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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I have written a lot about the John Dunn story lately because it's my WIP, but now it's time to start promoting KILLER OF KILLERS. That's the book getting published after all, and not 18 months from now, like the Cogito contract said for THE VASE. No, KOK is scheduled for release this summer which makes it about six months from the time I signed the contract.

And that is refreshing. Virtual Tales never gave me a release date, but maybe if I go back and read the contract again, I'll find a reference to that, I just don't remember what it was right now. Anyway, six months sounds about right. That provides time for editing, a cover design, and any more editing that needs to be done. Why a publisher needs a year and a half makes no sense to me, unless they have so many books lined up that there really is an 18 month drag.

But now I'm starting to think about promotion. How should I go about it? I had renamed this blog THE VASE because I thought that THE VASE was going to be my debut novel. So, yeah, I'm considering changing the name again. But to what? KILLER OF KILLERS? Maybe just KILLER? Doesn't sound quite right for a blog. Not that THE VASE does either. Something to think about. So I'll start writing more about KOK in blog posts from now on. Got to focus on that. It is my favorite story after all. And it's my favorite book. Not that I've read so many, but it's the story I enjoy the most whenever I read it. Yes, I like it even more than THE VASE. Really.

Monday, January 30, 2012

John Dunn Pretty Much Done

So I'm pretty much done with the John Dunn story. I've just about completed the second draft, which was very necessary before anyone could read it. That includes beta readers, of course. I had to tie some strings together. One of them was the fleshing out of the sons of Theophilus Shepstone, who is the main antagonist of the story. The Secretary of Native Affairs in Natal, Shepstone gave up that position to become the president or prime minister of the Republic of the Transvaal, also known as the South African Republic. As such, he sided with the Boers in their land disputes with the Zulus, whereas before that he had favored the Zulus. Talk about betrayal of an entire people. Worse, however, he could have prevented the Zulu War, but he didn't. And a lot of people suffered and died for that.

But his sons weren't bad guys, even though they did fight against the Zulus in that war. They weren't British regulars, they joined up with the the cavalry volunteers, and one of them, the youngest, George, was killed at Isandlwana. At the same time, Shepstone's administration in the Transvaal was failing miserably, and the man retired and dropped from public life. That's the way I have it in my book, too. So in his conflict with John Dunn, it wasn't Dunn who did him in, it was his own failed attempt to lead a nation, and the tragic loss of his youngest son.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Most Online Images are 96 ppi

As I surfed the internet for images I might want to use for a book cover, I discovered that the images are in the 96 ppi mode. I guess the people who post them do that on purpose. In that mode they are OK for use as computer wallpaper and websites, but to print them out for something like a book cover they are not. For that, I've learned, you need them to be at 300 ppi.

I'm glad that it's not my job to make a book cover. Because my paintings that I've photographed and saved on my computer aren't even 96 ppi. They're 76 ppi. So that means unless there is some way to make them 300 ppi, not even my own artwork would do.

I've got to believe there is a way to make them 300 ppi. I just don't know what it is. Probably some computer geek would know. Yep, I've still a lot to learn.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cover Won't Work

Well, it's OK, but the cover won't work because it's 96 PPI. And the high def version is way too small, so it's back to the drawing board. The Art Director at Melange told me that she will make a similar design, and I just can't wait to see what she comes up with. I told her that a full face hooded skull in the style of the Grim Reaper would be even better than the one I made, right there to the right of this post.

So it's probably going to be a better design, and I'll be glad that this one didn't work out. It's great just to be able to talk about all this. KILLER OF KILLERS is getting published! Still charged about that just in itself.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

300 PPI

300 PPI. I'm not even sure what those letters stand for. Something about pixels, I guess. And that's how book covers are supposed to measure up. So the day I put in KOK's cover with a link to the publisher, I find out that it's not 300 PPI. The only thing that might save it is that I did shrink it down. But here's the confusing part. The template that they sent me indicated the cover must be 6.125 inches by 9.25 inches. So I used the virtual ruler on the computer program and made it to that exact measurement. But I shrunk it down to that measurement instead of cropping it. So maybe that is what happened. We'll see how it turns out. But that cover to the right of this post may not be the final one. It's no disaster, because if it doesn't measure up, the art department at Melange said they will come up with something similar. So at least they know what kind of cover design I want and I won't get a topless male model on there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What is with...?

...all the shirtless men on so many book covers?

At first it didn't even occur to me that this was some kind of trend. But when I started to design the cover to KILLER OF KILLERS I examined the covers to other books, and I started to notice. Shirtless, near-naked, or even completely naked men, (although covered where it counts,) seem to dominate book covers these days.

Now, I'm no prude, but it seems that this is a double-standard to me. I mean, women's libbers waste no time protesting overexposure of women. It belittles them, they say. I remember not long ago, television cameramen couldn't even show NFL cheerleaders on TV, for fear of feminist complaints. At least that seems to have blown over. But do women readers really want to see naked men on their book covers? Does a picture of a topless man make women buy a book? I can't believe it does.

But it does lead me to believe that these books have nothing of substance to offer readers in regards to a story, a plot, or great characters. I would think that a cover should somehow depict the essence of what a book is all about. Or is it true that these books offer nothing more than a story about a woman who finds a beefcake? I haven't read them, so I don't really know.

But on almost every publisher's website, that's what you see. No, it doesn't bother me. I'm just sayin'. That's all.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Back to John Dunn

OK, Melange's art director's template came in handy, and I finally figured out how to use the needed tools on my computer's Window Live Photo Gallery program to make the design fit all of the guidelines. It was trial and error there for a bit. I have already posted a couple of the designs, but this one is the final product that fits the template to every detail.

So with that out of the way, I'm back to finishing the second draft of the John Dunn story. On page 252, and I hope to finish it by this weekend. Oh, the publisher at Melange also told me just this morning in an email that my editor will be Tom, who was the acquisitions editor who accepted my book. That's perfect as far as I'm concerned, since he's the one who read my story and liked it well enough to offer me a contract. I've gone through this twice before with THE VASE, so I pretty much know what to expect. But it's a new publisher and a different book.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Make Progress

I've been sidetracked tweaking the design for KILLER OF KILLERS, that I have made no progress the last couple days in revising John Dunn. I might have to lower that top text to the KOK cover design, but that skull face is in the way. I've trimmed it down already, and I might have to do it a little more.

But last weekend I made it halfway through the revisions of John Dunn, so maybe this weekend I can finish it. I don't want to take too long. When an editor is assigned to me for KOK, I want to focus on that. Because that will be the priority, of course, and I look forward to it.

The two editors who handled THE VASE didn't change any of the storyline, so I'm confident it won't happen with KOK, either. I'm curious as to how it will proceed. We'll see. Soon I hope.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cover Designs

Well, I'm learning a thing or two about cover designs. For one thing, you can't put text too close to the edge. That should have been a no-brainer, but with my design I had to put the text near the top edge. I also put my name too close to the bottom edge. Here's my tweaked design. I trimmed the top part of the skull face as much as I dared so I could make room to lower that top text. Still, it might not be lowered enough. And I raised the city silhouette so as to make room to put my name higher. I hope it works. We'll see...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Revision Interrupted

After revising the first two hundred pages of my WIP, John Dunn, I only got through ten pages yesterday. Well, I had to work after all, but something more exciting happened. The Art Director of Melange Books contacted me about my book cover to KILLER OF KILLERS, and said she likes it but my name might be too low. So I tweaked the cover, never really coming up with a solution. She sent me a template, but for some reason it downloaded without the template. Maybe I did something wrong, or I just don't understand how to use it. I'm sure we'll work it out. I really hope we can use that cover design. My students love it. Many said that they would buy the book just for the cover. I told them that they are too young to buy it, that they better be eighteen when they do. It's not X rated, but it's a solid R rated book, I'd say. Now, THE VASE is G or PG. But that's not getting published yet. And it's the one I thought would get published first, too. It's strange how things turn out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Second Draft Half Done

Since yesterday was a day off, I shot through the first two hundred pages of my WIP, John Dunn, applying revisions where needed. Minor stuff mostly. But necessary stuff. But if the second half goes as easily as the first half did, that means I did a pretty good job of it the first time around. Well, it's my fourth novel, so I think I have the hang of this. And since my first novel, KILLER OF KILLERS is getting published this summer, that bodes well for the other three. Very exciting times for me. It's all coming together now. Perseverance pays off.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Well, the first draft, anyway. Last night I got back to work on my WIP, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu, and decided the only thing that needed doing was finishing it. So I did.

Now that doesn't mean in my rewrites I won't change it some. But the manuscript topped out at 118,400 words. And that's plenty long enough. Most every publisher I have researched caps their word count requirement at 120,000. A lot don't want any more than 100,000. Some even top off their word counts at 80,000.

So I really don't want it over 120,000, that's for sure. Now begins the revision stage. That will give me something to do while waiting for Melange to assign me an editor for the editing process of KIILLER OF KILLERS. Can't wait for that. I won't be idle,that's for sure.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Possible Cover to THE VASE

While I was at it, I decided to go ahead and design a possible cover to THE VASE. I was caught unprepared for a cover to KILLER OF KILLERS. But I like that Melange Books moves fast. Not only did they move fast to offer me a contract, but they moved even faster in asking me if I wanted to provide my own cover. (The same day they offered the contract.) Of course, the author doesn't have to. They have people to do that. But since they do give the author's wishes consideration, I decided to go ahead and see if I might come up with something, and I did. But since everything was moving so fast at this point, I sent a hurried sample to them, which contained a font that I would decide against a day later, and there was a typo, too.

So with the extra day, I improved the design with a better font and all the other things I already talked about.

As for THE VASE, I always liked the photo in my blog header, so I cropped it and put in the text, which I tried to make into an Arabic style. I think it works. As for the image itself, I can't even remember where I got it. So I suppose that whoever publishes it won't use it for that reason unto itself. And if they don't, at least I can show them what I have in mind for a cover. That's all.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Melange - So Far So Good

They seemed to like that cover. I sent them the improved design just this morning when the publisher replied with a cc to their art cover person. I cc'd the art person, too, with the improved design.

But it is an improved design. I don't know if anyone caught the original design, but it had a typo in the top text, so that was fixed. And as I explained in my update yesterday, I found a better and more appropriate font. I also centered the text which improved the overall design just for that. I also got rid of that high contrast. At first I liked it, but then I changed my mind. Another thing I did to improve the design was I made that top text easier to read by eliminating most of those sparks that were behind the text. You could barely read it, but now it reads easily. And lastly, I had noticed that Melange Books doesn't put "A novel by..." on their books, so I deleted that. Just the author name is all Melange puts on their books, so I did it that way, too.

Yeah, I'm excited. Can you tell? KILLER OF KILLERS IS GETTING PUBLISHED. And of all four of the books that I wrote, that one is still my favorite story. This is big for me. Good luck to everyone who aspires to be published out there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Potential Cover to KILLER OF KILLERS

You can also see this on my website when you click on KILLER OF KILLERS. I came up with this last night. It's from an image I found on a free wallpaper site, (but I doctored it to a pretty good degree.) Even so I'm not sure that using it for a book cover is all right or not. If it is, then I wouldn't mind this to be the cover. If it isn't, then the people at Melange will at least get a good idea of what I have in mind for a cover. That's all.

Updated Image: The last one had a typo, and when I went to correct it, I couldn't remember the font, and while searching for it, I found this one. I like it better. I also dimmed the stars on top and centered the text. Thus... a potential cover to KILLER OF KILLERS is reborn.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Melange Books, LLC

So this publisher, Melange Books, reminds me of Virtual Tales in some ways. The website has a rolling feature of their latest publications and they have invited me to join an authors forum, just like at VT. So I did, and introduced myself, after which a bevy of welcome aboards resulted.

And one more thing. The top person emailed me directly to welcome me aboard. VTs top person had no qualms with communicating, either. But at Cogito, not once did their top person email me. Not to welcome me aboard, nor ever did he reply to any of my emails when I was inquiring as to the status of THE VASE when I learned his top employees were bailing on him. And that's the main reason I terminated that contract.

A telling thing is what these top people call their position. At VT, the top person was the Chairman, and at Cogito the top guy was the President. At Melange the top person is the Publisher. Kind of interesting, I think. OK.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Contract Offered for KOK

Big day yesterday. That second publisher offered a contract for KILLER OF KILLERS, and it was a good contract. So I signed it, and emailed it back to them. So that's my third publishing contract now that I've signed. Fourth if you count the contract I signed with Literary Agent Anita Kushen.

But there is something I must say. Signing a contract doesn't mean a book will get published. I've chronicled on this blog the bumpy road that's called the path to being published.

My first contract with the agent resulted in nothing. Agent Anita called me, and told me how much she loved KOK. And I think she would have found a publisher for it, too, but she retired. I've already written about it, but the short version is that her subordinates took over KOK, and did nothing with it. At the most they submitted it to the Big Six, and left it at that.

Most disappointing with those agents was that they didn't want to represent THE VASE, even though it was a story with wider appeal. The "terrorist" angle scared them, and shortly thereafter we parted ways.

So I took over submissions for THE VASE on my own, and my first contract with a publisher, (Virtual Tales) might have been nice, but within two months of signing with them, they folded. So now some additional news which I haven't divulged yet. The second publisher I signed with for THE VASE, Cogito, also has failed. They are having problems of their own, but unlike VT, they haven't been forthcoming about it. I was notified by the acquisitions manager that she quit the company, and after my follow up, I found out that the Editor-in-Chief had also quit. Which left me hanging. So I invoked a clause in the contract to terminate that contract.

So THE VASE is once again available. But KOK is now under contract. It seems complicated, but whatever, you just ride with it and keep on plugging away. Let's see how this new contract goes. The publisher is Melange Books, LLC, and they seem to be well established, and so far so good, but it's only been one day. So goes the world of publishing!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Writer's Blogs Slowing Down

I have noticed that a lot of the blogs that I usually read have been less consistent lately. A lot of bloggers seem to be taking time off of blogging. Maybe it's just a trend. But people who used to blog everyday are down to once a week or even less than that.

I try to have something to say Monday through Friday. Sometimes not a lot, and sometimes not even worth reading. But it will at least reflect my state of mind regarding writing, publishing, and the status of my WIP. I suppose that after a while some people just get tired of doing the same thing everyday. It's normal, I'm sure. I hope to be an every day blogger at least until one of my books is in print. But that's not a sure deal until it actually happens. We'll see.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Publishers Forming

When I was submitting THE VASE over a year ago, I found several publishers who seemed to be good fits for a story like that. And they were. Now, as I look around through internet sites, I find more that are cropping up. And some of them are just right for KILLER OF KILLERS. They want Cutting Edge Fiction. Dark Fiction. Subversive Fiction, and Speculative Fiction. Even Men's Fiction. Wow. So where were they a year ago? It seems as though these publishers are start ups, and that's great.

I know not just a few publishers go out of business, so I really hope these new ones can be successful. Especially since I'm thinking one of them will be publishing KOK very soon. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Another Publisher for KOK

In my research of publishers I have found the genre Women's Fiction or Chick Lit to be quite common. It seems that most publishers list that as a genre they are seeking to publish. But last night, and for the first time, I have found a publisher that is seeking Men's Fiction! Which made me very happy because KILLER OF KILLERS is just that. A man's book which men will enjoy reading.

When I wrote it, I had the objective to write a book that I would like to read. And it came out just like I hoped it would. That's not to say that women won't enjoy it too. For instance, my first literary agent was a woman, and she loved that story. Unfortunately, for me, she retired just a few months later. And I've already explained what happened after that. Nothing.

So now I have two publishers that might at least give KOK a chance. Submitted it last night. So fingers crossed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Gotta Get JOHN DUNN Done

I finished the Battle of Ulundi last night, which is the climax of my story, and that means I have only one more chapter to write. And that should be finished by the end of the week. And wow, it's at 114,000 words! I had no intention of writing such a long book, but that's historical fiction for you. And I didn't even get all the characters and all the events in there! Really, there was so much more that happened during that period in South Africa. If I had put it all in there it would have been easily twice as long. And it's already long enough. Right now, I'm just hoping I can keep it under 120,000 words. I suppose I will. And then revisions. And that's the part of the writing process that I enjoy most because the story is finished and it's just a matter of polishing it up from that point on. No more racking of the brain putting pieces together. Yay.

Monday, January 2, 2012

So Happy New Year

Everyone deserves a chance to begin anew. And the new year is the perfect time to do it. I've had some bad luck in the publishing channels. And even now, it continues to plague me.

But that's where starting anew comes in. Yes, I'm starting over with a few things, and I am talking about publishers. As the days go by, I'll be more forthcoming. But changes are in the wind. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, KOK has been fully revised yet again, and submitted to that new publisher. I like what I've learned about them so far. So fingers crossed. And now it's back to my WIP, the JOHN DUNN story. I'm so close to the end. I'm right in the middle of the battle of Ulundi. It's the final battle of the Zulu War. I plan on that being my story's climax. After that, the final chapter will be the denouement. And then ta da... I'll be finished with the first draft finally.