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, February 29, 2012

I'm in a Great Place

As a writer, I am in a great place. My debut novel, KILLER OF KILLERS is coming out this summer, and I have had only great experiences with my publisher so far. The funny thing is, it's my third publisher. But I'm not complaining, because they are by far the best publisher yet.

And to make things more exciting for me, the novel that had been contracted twice before, THE VASE, is being considered by some pretty big publishers.

I'm sitting on two contracts for THE VASE right now. But I'm not signing anything yet. I want to see what happens first. And the longer you wait, the better your manuscript becomes. That is, if you keep on polishing it. And that I have. Right now, both KOK and THE VASE are very polished manuscripts, and they're better books now than they would have been had they been published a year ago.

So, keep on making your ms better. Time goes by no matter how you look at it, and the more you work on your writing, the better your writing becomes. That's all.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Different Styles and Formats

It's interesting how so many different publishers are not on the same page as to formatting manuscripts. Usually you hear that editors want your manuscript double-spaced, one inch margins, twelve point Times New Roman font, single sided pages only, and a header with the author name, book title and page numbers.

And indeed, those are the specs most publishers expect to have manuscripts formatted.

But not all. There are some publishers who want manuscripts single-spaced. Some want Courier font. Some don't want headers at all. Some don't even want pages numbered, and some take subs by email, while others wouldn't think of it. Only postal submissions allowed for them.

Usually, when publishers take digital submissions, they are cool with any type of word doc format. But the newest Microsoft Word programs are docx. And some publishers don't want that. I have docx. And it's not a hassle to convert from docx to word.doc. It's easy enough. But some publishers want subs in RTF, and even sometimes in PDF. Man, oh man.

Again, it's easy enough to convert, but I found that you better check your manuscript after converting because sometimes funny things happen to your manuscript after you convert it from, say, docx to doc or RTF, or whatever.

For instance a publisher wanted me to send a full recently, but clarified to not send it in docx. Rather send it in word.doc. OK, easy enough. But after I did that, (and after I sent it,) I discovered that the formatting got screwy. The chapters were starting on lower lines on the new pages, and some even on the same page as the chapter that just ended.

I corrected it, and sent in the fixed version while explaining what happened so they would not wonder why I was sending it again. They were cool about it.

So a word to the wise would be to always double check your manuscript after converting from one type of format to another. BEFORE you send it in, that is.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Nice Week Off

It was a week off of work, but not a week off of writing, because I managed to read through and polish up KILLER OF KILLERS yet again. I also made some progress on KILLER EYES, but not too much. That is the manuscript I will focus on next, until KILLER OF KILLERS is undergoing its official edits with an editor from Melange.

Once I get through KILLER EYES, though, and if I'm not busy on KOK, I will go over JOHN DUNN once more. I've yet to have it read by a beta reader. I'm still hoping to find Barb.

BARB! Are you out there? I would like you to read my John Dunn story. If you are reading this, please contact me, and I will send it to you. My brother, a lawyer/writer won't be ready until another couple weeks. So he will read it by then. And I might go to that forum for enthusiasts of the Zulu War. That might be a good place to find a beta reader, too.

Maybe I should have attended that writer's group after all.

Friday, February 24, 2012

KILLER OF KILLERS revised again


I really can't count how many times I've revised KILLER OF KILLERS. For that matter, I couldn't tell you how many times I've revised THE VASE. I can say that THE VASE has been edited twice by two different professional editors. But that's not the one being published now.

KILLER OF KILLERS is the one getting published, and that is fitting since it's my first novel. And being such I've revised it more than any of my other manuscripts, including THE VASE.

But one thing I've learned is that no matter how polished a manuscript is, it is not done until it is PUBLISHED. Period. So until August, it will only keep getting better.

Boy, I love that cover. Just had to post it again. I can look at it all day.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Never Did Writing Groups

I never got around to the writing group thing. Once, a publisher that I was submitting to required their writers to be members of writer groups, so I joined a local one. But even though they have emailed me about their meetings, I never made it to one.

The reason I'm bringing it up right now is because I just received another email advising me of another meeting that's taking place. But I don't suppose I'll go to that one either.

Maybe if I was younger, single and had no kids I would go to them. But when I was younger, single, and had no kids, I wasn't writing books. I was writing music. I was drawing, painting, and sculpting. I had a great time at San Jose State's Art Department.

It seems to me that even though they are probably good things to do for aspiring writers, I just don't have the time. No, I'd rather just write, and when that's done, revise.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One More TIme

Going through the KOK manuscript one more time for good measure before Melange gets to editing it is proving to be a very enjoyable experience. I've said many times that this story is my absolute favorite. Not just of the stories I've written. I mean of all stories ever written.

Now, I'm not denying a little bias here. But I must have read this, well, more times than I can even count at this point. And every time I get a kick out of it. I just love this story. I love the main character. I love the romantic interests, and even the villains. They are all so real to me.

I'm past the halfway point, which is perfect since I told Nancy, the Melange publisher, that I'll send it to her by the end of the week. Looks like I'll reach that goal.

It will be ideal because then I'll go right back to KILLER EYES, which is the sequel. It picks up right where KOK leaves off. And now that KOK is getting published, I might even start planning the third book in the series. We'll see.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

John Dunn Total 120,000 words

After revisions, my WIP, JOHN DUNN reached 120,000 words. And for me, that's a lot of words. Especially since most publishers don't really want manuscripts over 100,000 words. Yeah, many make allowances for up to 120,000 words depending on the genre. Usually it's fantasy. I hope Historical Fiction qualifies, too.

I'm not even sure how I want to proceed. Should I find an agent? Should I just submit to publishers on my own, like I did for KILLER OF KILLERS and THE VASE? Actually, I've stopped submitting THE VASE because I already have it out there with about a half dozen publishers who are considering it. Another two or three have already agreed to publish it. I will see what the best deal is, I suppose. Or maybe I'll bring it to the publisher who is publishing KILLER OF KILLERS.

It's a crossroads for me. Do I want different publishers publishing different books of mine? Or do I want the same publisher publishing all of my books? I'm glad I have this kind of quandary.

But THE VASE is really a special kind of book. Why? Because it's a special kind of story. You already have a feel for it just from my blog's title and the text underneath it. But there really is something special about it. I don't want to put out any spoilers. But the text does hint at it.

It's not a religious book, so let's get that settled once and for all. And it's not about spirituality. But there are elements of that. And as for religion, even though it's not about religion, there are reasons that religious people will like that book. But not just one religion. I think all religions can appreciate the story.

Sure, I know there will be haters. There are always haters. I better be ready for the reviews. All writers have to have a thick skin. How many times have we all heard that? But I don't know just how anyone can hate a book like that one. Still, I know it will happen.

Better get it published first. Then I'll worry about all of that.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Working Toward Publication

Just got through with some email correspondence with the publisher at Melange Books. It is refreshing to be able to work with the top person there after the frustration that was Cogito. Oh, how I appreciate open lines of communication.

But anyway, I just sent my bio, a photo, and a blurb for the book itself, and for an author's page on the Melange Books website. I went ahead and used the photo that's on my teacher's website. It's a good photo. I look like... well, an author in that photo, so I thought I should use it.

I also sent a dedication and an acknowledgment and a few quotes that I thought were pertinent to the main character, Trent Smith, in KILLER OF KILLERS.

Since I have this whole week off work, I'm going to read through it one more time, which will inevitably result in a few prose improvements here and there. Nancy said to go ahead. So that's what I'll be doing for the rest of this week. I'll get back to KILLER EYES after that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Second Revision Completed on WIP

Last night I completed the second read-through of John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu, which is my fourth and latest novel. I liked how it turned out. My only concern when I wrote it was the ending, and I think the ending works well. The Battle of Ulundi is the climax of the story, and the capture of King Cetshwayo and then John Dunn's return to eMangeti, (his home in Zululand,) is the denouement.

So now I think it's ready for the Beta readers. My brother, a lawyer in Hawaii, won't be ready to read it until March, he says. But I would like for Barb to check it out, too. Who's Barb? Well, Barb was the first person to follow this blog. She writes historical fiction, too, and she had made a few comments during the course of my blogging on the progress of this book.

But something happened, and I see that she is no longer on my list of followers. It could be that she took down her own blog, which I read from time to time. But now I can't find it.

So Barb, if you are still there, and if you are reading this, please contact me and I would like to send you the attachment of this manuscript for some feedback. OK? Ok.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Importance of Revising

I'm near finished with my second read through of my WIP, John Dunn, and I have caught some major inconsistencies. It surprised me really, because I thought I cleared them up with my first revision read through. I found a place where I got the friends of the Shepstone brothers mixed up. There were three Shepstones who served as mounted volunteers in the Zulu War. And one of them, George, was killed at Isandlwana. Theophilus Shepstone, the father, was a high ranking official in the colony of Natal, and he is the main antagonist in the story. It just goes to show how important revisions are. I don't believe anyone who says they can write a novel in one draft.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Publishers

So what's the single most important role of a publisher? Publishing, after all, can be done by anyone these days. In fact, a lot of people are saying that authors don't even need publishers. Authors, they say, should just self-publish. And why not? You get a better deal with royalties that way.

But I don't want to go that route. Because I think the single most important role of a publisher is selling books. If you self-publish, you have to sell your books. I read Amanda Hawking's article about how she was successful with her self-published books. She stressed the fact that she put a major effort into promoting her books. She said it took a lot of her time and a lot of effort. And now? Well, after making a name for herself, she went ahead and signed on with a publisher. She said she wanted more time to write and didn't want to have to go through that promoting effort again.

Joe Konrath is the opposite story. He was already a name through a publisher. But then he chose to go the self-publishing route. Sure it was because his publisher declined to publish his later books, so he did it himself. And he's said that he is very glad he did. But he wouldn't have if he didn't have to. That's the point.

For me, I know I can't sell anything. Well, I sold my books to publishers, if you want to look at it that way, but when it comes to selling stuff in the conventional way, I'm horrible. So that's what my publisher is for. They will take care of marketing, and they have their website, and of course, Amazon is always there. But being published by a publisher instead of being self-published, I think, is going to be an advantage out of the gate. We'll see.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Post

So what about Valentine's Day? Well, flowers for the wife of course. But do I have any couples worth talking about in the four novels I've written? Well, in KILLER OF KILLERS, Trent Smith does fall in love. I don't want to put out any spoilers, but Samantha Jones is quite a lady. No more about that. You'll have to read the book.

And in THE VASE, there is a Muslim couple, Muhsin and Sanya Muhabi. They have been married for fifteen years, have had their ups and downs, but they do make quite a lovely couple.

And in KILLER EYES, does Trent fall in love again? Can't really say without a spoiler. Let's just say he revisits a past love. But no more about that.

And the most interesting Valentines situation of all is John Dunn and his wives. Notice I didn't call it a couple. Sure John Dunn has his wife, Catherine Pierce with whom he has a stellar marriage, but he also has fifty other wives. And he loves them all. He supports them all. And he takes care of all of his one hundred and fifty kids. Which is interesting to me, because I have my hands full taking care of just two. Those were the days, I guess.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Final Cover Design for KILLER OF KILLERS



So what's different? Well, all the text has been matched in style and color. The title text had a 3-D effect, and I decided I wanted all the text to have it. Because it was really a lot better. I looked at the two different styles next to each other and the 3-D effect really stood out. No comparison. And the webbing shows over that eye socket now. (Improved even more with this updated image on Feb.15.) So it's a home run. I thought that my design was good. But Caroline over at Melange did me better. This is a great cover. And I'm glad to be part of Melange Books, LLC. Can't wait until August. That's when it's supposed to come out. Stay Tuned. KILLER OF KILLERS is coming to a book store near you. Or at least on a website on your computer.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Should I Change Blog Name (Again?)

Some people may know that THE VASE was not the original name of this blog. I changed it to THE VASE because that was the manuscript I thought was going to get published first. But now it's KILLER OF KILLERS which is the novel that will be published first. So maybe I should change the name of this blog again. But to what? The Killer Blog? Killer of Killers? Maybe just Killer? None of those seem to fit. I think they might send the wrong impression. But maybe not. I'll wait until it's actually published, and then decide.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What About THE VASE?

Now that I have a publisher again, I have stopped submitting THE VASE, because I will probably bring it to the attention of Melange. After all, they know me now. They have a fair contract, which is more than I can say for some contracts that have been offered to me.

But if some of those other publishers happen to get back to me, I will listen. There are at least two or three publishers who have the full right now. But, as usual, they are taking three or four months to get to it. Which is about a normal time period. Melange was the exception. I still can't believe that they offered me a contract for KILLER OF KILLERS just one day after requesting the full. That is just so amazing to me. And I am totally impressed with their art department person, as I've been talking about lately. I love that cover they designed.

It's not the first time I had a book cover presented to me. After I had signed that contract with Cogito for THE VASE, (and before they flaked,) they sent me samples of book covers for that book. Four, actually, but I didn't really like any of them. I told them that of the four, there was only one that might be appropriate, but even that one wasn't really all that good. It was just a photo of a bunch of vases lying on the ground. It would have been OK, but it wasn't the kind of cover, say, like the one Melange came up with for KILLER OF KILLERS yesterday. That one, I must say again, is just an amazing cover.

But for THE VASE, it's nice to know I have options. I have two publishers who are willing to publish it right now. And it's nice to know that. But I have chosen to wait it out, and see what all my options are. The good thing about publishers is that they don't seem to be in a hurry. They can wait. Sometimes that could be a frustrating thing. But other times, like now, it's a good thing.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tweaking the Design





Caroline at Melange is one outstanding person to work with. I asked for a couple tweaks to the cover design and Bingo, she comes through like a star. You can see that the design includes a bolder text and it's centered. Now it's better than ever! This is great.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Work Hard

Well I'm still super-charged about the cover to my debut novel, KILLER OF KILLERS being so great. Cut me a break on this one. I mean for your first novel that's getting published and the publisher hits a home run on the cover design is... well, it's a dream come true. I can't say enough about it. But I said that I would talk about how Trent Smith got so good at martial arts. And there's a good reason that he's so good. He worked hard!

No, I don't go for these notions that you are born great. No. You work at it. You work hard. You don't quit. You make sacrifices. You put in the time. And for over twenty years, Trent Smith worked hard and made himself the best martial artist in the world. He lived it. He became a part of the Tokyo Dojo. Or he made the Tokyo Dojo a part of him. Twenty-four seven as they say.

It helped that the Dojo's Shihan had a beautiful granddaughter. And it was also a good thing that she was attracted to Trent. Oh, by the way, the Japanese didn't call him Trent. As I said before, (I think I said this before,) Trent Smith is not his real name. Anyway, Trent has green eyes. And besides that, they compared his fighting style to that of a tiger. So with that, and his green eyes, the Shihan nicknamed him Tora. Which is Japanese for tiger.

So yeah, he lived in the dojo. He loved in the dojo, He life was the dojo. Until the murders started happening in America. Then his life changed. And back to America he went. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 6, 2012

New Cover to KILLER OF KILLERS



And what a great cover it is! I mean I like this every bit as much as the one I designed, and you know what? I'm thinking I like it even better! What a great job by Caroline from the Melange Books art department. I am totally impressed. This is good. Real good. I'm talking great. My day is made. I couldn't have hoped for a better cover to my debut novel. I sure hope things keep going like this. Wow.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Art of Budo Ju Jitsu or Bu Jitsu

So we know that Trent Smith is the world's greatest martial artist who goes on a vendetta against murderers roaming free in society. But just how did he get to be the world's greatest martial artist? And which martial art is he so good at?

Well, I chose the Japanese art of Ju Jitsu for my character of Trent Smith, because that is the art that I took when I was younger. And imo, it's the single best martial art you can learn, because it encompasses just about every type of fighting. From punches to kicks, to holds and throws. You name it, Ju Jitsu has it. And the higher you rank, the more lethal it becomes.

But I didn't restrict his training to just Ju Jitsu, even though it would have been sufficient. No, I combined it with Budo. Budo is also Japanese and it's the art of killing. And it was mostly taught in the Japanese military, but Japanese police also train with Budo. And that sounds pretty cool. The art of killing. So I combined the two to get Budo Ju Jitsu. Sometimes shortened to Bu Jitsu. (Yeah, I actually came up with that. Bu Jitsu. Pretty cool, no?)

And in my story, KILLER OF KILLERS, Bu Jitsu is the deadliest art in the world. Which is why I add the text: "He was the world's greatest martial artist, a master of the world's deadliest art" on the cover. Anyone who likes martial arts stories would pick up a book off a book shelf if they read that on its cover. At least I think they would.

Next week we'll talk more about the training, and how Trent got so good at it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

So Who is Trent Smith?

As I was writing about a couple days ago, it's time to start promoting KILLER OF KILLERS. That is the book that is getting published. And pretty soon, too.

So the main character is Trent Smith. So who is Trent Smith? Well for starters, Trent Smith is not his real name. Why did he change it? Because he knew he was going to be making some enemies. And he didn't want anyone looking into his background. But that happens anyway, as both his friends and his enemies find out plenty enough about his background.

But what makes Trent Smith special? Well, for one thing, he happens to be the greatest martial artist in the world. I mean the no. 1 greatest. At bare hands fighting, no one can match him. Many have tried, but he's simply the best. And he knows it. But he is no braggart. He lets his actions do the talking.

So what are his actions? To put it simply: Killing. But he is no murderer. As the title of the book indicates, he kills only killers. It's more like he's an executioner. And he targets only those murderers who deserve to be executed. At least, in his eyes.

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Talk About Fast Response

Fast responses to queries are not usual. I was very fortunate to get one from Melange for KILLER OF KILLERS. And the day after they requested the full, they offered a contract. Wow. Now that's fast. I had grown used to the three month minimum time frame. But I am NOT complaining.

And a publisher who I had told THE VASE was no longer available when it was going to be published by Virtual Tales wants to see the full. I asked them if they want the new manuscript since it's been edited twice by two different houses since my original submission over a year ago, and they said yes. But their submission guidelines say to single space the manuscript. So I will have to go home to do that. I don't want to try it here at work while on lunch break because I don't want to rush something like that.

So when I get home I'll do that. Pretty exciting, really to have two publishers publishing two different books of mine. We'll see if that happens.