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.



Friday, December 30, 2011

End of Year is Here

My goal was to finish JOHN DUNN, but I have an excuse. And it's a good one. I've found a publisher interested in KILLER OF KILLERS, my first and still favorite novel. So I took this past week to go over it with a fine tooth comb in order to maximize its chances of being accepted.

And I have made it better, no doubt. Mostly I've improved the prose as I do every time a reread one of my manuscripts. Even after having THE VASE undergo two professional edits, I recently reread that one, too, and improved the prose still again. So as I've said many times, your manuscript, really, is never finished until it's been PUBLISHED and is a PRINTED BOOK.

Anyway, I figure to finish this most recent revision of KOK, and submit it tomorrow. Maybe today.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking Forward to KOK Submission

I'm halfway through the reread of KOK, and I'm confident it will be finished by tomorrow. Then I'll put together the submission package to the new publisher I mentioned.

That means this weekend I'll get back to JOHN DUNN. It hurts to take time away from that one, since it's my WIP. I really don't believe in getting sidetracked. I'm the kind of man who begins something and finishes it.

But OK. It'll get finished. Very soon. And then THAT will be the one I'll be revising over and over. Just like I did with the others. I have found the revision process to be the most fun, anyway. And make no mistake... I'm enjoying this a lot.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

John Dunn Story Not On Backburner

Yesterday I mentioned that KILLER OF KILLERS is no longer on the backburner. I am reading it in preparation to submit it again. And I am very glad for that because it's a story that needs to be published.

But that doesn't mean that the JOHN DUNN story is now on the backburner. No way. I'm so close to finishing that one, and I look forward to finishing it, and getting that one published too.

I am very hopeful that in the coming year, I'll have both KOK and THE VASE published, perhaps by two different publishers. And KOK has a sequel, too.

As for John Dunn? I'll be back to work on that in a heartbeat. I figure to finish the chapter I'm on right now, which is the concluding battle of the Zulu War, and then one more chapter after that. This might be my greatest book yet. Still, KOK remains my favorite. That's all.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Renewed Interest in KOK

People who have been reading this blog for a while know that my sentimental favorite book is KILLER OF KILLERS. It's a dynamic story about dynamic characters. And with all the fuss over THE VASE of late, and with my current work in progress, JOHN DUNN, taking up most of my time, I seem to have put KOK on the back burner.

Not so anymore. I have found a new publisher who is interested in KOK. And why wouldn't they be? It's about the world's greatest martial artist, after all. The story revolves around a wonder drug that cures all disease! It includes a secret society of immortal supermen! I mean how could a publisher not be interested in that? Don't tell me they just want stories about benevolent teenaged vampires, or training schools for teen witches, I won't believe it.

No, this is no romance publisher, either. They want dark stories with cutting edge fiction. They specify speculative fiction and subversive fiction among other genres. Yes, KILLER OF KILLERS is right up their alley. It's such a great story, I love it more every time I read it. So I'm going to read KOK one more time. Polish it up, still, one more time, and send it... fingers crossed.

Monday, December 26, 2011

If You Have No Kids...

...then you probably got some writing done this past weekend. If you have no wife or visiting family, you probably got some writing done.

But I didn't get any writing done this past weekend. Because I have a wife, kids, and visiting family. OK, that's all right.

I have always marveled at those women who blog about having a supportive husband who works and supports them, while they have no job other than to write their books.

Well, everyone has their own circumstance and however they get it done is great for them. I'm almost done. Just a little bit more.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Two More Chapters

Yes, I'm on the home stretch but I think two more chapters will do it for my WIP, JOHN DUNN. The final battle of the Zulu War was at Ulundi, the Zulu capital, and this will be the climax of the story. And I have already begun that chapter. Then I will conclude the book with a chapter after that, which will contain the capture of the Zulu king, and Dunn's acceptance of a larger subkingdom from the victorious British, who at that point will be led by Chelmsford's replacement, Sir Garnet Wolseley. Maybe I can get it finished by the end of the year. We'll see.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Almost Here

Well, I wanted my WIP, JOHN DUNN, HEART OF A ZULU, to be done by the end of this year, and I am closing in on the conclusion right about now. I finished the Battle at Gingindlovu last night, and there is really only one more battle I might put in there and it's the final battle of the war, the Battle of Ulundi. Ulundi is the royal kraal where the Zulu king resides, and it was the objective of the British invasion from the beginning. Of course it wasn't as easy as they thought it would be, but after John Dunn joins the British, it did get easier. He was instrumental in the British victory at Gingindlovu, and although he didn't fight in the battle at Ulundi, I'll probably put that battle in the book, because, of course, King Cetshwayo was there, and so was Lord Chelmsford, who has become a prominent supporting character. I have to conclude the story in a good way, and that's my focus right now. The end is in sight.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writing is the Coolest

There are a lot of things people can do in this world. Especially nowadays. With all the electronics out there now, the list of things to do is endless. iPhones, iPods, iPads, PS1s, PS2s, PS3s, xBox, PSPs, DSs, and on and on and on, let alone all the entertainment of movies, DVDs, BlueRay, and I can't even think of it all. And I do none of it. What do I do? I used to do art, and I used to do music. And both were cool ways to express my creative side. But what I've found to be the coolest is writing. You get to create your own world, your own people, your own circumstances, your own stories. And that is something that can't be beat by any of the other things out there you can do.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Not Tired of Christmas

So I prefer not the holidays because it slows down the writing process, and more importantly, the publishing process. And it doesn't matter if you have a publisher or not, because if you don't, you're looking for one, and they may or may not be using holiday time to review submissions. And if you do have a publisher, they may or may not use holiday time to further the process of getting your book published. So whatever and whichever you are at out there in the blogoshere, good luck to you. Most importantly, keep writing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tired of Research

It's like I want to scream for all this darn research. But, of course, I don't scream, so I won't. I hate being bogged down. I wrote the first drafts of my first three novels in three months. (Each, that is.) And right now, I'm at seven months for JOHN DUNN, HEART OF A ZULU. And I'm still not done with the first draft.

But you know what? When I reread portions of what I've written so far, I like it. Sometimes I get the notion to post segments on here. Don't know if that's a good idea. Better if I let some of those British dudes on the Zulu War forum check it out. I think that might be a good idea.

Oh well. Keep it going. That's all.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Good Writing Important, but...

I forget where I read this, but whoever it was was right when he said that good writing, as important as it is, is not what it's all about. It's about the story. Because if you have a book that has excellent writing, it won't matter at all if the story sucks.

For instance, when I was perusing excerpts from books on that publisher's list a few days ago, I came across a few stories that had excellent writing. But as I explained in an earlier post, one of them was downright disgusting and a major turn off.

Another one, despite its good writing, could have put even the most avid reader to sleep. I mean, nothing was happening. It was about a guy on a bus. And for the first two pages, the writer described people on the bus. It's like, OK, the guy is on a bus. Now what? I didn't read any further. The author gave no reason to care about the guy or the people on that bus.

And finally, there is a point of overdoing good writing. I was reading another excerpt and I couldn't even tell you what the story was about, but the writing was so intricately worded, that it reminded me of an over-decorated Christmas tree. It occurred to me while reading that particular sample that this writer was going way overboard to prove that he could really write.

OK, but it was just too much. Tell a good story, dammit. That's the bottom line.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Don't Use Roman Numerals

I used to use Roman numerals to number my chapters. But when THE VASE got edited, my editor didn't approve of that. She used the word, like ONE, TWO, etc. Not 1, 2, or I, II, and that's OK. It's not the right time to get fancy. You impress with your writing, and more importantly, the story, not by how you number your chapters.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Regret the Wasted Day

I talked about getting sidetracked yesterday, and I regret letting that happen to me. That unnamed publisher I talked about isn't for me. Like a lot of publishers, their website says to check out the books on their lists to get an idea of the kind of books they publish, or the kind of writing they like. So I read an excerpt from one of their books, and I was disgusted. I think it was an attempt at humor. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I am not amused by nasty and disgusting stuff. Nope. Not for me. Well, if that's their idea of good writing, forget it. Man, there's that notion of subjectivity again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Don't Get Sidetracked

I did get sidetracked last night. Went back to KILLER OF KILLERS because I found a publisher that might be just right for it. So I wrote up a cover letter aimed at that publisher. On their website, they said they are taking submissions starting this Thursday, so that's why I got busy on targeting them. You never know. I really would like to see that book in print. It's my favorite one, after all.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Those Holidays Again

The holidays are coming again. And the longest one of them all. It's a time for family and cheer, and good will. And that's a good thing, sure. But the publishing world will go on hiatus. That's not a good thing. The publishing world already moves at a snail's pace. And to take a week or two off, is needed in the publishing world as much as the proverbial hole in the head.

But that doesn't mean it's time off for the writer. I should make double progress on my WIP, and maybe I'll even finish it. That's the goal. Finish by the end of the year. We'll see if it gets done.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Goal vs. Deadline

I had set a goal to finish my WIP by Thanksgiving. I might have achieved that goal if I hadn't had to do so much research, which means a lot of reading up on the events that took place during that time period in South Africa. Mainly the events leading up to and during the Anglo-Zulu War.

And I'm still not fully researched. I'm doing it as I go along. I've got the Battle at Isandlwana completely researched, and I've got that chapter finished now too. It's been like that the whole way. Now I'm researching the Battle at Gingindlovu, and it's especially pertinent, because Dunn had joined up with Chelmsford by then. He was the one who advised Chelmsford that the Zulus were nearby, after discovering their whereabouts by swimming up a river under a fallen tree. Pretty good stuff. And all historically accurate.

It makes me wonder if I had set a deadline instead of a goal, would I have been finished by now. Maybe a deadline would have made me buckle down more with more determination to finish. Maybe. But it would have gotten me in more trouble with the wife, that's for sure.

Anyway, my goal is the end of the year now. Hope I make that one.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gotta Keep Writing

That's my credo, but last night, life got in the way again. My nine year old needed help with his homework, and my wife made it clear that it wasn't a night to be spent in my computer room. So, had to take a night off the WIP. And tonight is my older son's high school football banquet. Hopefully I can get back to work on the WIP after that because I'm really looking forward to getting this thing completed. But you only accomplish that by sitting down and doing it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Goal: Finish WIP by end of Year

My WIP is longer than any of my prior books. It's at 102,000 words and on the home stretch. Last night I was writing the scene where Lord Chelmsford seeks out John Dunn and let's him know how he really feels. After all, the general had just lost about a thousand soldiers at the Battle of Isandlwana, and he's not a happy camper. So he tells Dunn to help him, or else.

I've been waiting to get to this point because I have Dunn's memoir, and Dunn writes about that event. It's when he agrees to assist Chelmsford. But Dunn makes it clear in his memoir that Chelmsford is not one of his favorite people. Not by a long shot.

So, the Battle of Gingindlovu is next and then the end of the war, as the British finally overwhelm the Zulus and capture their king who happens to be Dunn's best friend. Dunn is not happy about any of it, and he never sees his friend, the Zulu king again.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Good Writing?

I read a lot of writer blogs and I read a lot of their material. I've read a lot of books out there on the shelves. Not the entire book, but I get a good sampling whenever I'm in bookstores, the library, and even Walgreens. I think I'm a pretty good judge of what good writing is, by now.

So not only do I use that ability to critique my own writing, I also use it to determine who writes well and who doesn't. And a lot of people out there do indeed write well. But, damn, a lot just don't. What really gets me is that there are agents out there who toot horns for their clients and even contest participants who just plain don't write well.

I have read some very average samples (even horrendous) in both books and contests, and I shake my head. Yet these are published works or contest winners. Just goes to show you that it's all subjective. Bad writing to one person is good writing to another. There you go.

Monday, December 5, 2011

WIP over 100,000 Words

Yikes. Over 100,000 words, and I STILL have a lot left to write. At this point in the John Dunn story, The Battle of Rorke's Drift just ended, and Dabulamanzi has joined up with Godini in the Siege at Eshowe. And that is historically accurate, too, btw. He was at the Battle of Gingindlovo, and so was John Dunn. That's the battle that took place when the British regrouped and relieved the besieged Colonel Pearson and the First Column at Eshowe. That was the first major victory for the British who went on to win every battle from then on. Like I said, Dunn was forced to join with the British. But I'm putting in my own fictional incentives. In real life, he was threatened by the British general to be tried with treason. I'm putting that in, but I'm adding a little something extra. It's historical FICTION. Gotta spice it up some. But don't worry. I'm not going overboard with it. You'll see. I hope. One day.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Big Publishers Want Piece of Self-Pubbed Pie

Well, the news is that Penguin is starting their own self publishing service. I know other big publishers have dabbled in that. And with the success of self publishing, combined with their own dwindling market, I guess it all makes sense.

I won't self-publish because I want to know that I made it in the publishing world. But that might be the wrong attitude. Having a traditional publisher publish your work, really, is only a part of "making it." The real determining factor is sales. If, say, Harper Collins, or any other of the big six publishes your book, but it doesn't sell, then you really didn't "make it" in the publishing world after all.

The bottom line is sales. Did your book sell or not? If it did, then you are successful. Doesn't matter if you self-pubbed. But if it didn't, even if it's Simon and Schuster publishing your book, then you really were not a successful novelist at all.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

THE VASE not for Christmas

Not this year anyway. When I signed that contract last June I hoped THE VASE would be out by Christmas. That won't happen. Right now I am very disillusioned with Cogito. When I signed with Virtual Tales before that, I thought THE VASE would be out in less than a year. Which means it would have been available by this Christmas. It turned out that three months later, the company folded. Now, I'm finding out that Cogito, too, is far from stable. I would like to have a publisher that is well-established. I'd like to win the lottery, too.