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.
Monday, April 30, 2012
But then it happened. She said that one of the reasons she wanted to read it was to prepare herself for making it available to her students. Particularly male students. She went on to explain that it was great that there would be another book for them to read.
But then I told her to hit the brakes. I said to hold on a minute. I explained that this book was not for kids. This book was for an adult audience. I had to let her know that there was violence and even, shudder, sex in the story line. Not graphic violence and not explicit sex, but both were in there, nonetheless.
And she acted disappointed. As if because I'm a teacher I was expected to write for kids. I said that wasn't my objective to write for kids. I'm not a kid, you see, and my goal was to write a book that I myself would want to read. That's what I did. And now, I'm not so sure that she even wants to read it anymore. But I don't feel bad about that. I don't write what other people expect me to write. I write what I think is the best story I can come up with. And that's what I had in mind with all four of the books I wrote. The absolute best story I could write. And all four are books that I would want to read.
I believe that this is an example of being true to yourself. It's like living your life. As basic as that. You live your life to be true to yourself. If you don't, then you risk being a phony. A fraud. And you live a lie. Who wants that? Same thing with writing. I believe many authors sacrifice this aspect of themselves when they write. It's a sell-out, imo. They resort to YA or MG just as a means to break through that publishing barrier. Not all writers, of course. Some writers really have a calling to write YA or MG. It's who they are and that's great.
I'm sure that J.K. Rowling did exactly what she was called to do. Same thing with Stephanie Meyer. And Suzanne Collins. But so many others look to that as the easy road to publication. Whatever. If it works for them, then fine. But just because I'm a Middle School teacher doesn't mean my calling is to write for a middle school audience. Maybe I would if I was still a middle school student, or in the YA age bracket. But I'm past that stage now. I'm a full-fledged adult male. And I want to write books that will be read by an adult audience. I did. And I'm very pleased with the result. With all four books. And it's what I will continue to do. That's all.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Nor should a writer copy another writer's style or use another writer's ideas, even if it is used in another way. I don't believe in that at all. It would be like a music composer using another tune or melody from another composer's song in a song that they are claiming to write.
No. I think if a writer wants to read someone else's book, that's fine, of course. But only when they truly want to read it. Sure a writer can be a fan of another writer and read their books for pleasure. For me that other writer would be Robert E. Howard. If you haven't heard of him, he's the guy who created the genre called "Sword and Sorcery." And he created CONAN, KING KULL, and a bevy of other characters. I haven't read them all, but I plan to.
But only because I enjoy it. And to tell you the truth, there are not many authors out there whose work I enjoy. Really. Ray Bradbury would be on that list of writers whose work I enjoy. But so many of these other authors, old and new, I don't have any interest at all. Take Jonathan Franzen, for instance. When all the hullaballoo happened when his last book came out, I picked one up and started reading it. But you know what? I put it right back down after one page. It was like, so what? No interest.
Yeah, I've picked up a Twilight book, too. It was like, what? There was nothing there for me. Of course, I'm not a teenage girl. That must be the prerequisite for being interested in that book. Same thing for Harry Potter and Hunger Games. I'm not a teenage girl. So no interest. And besides, those stories are basically copies of other writers' ideas.
But that's not all. I've picked up books written by James Patterson, Dan Brown, Cormac McCarthy and others. Nope. No interest. Were those aimed at a grown male audience? If they were, it didn't work for me. I put those down, too.
The last two books I read were this year, and both were about the man about whom I wrote my last book. John Dunn. Well, THE WASHING OF THE SPEARS really wasn't about John Dunn. It was about the ZULUS in particular and the ANGLO-ZULU War. Now that was an interesting book. I like true stuff from history. Even if it might be a novel. That's one of the reasons I strayed from my TRENT SMITH SERIES and wrote it. True stuff. Not stuff of fantasy.
John Dunn was someone who really lived, and what I wrote really happened. That's interesting to me. A real story about a real man who lived a real life with real adventures. That's not to say I can't enjoy fiction. I already said I appreciated Robert E. Howard and his fiction stories. But when it comes to these other genres and those other books, forget it. I need that time to write. Thanks anyway.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
What prompted this post was an article in the news today that said the police just arrested someone for the murder of a teenage girl whose body was found in a river. It reminded me of the little girl whose body was found floating in a lake, stuffed inside a suitcase. And then there were the recent multiple murders here in the Bay Area: one at an Oakland college (seven people killed,) and one at a San Francisco residence, (five people killed.)
And these incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. There seems to be a limitless amount of people out there who, for some reason, believe they can just murder innocent people who have done nothing to them. They just murder them. And often in a very brutal and horrible fashion.
And on top of all of that, there is a faction in our society who seem to relate to or sympathize with the murderers. They want us to feel sorry for the MURDERERS! I shake my head at them. If it was THEIR daughter or son who was murdered, I bet they wouldn't be so forgiving.
I have no compassion for these murderers. ZERO. And it's one of the reasons I wrote KILLER OF KILLERS. The main character is a lot like me in that regard. Like me, he is tired of murderers murdering innocent people, and then being acquitted. In the story, the string of acquittals has reached an unprecedented number. And no one is doing anything about it.
When I began writing the story, I had no reason for it happening. But after I started writing, I developed it into a more complex and intricate plot. The MC uncovers the truth behind the killings and the acquittals. Yeah, it involves a drug. A drug that had been recently invented to cure all disease. But it had side effects. Homicidal rage being one of them.
It was inspired by these real life situations, but I couldn't just leave it at that. It's fiction after all, and I had an obligation to entertain the reader. Otherwise no one would think to publish it. Yeah, KILLER OF KILLERS. It's one heck of a story. And my favorite book.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
But now it's KILLER OF KILLERS that has the book contract and not THE VASE.
So what to do? Rename the blog KILLER OF KILLERS? Or maybe just KILLER? It doesn't have a ring to it. Perhaps something like, THE KILLER BLOG. Or THE BLOG OF KILLERS? Doesn't sound right to me.
I would like to retain the blog name as it is now: THE VASE. But when it comes to promoting your books, it's a better idea, I think, to promote the one that's getting published.
I believe THE VASE will get another book deal, and then the blog name will be appropriate. But if it doesn't happen soon, it will behoove me to change it. We'll see. Patience is in order, that's all.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The reason I mentioned those two bloggers is because those are the two bloggers who had influenced me to start blogging. And now one doesn't blog and the other not as often.
I've tried to be an everydayer. Even if I just post something. Anything. It keeps me in the game, or so I like to think.
But it's all about writing. It gives us writers another chance to write. Keeps us going. And for me, that's reason enough.
Monday, April 23, 2012
It's because reading it from beginning to end, and making revisions while doing so, is a very time-consuming process. So lately I'm just randomly selecting a chapter or a passage and reading it and improving it right there.
I have found some spots that I've changed considerably using that method. It's weird how I didn't notice the need for those changes as I read through it chronologically. But it happens. I remember with both THE VASE and KILLER OF KILLERS, I found spots that needed changing or adjusting because it was out of sync with the rest of the story.
And I'm looking at this from another mindset, too. For the first time, I'm considering a third book in the TRENT SMITH story, and I am inserting some things into KILLER EYES that might set up that third storyline.
And like I said last week, I might even change the name of the book from KILLER EYES to THE KILLERS GUILD. But I'm not sure. I like both titles and both would fit. We'll see.
UPDATE: It seems there has been some kind of new format change made by the blogging gods. The draft page looks very different, but at least I've figured out how to make the line breaks now. You have to save it from the "Options" tag on the menu.
Friday, April 20, 2012
But the leader of the KILLERS GUILD, Ming Sang, has really cool eyes. KILLER EYES. And the storyline refers to them often. It's why I called it that.
But THE KILLERS GUILD has a major role in the storyline, and I might just call it that. I might wait until I submit the story. Maybe my editor will have a preference. We'll see.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
I say that because look at some of these movies that just came out and what's due to come out soon. Two movies about Snow White, one on the Three Stooges, and another movie from the Aliens franchise that I thought died out years ago.
Where are the next George Lucas type movie makers? If they can't come up with anything original, then look to books, like they did for the Jason Bourne Franchise. The Bourne movies are among my all-time favorites. And another one is DUNE. To this day, the movie DUNE is one of my favorite movies. That was inspired by Frank Herbert's masterpiece SciFi novel. And the James Bond franchise was born from the books written by Ian Fleming. Although very few of them were actually stories from the books, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE was straight from the book, and it is absolutely an all-time favorite of mine. And now that the BOND franchise has been rebooted with Daniel Craig, they seem to be back on the right track. (Meaning they have the Bond character true to his literary counterpart.)
And that is the caveat. Don't ruin the essence of the book by turning it into something it's not. Case in point: CONAN. The original Conan movies were horrible, and even the latest movie of Conan was a total flop. If someone like Peter Jackson would do a Conan movie, I might think it would be good, based on how he turned the LOR books into magnificent movies. Now there's an example of turning books into perfect movies, imo.
Let's see if that can continue to happen. But I doubt it. The Peter Jackson type of movie makers seem to be a rare breed.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
And the last ten years since my second son was born have moved even faster. That is a very sobering thought.
But the last three months since I signed a contract with Melange Books for the publication of KILLER OF KILLERS have moved quite slowly. And the last couple months while awaiting an answer for my second novel, THE VASE have moved slower still.
Now I'm not complaining. I am relieved that time has slowed. Because the time does eventually pass no matter how fast or slow it's moving. And besides, when you're waiting on something, like your first book to come out or another one to be accepted, it gives you a lot to look forward to.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Anyway, I don't get what the hullaballoo is all about. I didn't think it was a very good story at all. I liked the costumes. For a futuristic society the fashions were pretty cool. But the premise, and the plot and the "game" itself? To use today's vernacular... it all sucked.
For me, the first 30 minutes dragged. Talk about BORING. It really was. I just told myself that when the game began it was sure to pick up. But no. All the game turned out to be was turning 24 kids loose into a countryside arena to kill each other until only one remained. That was it. (And the contestants were as young as 12.) And if the kids didn't kill each other fast enough, the controllers behind the scenes would conjure up forest fires and giant pit bulls to get it done.
And then they change the rule so that two partners can survive, but then they change their mind, and then they change their mind again. It was a horrible story-line, imo. But what do I know? I didn't like Harry Potter, either. Or Twilight.
Monday, April 16, 2012
I am confident that it is a polished manuscript. I might go so far as to say that it has no more typos. It's my oldest and most worked-on manuscript, after all, but I'm sure that an editor will have something to say about it. So I'll keep my mind on that "universe" with the sequel KILLER EYES, until it happens.
Cant’ wait to get started, that’s all. Let the edits begin!
Friday, April 13, 2012
That's not to say it can't be polished up more. I've said too many times that a book is not finished with revisions until it is published. And only then will the revisions stop.
But I'm with the mind that I want my manuscript to be pretty close to the one I submitted so that when it's accepted I don't have a vastly different manuscript on hand. That's why I'm staying away from both KILLER OF KILLERS and THE VASE right now.
Yeah, I did do one read-through of KILLER OF KILLERS since it was accepted and I made some good revisions, but only in the prose here and there. That's something that can go on forever, really. And I've even made some improvements in THE VASE. But I would rather stop. I'll go through KOK when Melange is ready to edit it. And I'll get back to THE VASE when one of these publishers decide to publish it.
And since KOK is getting published, that means KILLER EYES will have a good chance of getting published, too. But I've decided to really delve into that one this summer. My method of operation has been to dedicate the summer days to writing a brand new book, and using the fall, winter and spring to revise it, and/or my other manuscipts.
But right now, with four books under the belt, I think I have enough manuscripts happening to keep me busy. After all, the more you work on them the better they get. That's why KILLER OF KILLERS is so good. And same thing with THE VASE. I've been working on them for so long, they have evolved into great books that are written very well. Believe me, there were no short cuts. It was long hours of reading, rewriting, rereading and revising. Those long hours turned into months and the months turned into years. But all that time and all that work has paid off. I'm very proud of those two books.
So I will concentrate on KILLER EYES and JOHN DUNN until I'm working with an editor for KOK and THE VASE. Yep, as good as they already are, they'll be even better when they're in print. But that's how it's supposed to be. At least, that's what I think.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
I can count myself lucky in some ways. Many authors never get their first novel published, and here I am with a book deal signed for the first ever book that I wrote, and a publisher queuing it for publication this summer. Like they say, if you want to get a book published, you've got to write a great book. And that's just what I did. But anyone who's been reading this blog can tell you, it hasn't been an easy road.
Like a lot of first-time authors, I had to deal with the prejudice of editors, agents, and publishers for being an unknown entity in the writing world. I'm no celebrity, I've never been a literary agent or anything else that has to do with publishing. And I have zero connections, whatsoever.
Nope. I'm just a teacher at a Middle School. That's all. But it's going to happen. And when it does, then I'll celebrate. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
I have never seen an Amber Heard show or movie, but when I saw a picture of this actress, the first thing that came to my mind was... SAMANTHA JONES! Samantha Jones is the female lead in my debut novel, KILLER OF KILLERS. She's a police detective, but she's a very beautiful police detective. Needless to say she's a blonde police detective, and Amber Heard would be perfect for the role if the book were to ever be made into a movie. She's young enough to be right for the role for several years, too.
When I first wrote the book, I pictured Jessica Alba for the part. A blonde Jessica Alba, that is. But time goes by, and I figure there won't be any movie offers anytime soon. So that would mean Amber Heard would get the role up to five or six years from now, and in my mind, she's perfect for the part.
What about Trent Smith? After all, he is the main character. When I wrote the book, I envisioned someone like Casper Van Dien to play the brooding martial arts champion. At five, nine, he's just the right height, and he's got green eyes, too. But like Jessica Alba, by the time KOK might become movie material, he'll be too old.
So enter Dustin Clare from the Spartacus TV show I mentioned recently. He'd make a great Trent Smith, and he's young enough to be right for the part over the next five or six years, also.
Here's a picture of him as Gannicus from the show Spartacus. Interestingly, on Spartacus he plays a champion gladiator. So who could be better for the part of Trent Smith? He's listed as five, eight, but that's close enough to five, nine. And in case you're wondering, the height issue is a very important one. Because in the book Trent Smith is described as an average sized fighter. So I can't have actors who are six feet and over playing the part. Most of Trent's opponents actually tower above him.
Look, I know that this is all a pipe dream right now. But at one time the thought of KILLER OF KILLERS getting published was just a dream, too. And that dream is coming true. You never know. At the very least, what I can say is that if you were to read the book when it is published this coming August, you might envision these two actors as the lead roles. That's all.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I would even like to get a read-through done on JOHN DUNN, too. I want to send it as a sample read to one of the forum members on that Zulu War forum. Most of those guys are middle-aged Brits, and I am curious to see how they would respond to it. I figure those are the guys who most likely would be reading a book about John Dunn, since a major portion of the story involves the Anglo-Zulu War.
OK, back to KILLER EYES.
Monday, April 9, 2012
As for KILLER OF KILLERS, I am still waiting for Melange to get to editing it. I'm getting a little antsy about that. Since it's pegged for a release in August, I sure hope they'll get to it by June. OK, so that leaves a couple months. In the meantime, I read through it once, made some minor revisions, and sent it to Nancy, the publisher over at Melange. I labeled it KILLER OF KILLERS 1.0, and I don't want to do that again until my editor gives it his editorial read-through.
I suppose I can revise it again and label it KILLER OF KILLERS 1.1, and then send it yet again. But I don't want to flood them with three or more different versions of the same manuscript. It's not like I don't have anything else to do. I have plenty of other manuscripts to work on. If not KILLER EYES, then I can always go back to JOHN DUNN. Or even THE VASE. A writer's life is never an idle one, unless that writer takes a break from writing.
And if I do that I can spend time with the family. (And I have.) Because no writer should ever forget about his family. (If he wants to stay married, that is.) I think some writers out there have been so focused on their writing, and so preoccupied with getting their book published, they end up divorced. I'm glad that never happened to me. Maybe I just have a committed wife. Yeah, that's gotta be it. A committed wife. She never liked that I spent time writing, but she never wavered from our marriage. What a woman!
Friday, April 6, 2012
KILLER OF KILLERS will be a great debut novel. I mean for my first book published, it's going to be an intense read. But it's not for everyone. It's not for kids, that's for sure. There is violence, but not over the top violence. There is killing, obviously, but not over the top killing. And there is sex, but not over the top sex.
So what do I mean by over the top violence, over the top killing, and over the top sex? Well has anyone out there seen the Starz TV series called Spartacus? There have been three seasons of it now. Well, if you have seen it, then you know what I mean by "over the top." In those Spartacus shows, there is over the top violence, killing, and sex. I mean the first thing they show as the credits begin is a spattering of blood across the screen with the title.
And that's what you get throughout the show. Blood spurting, pouring, drenching everywhere. Limbs hacked off, heads rolling, and it's consistent throughout all three seasons. But hey, I'm not criticizing it. I actually like it. I like all shows about the Roman Empire. I liked the old movies from the 50s and 60s, like Cleopatra, Ben Hur, and, yeah, Spartacus with Kirk Douglas.
But those movies are for kiddies compared to Starz' Spartacus. And the sex? Well, let's just say it's borderline pornographic. I'm no prude, and I know sex is a part of life. But to show it as much as Starz does in Spartacus? Well, it's over the top.
And Killer of Killers has it all. But again, it's not over the top. Not like Spartacus.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Theophilus Shepstone wanted the African natives to believe that it was he who was their best friend. He spoke their languages, he spent time in their villages (kraals) and he set aside reserves in which they could live. (Interestingly, those reserves, I believe, were the beginning of the Apartheid setting that plagued South Africa in the Twentieth Century.)
But Theophilus Shepstone betrayed the Zulus. He wanted to be a leader of his own nation or kingdom. At first he envisioned his subjects to be the indigenous Africans, and he sided with the Zulus in their disputes against the Boers. But when he was presented with an opportunity to rule the Transvaal, which was the country where the Boers lived, he reversed himself and sided with the Boers.
So how does all that make him John Dunn's antagonist? In effect, John Dunn was a white Zulu. He lived in Zululand, was best friends with the Zulu king, had fifty Zulu wives and over a hundred children who were half Zulu. He supported them all. He built homes and schools for his wives and children. He fed them and clothed them all. But Shepstone hated him for it and for the fact that the Zulu king gave Dunn a subkingdom of his own to rule. And that irked Shepstone no end.
When there was a job opportunity for a transport service through Zululand, Dunn was perfect for the job. But Shepstone did not want to give the job to Dunn. When the Zulu king heard about that, he made it clear to Shepstone that he would permit no other man to have that job, since it involved escorting members of an enemy tribe through Zululand. Shepstone had to relent. Dunn got the job. But the worst transgression against the Zulus Shepstone committed was his support of the British when they declared war against the Zulus. (Three of his sons fought in that war on the side of the British.)
Yes, Dunn fought for the British, too, but only near the end of the war and only because they were going to hang him if he didn't. And helping his decision was the fact that rogue Zulus burned down his houses and the towns he built for his family and people in his territory. It was a complicated time for Dunn, to be sure. And Theophilus Shepstone did his best to make it increasingly so.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
For instance, Professor Hiram Weiss is an art professor. He is also a Mossad operative. And to many people he would be considered the good guy. But not to the Palestinians, and certainly not to Muhsin Muhabi, the vase-maker. That's because Weiss wants to blow up Mushin's pottery shop. But Muhsin, poor guy, knows nothing about it.
But there are some bad guys. They are terrorists. But in their viewpoint, they are freedom fighters. And in their minds, they are the good guys. Still, killing innocents, even for a cause, is considered a bad thing to anyone with a conscience. Therefore, I will say that they are bad guys and the real antagonists in this story.
Yes, antagonists, (or bad guys,) are often not easily defined.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
But in the sequel I can safely say that there is indeed another antagonist, whom I talked about in this blog during the course of writing the story. And it's a woman! Ming Sang, the daughter of a Chinese freedom fighter during WWII, is the main antagonist. She is a beautiful woman but at the same time a very sinister individual.
So is it unusual to have a female antagonist? I mean as the main antagonist? Sure women are bad in a lot of stories, but how often are they the main heavy? And this Ming Sang is pretty heavy. She is a martial arts expert, herself. No, not as good as Trent Smith, and she knows it. Is she as good at killing as Trent Smith? I would say yes. And she has an army of killers at her command. And Trent Smith has to fight them all.
How does one guy fight an entire army? Well, to find out you've got to read the book!
Monday, April 2, 2012
It's a drug discovered, or funded, I should say, by Karl Manoukian. But in doing so, he ran out of money and brought in Abraham Soriah, the world's richest man to continue the funding of the drug's development that was so close to completion. The only problem with Abraham Soriah is that he is already old, like near 90, and he doesn't want the drug to just halt the aging process. He wants to make the drug capable of reversing the aging process. Does he succeed? Well, you have to read the book. And it's not so easy as that. There are side effects, which they need to overcome, as well.
So where did I get these names? Abraham Soriah? Well, if anyone ever saw that musical movie from the 60s called Paint Your Wagon, there was a song someone sang that had the words: "They call the wind Moriah..." Yeah, for some reason, that came to mind, and I came up with Soriah. Abraham just seemed like a good fit as a first name, so that was that.
As for Karl Manoukian? Well, when I was a kid, my childhood doctor's name was Dr. Manoukian, and I never forgot that guy. So I put together the name Karl Manoukian. Plus, I know names that end with ...ian.... are Armenian names and many Armenians were in Turkey. And this guy is from there. I know about the Turkish/Armenian genocide, but that has no role in the book.
However, there is a genocide from history that does have a role in the book. Especially in the sequel, KILLER EYES. More about that later.