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.
Friday, March 30, 2012
I mean what's the big deal if your main character defeats a simpleton or someone who is not formidable in his/her own right? There is really no story there at all. It should be a struggle, and if not to the death, then with something big at stake. You read about that in the how to write a great novel books that are out there.
One great antagonist who comes to mind in real life is Hannibal. Here's a man who was ahead of his time in battle strategies and over the top in his hatred of Rome. But in my opinion, the real hero in the Hannibal story is Scipio. He is the man who defeated Hannibal. Yet due to Hannibal's greatness, hardly anyone has even heard of Scipio. It's all about Hannibal. But Scipio was the winner in that great struggle. Thus his new name: Scipio Africanus, given to him by a grateful Roman Republic for saving them from the threat that was Hannibal.
And today you have books and movies about Hannibal. Sheesh. Hannibal LOST to Scipio. It was Scipio who had to overcome the incredible odds. It was Scipio who had to go against the great antagonist who was Hannibal. Someone should write a book about the story of Scipio. Hmmnn...
Thursday, March 29, 2012
If you can confine your mail to within the states, you can get one day mailing pretty much guaranteed. If you try that to another country, even Canada, then it's not going to happen. I've tried it. At one point, my mail didn't get delivered until five days later. The last time, it didn't even get delivered. But that's another story. I'm just glad I don't have to deal with that anymore.
So my advice is stay American. Less problems, less hassle, and probably an easier thing when it comes to getting paid. And that's a pretty good reason right there.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
In KILLER EYES, the research is in Nuclear medicine. That is the turn the story takes. But how many people are hip to nuclear medicine? Nuclear physicists, perhaps. But now I'm pretty familiar with it. Not so much that I could teach an advanced class on nuclear medicine, but enough to concoct a story that contains that element.
One thing that results from writing books, I must say, is that you become a little bit smarter about a lot of different things. Reading those books will make you smarter, too. That's pretty cool.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Even when I want to read through a story of mine for other reasons, I always find better ways to word the sentences and/or the paragraphs. I always find a better word or a better way to make what happens sound better. And in KILLER EYES more than any other story I've written, there are sub-plots that need to be tied together in a better way.
I'm working on that, too. I might have gone over the top with subplots, and I might have to get rid of one or two of them if I can't make them smooth. Especially in the conclusion. But one of the reasons I have them is to make room for another sequel after this one, which, now that KILLER OF KILLERS is getting published, may end up happening.
I had ended KILLER EYES so that it could be the end of the Trent Smith story. I wasn't planning on writing another Trent Smith story if KILLER OF KILLERS never got published. I was with the mind to go with other books, like THE VASE and JOHN DUNN. But that's not the case anymore. Now I'm thinking I would like to write at least one more Trent Smith story. Or maybe two. We'll see.
Monday, March 26, 2012
But I've read that critics don't like John Carter and these critics whoever they may be seem to be reveling in what they claim is a movie that is losing money big time. But I don't understand their hatred for the movie. I thought it was a very well made movie. It was written well, acted well, directed well, and the special effects were top notch.
I liked it better than Avatar. My brother said the same thing. My son's friend, who came along, said it was his favorite Disney movie. That's saying a lot. I don't know if I would go that far, but it was a great family movie. Great for all ages.
Maybe that's why it's being panned. There was no sex. No graphic violence, and nothing controversial in terms of social mores. It seems as though movies or stories have to push the envelope these days to find acclaim. I've heard that's what Hunger Games does. But I wouldn't know. Never read the books, and I won't be seeing the movie. I've heard that movie is big on kids killing kids, and for me, that's crossing the line. Again, I have no place to criticize or comment beyond what I've heard for the simple fact I haven't read or seen it, so I will stop there and get back to John Carter.
I thought JC was cast very well. I thought Cirian Hinds and James Purefoy were great in their roles, even though they were minor ones. I remembered those two actors in the HBO series, ROME and thought they were great. And there they were in JC. I didn't know going in that they were in this movie. And there was an X-Men connection, too. The main character was played by Taylor Kitsch who was Gambit in the Wolverine movie, and the female lead was played by Lynn Collins, who was Wolverine's love interest in the Wolverine movie. Both played their parts as if they were born for the roles. (Like Sean Connery as James Bond.) They were that good.
I guess it's all a matter of opinion or just a matter of timing. Maybe the timing wasn't right. But it was for me. I had time to see it, and with the whole family. That's a thing that is not too common with movies these days. I was glad it came out, and glad we all saw it. Unfortunately, for its monetary loss, there probably won't be any more like it. Well, at least no sequels, anyway. I never read the books, but I would have been eager to see the further adventures of John Carter on Mars. Too bad. Maybe I'l have to read the books after all...
Friday, March 23, 2012
But it’s already closing in on April. That leaves four full months until it’s released. And I’m scratching my head because there has been no editing yet. I suppose it’s on queue to be edited. I just hope the release isn’t pushed back. I'm looking forward to holding that book in my hands. And I am biting my tongue when I talk to people about it. I don’t want to say, “KILLER OF KILLERS is getting published, but not until August.” Because look what happened twice with THE VASE. I would rather say, “KILLER OF KILLERS is out right now and you can buy it today.”
Thursday, March 22, 2012
To be sure, they are very successful writers. But what would have happened had they attempted adult fiction? I wonder if they ever tried. I know of an author who wrote an adult novel first but couldn’t get it published. Then this author wrote an MG novel and bingo, a book deal.
But adult fiction is another baby. I think it is a LOT more difficult to get adult fiction published. I almost buckled and considered writing YA when my adult fictions weren’t picked up right away. I blogged about it a couple years ago. I’m glad I didn’t though. The way I see it, YA and especially MG are little more than cartoons in the form of books. And I’m not into cartoons anymore. I want to write the kind of books I want to read. Gritty realism is what I want to read. And that’s exactly what KILLER OF KILLERS and THE VASE are. Gritty and realistic. And not for kids. Or teens.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Of the two contracts on the table for THE VASE, one is a superior contract, but the other is a more established publisher. But I want to consider all options. There’s a British publisher considering the full right now and three American ones. Of the three American publishers, one is a very prominent publisher, one is a major Christian publisher and the other a well-established mid-sized publisher. I would rank them in that order as to which I would prefer. But really, I would be happy with any of them.
But that could change once I see the contracts. And as I said, I’m not going to be quick to sign a contract. Well, it depends on the contract. And with contracts, there are many different aspects about which you’ll want to be careful. And I guess the most important part of a contract is royalties. (But make no mistake; there are many other very important parts to a contract.)
When it comes to royalties, I’m familiar with the industry standards now for both print and eBooks. But some publishers want royalties for movies, too. That’s not right. It's only a dream at this point, that any of my books will get a movie deal, but sometimes dreams come true. And if an author has the good fortune to get a movie deal for his/her book, the publisher should not be expecting a piece of that pie.
It’s not as if they lose out, though. Publishers will no doubt get the benefit of increased book sales as a result of a movie based on a book they published.
At least there is one positive thing about these contracts I’ve signed. I know which ones were good and which one wasn’t. And that will help me with my next one.
BTW, the Melange contract was pretty good.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
A little more than a year ago, I had decided to submit THE VASE to publishers on my own, because the agents I had at the time were unwilling to represent it. The only explanation I received was because it dealt with the Middle East. It was like, Okaaaayyy… Most disturbing to me at that point was that they never even bothered to read it. Had they at least read it, they would have learned it wasn’t the standard Middle East terrorist yarn. Although there were terrorists involved in the plot, there was so much more to the story – really unique and original stuff. But they just blew it off. Other agents blew it off, too, and I realized the agent thing was a waste of time.
So I submitted it myself to the publishers who didn’t require an agent. And in my first round of submissions, I received three contract offers. The first one I decided not to sign, but the second one I signed. That was Virtual Tales. As I’ve chronicled on this blog, after the first round of edits Virtual Tales folded. So I got busy advising the publishers who had expressed interest from that first round of submissions and the third contract followed. That was Cogito.
But after another round of edits, Cogito flaked as I explained in last week’s post. Fortunately, there was a clause in Cogito’s contract that enabled me to terminate that contract and I did.
And it’s where I stand today. Right now, two other publishers are still willing to publish it. But I’m not quick to sign contracts anymore. Another publisher, in England, is still looking at the full, and three pretty good publishers right here in the States have requested the full. And I will most definitely wait to see what their answers will be.
All writers know about waiting, but I feel good about my chances because every publisher who requested the full, after having read the partial, has offered a contract. Stay tuned. It’s a heck of a ride, and I’m not jumping off.
Monday, March 19, 2012
The two agents who took over did nothing. Nothing that I know of anyway. I'm not even sure they read the manuscript. And soon one of them parted from the agency. And soon after that the remaining agent did not renew our contract. I'm still bothered that I never got a list of publishers to whom she submitted. I asked her for one. Never got one. So I was OK with not having an agent who wasn't getting anything done on my behalf.
After a bit I started to submit KILLER OF KILLERS myself, and you know what? The second publisher I submitted it to offered a contract. You read that right, but I'll say it again. The SECOND publisher I submitted it to offered me a contract. It's chronicled on this blog. (And when I advised the first publisher it was no longer available, he advised me that he hadn't had time to get to it yet, so it wasn't as if it was rejected.)
The lesson here is don't expect any agent to represent you as well as the agent who signed you. That's the person who loved your manuscript. That's the person who wants to go to bat for you. Not the person who inherits you. Sure there will be exceptions. Sure someone else might have a similar story with a different experience. But that was my experience.
As for how it all turned out? Well... KILLER OF KILLERS is getting published. But not for any agent's hard work. It turned out I never really needed an agent. When it comes to landing a contract, it's just as much about timing and luck as anything else.
But I've learned another lesson along the way. I've learned that contracts in and of themselves are NOT a journey completed. When your manuscript is published and in print... then you will have a journey to publication completed. So stay tuned. August is just around the corner.
Friday, March 16, 2012
One of the reasons I submitted KILLER OF KILLERS to Melange Books was because they had listed "Men's Fiction" as a specific genre for which they were accepting submissions. And it was the first time I had ever seen that in a publisher's guidelines. Sure you see Women's Fiction all the time, or Chick Lit. But Men's Fiction? Not really. But I think there should be a Men's Fiction genre.
Sure you see Thrillers all the time, and that's what I had called KOK. It's a thriller. An Action/Thriller. I call THE VASE a suspense novel. Or a Suspense/Thriller.
To be sure, KOK is more action-packed, whereas THE VASE is more suspenseful. But both could be labeled as Thrillers. To be more specific, KOK is a Martial Arts Thriller. And who might read a Martial Arts thriller? Mostly men, I would think. But women might too, so it's not like women couldn't enjoy the book. My first literary agent was a woman and she said she loved it.
But I wasn't really actively submitting KOK, because I was focusing on getting THE VASE published first. I believed it would have a wider appeal. You know, KOK was about a martial artist on a mission of justice. That's a man's story, with all the action, the fight scenes, the killing. But you know what? There is love and romance in there, too. And women like that.
And that's where Women's Fiction comes in. I mean look at all the women's fiction. Virtually all of it is some sort of romance story. (Featuring a shirtless man on the cover, showing off a ripped six-pack.) I suppose I could have featured a shirtless Trent Smith on the cover of KILLER OF KILLERS. After all, he's got a ripped six-pack, too. But... naahh! It's MEN'S Fiction. I wrote it because I wanted to write a book that I would like to read. And I achieved my objective. I've read it more times than I can count, and every time I love it as much or more than the first time I read it. Yeah, it's that good. (Pardon the humility, please.)
And THE VASE? Well, there's romance in there, too. A different kind of romance, but it's a different kind of story. It's weird. My first two books, although they both can be called thrillers to a certain extent, are really two very different kind of books. But both have romance. I suppose every story should have romance. If you want women to like it, that is. And I do.
But neither one can be called Women's Fiction. And that's what I wanted to point out. Both are Men's Fiction books, but can be enjoyed by women. Maybe that's the difference between Men's Fiction and Women's Fiction. Women's Fiction is for women. Only. But Men's Fiction can be enjoyed by both men and women. At least that's what I think.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Then, in September, their acquisitions manager emailed me to advise me that she had quit the company. Besides my editor, she was my only contact with them, since the Cogito “president” had never communicated with me, not even to welcome me aboard. He never even sent me a counter-signed copy of the contract!
By November, there was still no word from my editor. I had emailed her a couple times asking what's next and when will we be going through the second round of edits, but she never replied. It was like, WTF?
Finally, I emailed her at her personal email address, and this time she replied, but only to tell me that she had quit the company several months ago. I was thinking, “Well, why didn't she tell me?” She just left me hanging. Talk about inconsiderate and unprofessional.
So I emailed the "president" and asked for the status of THE VASE and if he was even planning on still publishing it. But he never replied. Again, just leaves me hanging!
Sheesh, a simple “Yes, but bear with us, because we’re having some problems right now…” would have been enough to convince me to stay with them. Or something like, “Sorry, but due to whatever, we won’t be publishing THE VASE anymore…” would have been cool, too. But he didn’t reply at all. That was very unprofessional, and needless to say, inconsiderate, also.
At this point, I wanted no more to do with them, and I invoked the part in their contract that said if they didn't send me a notice IN WRITING, within sixty days of returning the edited version, telling me that it was acceptable or needed more revisions, then I could terminate the contract. Obviously, they were undergoing some kind of internal turmoil with two of their top people quitting, but they just left me hanging. No word. Nothing.
Like I said, it's November at this point, so I sent them emails and a written notice saying that, according to their contract, they had fifteen business days to respond and keep the contract from being voided. But they did not respond. And since it's now March, those fifteen business days have long passed.
So right now, THE VASE is free and clear of any contract, and open to anyone who wants it. I learned from that experience and I will be careful not to let it happen again.
But let me say I've had only wonderful experiences with Melange Books. KILLER OF KILLERS will be my debut novel, and not THE VASE. That's OK. I wrote that one first, anyway. Still, I look forward to THE VASE being published. It's a special story and it needs to be told. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Nevertheless, KOK, I would think, warrants an R rating, which means it's not for kids. Definitely it is NOT a YA or MG novel. So whenever any of my students ask about it, I always tell them they can't read it until they're eighteen. Too much killing, I tell them.
Now, THE VASE is not a YA or MG novel, either. But I don't think it would qualify as an R rating. I think THE VASE would be a PG rating. That one may not be for kids but it could be read by kids, no problem. When that one gets published, then I'll be able to promote it at school. As for KOK, that one would be for teachers and parents, only.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Speaking of dreams, I had one this morning before I woke up, and it was about waiting for some man to interview me about publishing my book, THE VASE. But it was weird, as dreams can be, that I didn't want to wait for the dude. I was at a mall or something like that, and invited into this sort of reception room where I was waiting to be seen by some fast-talking con man, and I got up and left because I was unwilling to wait.
And that's funny unto itself, because the submission process is largely about waiting. But after I got up, these scary looking men followed me and tried to bring me back to that room, and even grabbed me to force me back, but I wouldn't go with them. I was not so eager to get published by these guys. I think I believed they were some kind of subsidy publishers. And it's true one publisher that contacted me was just that. You had to agree to buy something like five thousand dollars of books from them to get published by them. That sounded ridiculous to me, so no thanks.
Monday, March 12, 2012
Even when he trained in Japan, he never went by his real name. But over there it was a different reason. His Japanese mentor, Shoji Wada, came up with a nickname for him. Tora. It's Japanese for Tiger, and Shoji called him that because his fighting style reminded him of a Tiger. And Trent has green eyes, which is not common in Japan, as mostly, in Japan, their eyes are brown. So they called him Tora. Or Midori no Me no Tora: The Green-eyed Tiger.
But you know what? The name Shoji Wada is a name I borrowed from one of my own real life mentors. When I was just starting my teaching career, I was mentored to a small degree by this older teacher, and his name really was Shoji Wada. So when I had to come up with a Japanese name for Trent's mentor, he came to mind. I know the name Wada is not as common as some names, but it is a name that is not so uncommon either, as I understand it. But in the story, Shoji Wada is a highly honorable character, and one of the good guys. I think the real Shoji Wada would like him.
Friday, March 9, 2012
I can't say enough how excited I am that my debut novel, KILLER OF KILLERS is being published. This August can't come soon enough for me. And talking about it gives me another opportunity to post this great cover. Kudos to Caroline at Melange Books for coming up with it. For a long time I wondered just what the cover to that book would look like.
For a time I thought it might be a fight scene featuring Trent Smith doing some fancy martial arts move on some bad guy. I even considered doing the artwork myself. I dabbled at some sketches to see if I could come up with something.
But then I decided that since Trent was a killer of killers, I might use the symbol of death in the cover, which is a skull or skeleton, instead of a figurative design. So I googled skulls and skeletons. I considered using an image of the Grim Reaper.
I found that first design, the one with the skull and silhouetted skyline, and thought it worked. But then I learned the pixel thing wasn't high def enough, and that's when Caroline took over. Using the same idea, she came up with a design that's way better. So here it is again. I love it.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the sun undergoes what astronomers call a "Solar Maximum" phase every eleven years which result in increased sunspot activity and an increase in the number and duration of solar flares. (You see? All that research pays off.)
Anyway, this is the year our sun is having its "Solar Maximum" phase, and solar flares are emitting a bunch of charged particles that hit earth's magnetic field at tremendous velocities. And when that happens, a whole bunch of electromagnetic phenomena occur.
I use that as a catalyst for what happens in THE VASE, and that's why that story is so interesting. I'm still waiting on those publishers who are considering publishing it. I hope they read the news and know about those solar storms happening right now. As I have already acknowledged in prior posts, timing is everything.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Some movies should be remade and some don't need to be remade. I think, for example, that the first King Kong movie, even though it is a classic and well made, should have been remade, if for no other reason than the new technology that has come about for special effects.
That first attempt to remake it, the one with Jessica Lange, was a flop. But the second remake, the one by Peter Jackson, now that one was terrific. King Kong is a fine example to show that a dated movie can or should be remade in this modern era, but care should be exercised so you don't take a classic and ruin it. But if it's a home run like Jackson's, then, heck yeah.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Some people might want to include the Harry Potter series, but I can't because I never read any of those books, and I only saw the first movie, which I didn't like. So I never watched any of the other ones. To me, a school for witches where the major action was a flying broomstick game just was not interesting, and I couldn't get even slightly interested in it.
What I did like was The Transporter movies with Jason Statham. Now there was an interesting character with great action and great stories. But The Transporter movies are not a series. Those are sequels. The Jason Bourne story I think are also sequels, but those could be called a series because of the story arc of Bourne trying to find out who he really was. But it was another great character with great stories.
I would put my story KILLER OF KILLERS in the category of The Transporter and Jason Bourne. It's a great character with a great story, and with an underlying story arc that I wish I didn't wrap up in the second book. But when I wrote the second one, I wasn't even sure the first one would get published, so I figured to just wrap it up with the second book. I didn't want to dedicate so much time writing books that weren't going to get published.
But now that KILLER OF KILLERS is getting published, I kind of wish I stretched it out more. Well, that's all right. Some story arcs can be wrapped up in two volumes. But if you think about it, it's usually three. Trilogies... like Bourne and the two Star Wars trilogies, and Lord of the Rings.
Monday, March 5, 2012
Killer of Killers has a sequel, but it's really a continuation of the same story. So I'm not even sure it's a sequel. It's more like part two. I think if the book is about the same characters in the same universe, but it's a different story, then it's a sequel. Well, it's all semantics, I suppose. Killer Eyes, the sequel, is the conclusion to the story that begins in Killer of Killers. Of course, there's a different plot, and new villains, (actually, a lot of new villains.)
Now if I choose to write another story about Trent Smith, and I might just do that, then it will be a sequel, because I wrap up the Killer of Killers story in Killer Eyes. So it would have to be a completely different story if I write a third book in that series.
Now THE VASE is a story that needs no sequel. Nor does it need a part two. That story is complete as is. Now could I write a sequel to THE VASE? I think I could. I could use some of those characters, maybe all of them, and make another story.
I suppose any story could be continued in a sequel, or a sequel could be made from any story. But some shouldn't. For example, I remember that TV movie called Night Stalker. It was about some reporter who tracked down a modern-age vampire. It was well-done and so they made it into a TV series. Not only did it not warrant a TV series, (which flopped,) it didn't even warrant a sequel. Because what made that first show good was the Vampire, not the reporter, and the series followed the reporter, (since the vampire was killed and eliminated from the story.) But without that vampire, (and the actor who played it,) there was no more interest in that story. I'm sure there are many other examples.
Friday, March 2, 2012
If you want your book to be believable, even if it's fiction, you'd better do your homework. And in the case of writing a story, that homework is research. Otherwise readers will lose interest and quit reading. That means they put your book down, and it's all over.
It's especially true for historical fiction, like in my latest novel, JOHN DUNN, but it's also true for every novel. For THE VASE, I had to do tons of research on the Middle East, on Israel, and on the religions of the region. I looked up both Jewish and Muslim prayers and weaved them into the story in a realistic way. I had to do a lot of research on Nazareth and the Old City Market where Muhsin's Pottery Shop is located.
In KILLER OF KILLERS, I inundated myself with research on the Martial Arts. Luckily I had access to a well known dojo here in my part of town. But I also researched anatomy, particularly the nervous system and the circulatory system, since Trent Smith, the MC, is an expert at dealing death by striking the nerves, veins, and arteries in his enemies' bodies.
And the medical research for KOK was important, too. I had to figure out how a medicine might be able to cure all disease and stop aging. It may be far-fetched, but I actually discovered a way that makes it sound plausible. How? Well, you'll have to read the book. But what I found out through research sounds like it might actually work if some ambitious biochemists want to take a crack at it. I hope some of them read the book. It would be interesting to hear their take on that.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Accused and even convicted of murder, but then acquitted, it must have been a pretty scary ride. I have no idea what happened over there in Italy. Not really interested, either. I guess enough people will be interested to buy her book whenever she writes it.
You never know what goes on behind closed doors, so who knows if she did it or not. My guess is probably not, but why did the Italians convict her? I suppose that's what the book will explain. Sometimes it's true what they say. Sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction.