don't think those blogs are being read.

Now of course you have to give a reader a reason to read your blog. They have to want to know about the blogger, and his/her experiences in the writing and publishing world. And they will want to know about the stories you write.

And keeping it going daily takes effort. You have to get down and do it. But the long haul is what the goal is. That goal is selling books!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Almost Done

So there's one more week before teachers report for work, and I won't be finished with my WIP, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu. But seeing as how I'm at 48,000 words right now, I might guess I'll be at 60,000 by then.

My other three books clocked in at just under 90,000 words each, and that doesn't mean John Dunn will, too, but it will probably be somewhere in that neighborhood.

This is a book based on the true story, of course, so the events I've planned on putting in there will the factor of when it's completed. When they're all written, that's when the story will be complete. Of course, then the revisions begin.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's not just about writing

No one will get any writing done unless they sit down and write. And that is the bottom line. But take heed. It's not just about writing. Because if you think about it, anyone can write. But if you want anyone to appreciate your writing, you really have to write well.

And there are so many different ways to do that. You can take classes on it, you can read books about it, and you can dedicate your life to it. Like most things, the more you write, the better you get.

Which leads me to this next point. REVISING! The one thing I learned about writing that I think is the most important thing, is to REVISE, REVISE, REVISE, and keep on revising, don't stop.

Like I said, anyone can write. But not everyone can write well. Sure some people can put down an initial draft, and it might be pretty good, but it doesn't end there. Not if you want to be a real good writer. You have to reread what you wrote. You have to make it better. Improve the prose. It's got to have some rhythm. It has to flow. And it's the revising that makes it happen.

I've even found that revising has improved my storytelling, too. Whenever I reread my manuscripts, I always improve the prose. But I also have found great opportunities to improve the storyline, too. With both KILLER OF KILLERS and THE VASE. I've put in certain elements and subplots that improved the story dramatically during the revision stage.

So keep revising. Yeah, get that first draft down. But then the fun begins. REVISE!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Telling Stories

I just finished telling a story to my nine year old at bedtime. Yeah, it's a little late, but I was working on my WIP, and he was patient enough to wait, bless him, and wait he did.

And for all parents who tell their kids bedtime stories, I was just thinking that it is a talent after all to tell a story. At least a good one.

I remember telling my first son stories, too. He just came up to his room, and I reminded him about the stories I told him. He was fascinated by octopus stories, and every night he just had to hear a story about an octopus. So I made up stories about an octopus.

Interesting creatures, they are, because they can shift their boneless bodies into any shape, and fit into any sized hole, they can change their colors, and they can squirt a black ink. I incorporated all of these talents in my octopus stories.

Right now, I am pretty good at telling stories. KILLER OF KILLERS and its sequel, KILLER EYES are two magnificent and original stories. THE VASE is another fantastic and completely original story.

Oh, I look forward to the day people can read those stories. That's all.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Oh, Why so slow?

I sure wish the publishing process wasn't so slow.

Writing the book takes a long time. Finding a publisher takes an even longer time. And getting the book published takes a long time.

Right now I am glad I have three books written. And by the time my debut novel, THE VASE, is in print, I expect my fourth one to be finished.

But I also hope that by then, I'll have the second and third ones on the way to publication, too.

Oh well. At least things are rolling.