Will iconic images recorded in the grooves of an ancient vase unite the Holy Land or rip it further apart?

THE VASE

A novel by Mark M. DeRobertis

Muhsin Muhabi is a Palestinian potter, descended from a long line of potters. His business is run from the same shop owned by his ancestors since the day his forebears moved to Nazareth. The region's conflict saw the death of his oldest son, and rogue terrorists are in the process of recruiting his youngest in their plot to assassinate the Pope and Israeli prime minister.

Professor Hiram Weiss is an art historian at Nazareth’s Bethel University. He is also a Shin Bet operative on special assignment. With the help of fellow agent, Captain Benny Mathias, he plans to destroy the gang responsible for the death of his wife and only child. He puts a bomb in the ancient vase he takes on loan from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Mary Levin, the charming assistant to the director of Shin Bet, has lost a husband and most of her extended family to recurring wars and never-ending terrorism. She dedicates her life to the preservation of Israel, but to whom will she dedicate her heart - the brilliant professor from Bethel University - or the gallant captain who now leads Kidon?

Harvey Holmes, the Sherlock of Haunted Houses, is a Hollywood TV host whose reality show just flopped. When a Lebanese restaurant owner requests his ghost-hunting services, he believes the opportunity will resurrect his career. All he has to do is exorcise the ghosts that are haunting the restaurant. It happens to be located right across the street from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.



Friday, November 30, 2012

It's Raining

Rain is pelting the Bay Area today. Heavy Rain, that is, and that's not too common over here. It made me wonder about how I might use rain in a novel. Of the four books I've written, it only rains in one of them. The John Dunn book, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu. None of the others have a single rainy day in them. But that's because of the time of the year. Both Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes take place over the summer. And in both of them, the setting is America, as Trent Smith travels coast to coast throughout the duration of the books. In The Vase, the time of year is Spring, and I've learned that the climate in Israel is similar to the climate here. And there's no rain.

But in John Dunn, which takes place entirely in South Africa, in Natal and Zululand, there is plenty of rain. Heavy rain. Flooding rain. When John Dunn brings his large family and his people across the Tugela River at the start of the Zulu War, it's pouring rain. And it was fun writing about it.

Actually, I can't wait to get back to that novel. But it's last in queue because The Vase and then Killer Eyes will preceed it. But it shouldn't take too long. I'm still enjoying this writing process. But right now it's a new stage. Revisions, editing, and publishing. I like the publishing part best. Can't wait to see The Vase published. I'll be submitting the rewritten version next month. And Holy Smokes, next month begins tomorrow. Cool.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Time to Move On

Yes, after so many years, and lately, so many months focusing on Killer of Killers, it's time to move on and focus on The Vase. My editors for Killer of Killers seemed to be much more content with it than I was. After only one round of editing, they were ready to go ahead with publication. But I wasn't so sure. I know that they considered it a pretty clean manuscript when I submitted it, and it was.

But I'm a perfectionist. It's the artist in me. And I just had the feeling that it needed to be better. And better. Even after Melange published it back in August, I still couldn't keep myself from seeing how it could be better. I found some typos, and grammar mistakes, and even some clunky passages, and I am very grateful that Melange was willing to reload the improved version each time I requested it.

And now, I have to let it go. It's like having your child grow up and move out of the house, I suppose. You just have to let go.

I have another novel to focus on, now. The Vase might have been published first, and that is well chronicled on this blog, and even so, it needs its own improving, which I've been working on this past week. I hope to have the POV rewrites done by next month. And when it is, I'll keep the focus on The Vase until it, too, is published and out there in the world.

And like a parent whose second child is grown, I'll have to let go of that one, too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Still No Reviews

Well, it's been about three months since Killer of Killers has been released, and the Lulu sales ranking has remained pretty good. But there are no reviews for it, yet.

I tried to find some reviewers, but mostly I found reviewers who wanted to be paid for their review. I emailed a couple reviewers who didn't require payment, and got no response. I submitted a couple requests to blogs that do reviews, and, again, I got no response. It's like I never even sent them anything. One guy on Goodreads left a good review a month or so ago, and I wish I thanked him for it, because just as suddenly as it appeared, it disappeared. Did he change his mind or what?

Maybe I should be careful for what I wish for. You know... maybe I'll get a review and then wish I never got the review. I'm aware there are going to be haters out there. Yeah, there are people who seem to revel in trashing stuff in their reviews. So, maybe no review is a good review? Just sayin'.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Readers Groups? No, Just Writers

I've joined some groups at Goodreads to try and promote Killer of Killers, and there's a couple of Martial Arts groups over there, and an Action/Thriller group, too, and both groups have a lot of members. So I was hoping being there would prompt an interest in my book. Nope. I'm finding out that most or maybe even all of the members at Goodreads aren't much into reading other people's books. They are practically all of them writers with books of their own to promote.

I really doubt much more than one or two of them have any interest at all in reading someone else's book, let alone buying one. Hey, I'm not judging, because I'm one of them. I spend 100% of my spare time writing, not reading. And so I can conclude that they do, too. It's back to the old conundrum--more writers than readers---at least in the groups I join. How to solve it? Find groups that are readers and not writers. That's all. But where are they?

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Vase Coming Along

So I finally got back into the mode for rewriting The Vase. And that's exactly what it is. A rewrite. The editor made it clear that the POV must be limited throughout the story, and my third person omniscient will not do. So third person limited it is. One more thing. The time changes must be either dream sequences or flashbacks. In Killer of Killers, they were mostly flashbacks with one dream sequence. I think that's what I'll do with the time changes in The Vase, too. Had to make it happen with the first one in chapter 3 last night, and it worked out.

Talk about "darlings" as some authors do, I had to delete some of those. Darlings are parts of your writing that you are particularly proud of, but in the revisions stage, or rewriting stage as I'm in now, it turns out those parts must be deleted, even if it hurts. You don't want to do it, but there is no longer a reason to have them in there no matter how well they are written. So be it. And I had to delete a couple of my darlings last night from chapter three.

Hopefully, tonight I can get to chapter four and be done with this by Christmas. We'll see.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks to All-and POV-again-this time The Vase

Okay, so it's Thanksgiving, and I'm sure everyone has something for which they can be thankful. I do. But I won't bore anyone who might be reading this with a list of everything I'm thankful for, nor would I want to read anyone else's list.

But when it comes to writing, all authors can be thankful that they made their work into a publishable manuscript, and I'm among those who managed to get that far. Killer of Killers is published, it seems to be selling pretty well, and I am currently working on making The Vase into a publishable manuscript.

One of the problems in The Vase is that I had written the first chapter in Muhsin Muhabi's POV, but he doesn't see the first incident of the images projected from his vase. Still, I had to describe the images so that the reader is in the loop. But if Muhsin doesn't see them, how can I describe those images? That was the issue the editor at this other publishing house had with the writing at this point. He says I have to permit Muhsin a glance of the images, and that is the only way I can then describe them.

But, again, Muhsin is NOT SUPPOSED TO SEE THOSE IMAGES. It's integral to the storyline that he doesn't see them. Not until near the end of the book does he see them. And that was my quandary. My solution? I have rewritten the first chapter from his son's POV. It's Naji Muhabi's POV, now, that the story begins with and since Naji is seeing the projection, it's okay now for the images to be described for the reader.

Hopefully, the editor will aprove of this rewrite, and I can proceed to rewrite the rest of the book in a like manner. We'll see.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Okay, So I Reviewed it, but....

I know I said an author reviewing his/her own book didn't sound right, but since Goodreads had a place to do it, I decided there was a way an author can do it without sounding self-serving. So I didn't write about how great Killer of Killers is, and I didn't rate it with five stars. In fact, I didn't rate it at all.

I mean what author would give himself less than five stars? See what I mean? So I just  talked about what the book entails and left any rating or opinions about the quality out of the review. I think that's the best way for an author to review his own book and that's how I did it. Click on the Goodreads link to the right if you care to see what I said. That's all.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Martial Arts Novels

I'm hoping that martial arts novels can be as popular as martial arts movies. The reason is obvious. Martial arts movies are very popular, and they have been for a long time. Bruce Lee movies back in the 70s were part of the rise in popularity for martial arts movies, and that old TV show with David Carradine, Kung Fu, was another reason for the rise.

And since then, martial arts movies have been coming out quite regularly. And always with success. I saw the latest one, The Man with the Iron Fists, and it was good. Martial arts novels aren't too numerous, however. I've heard they are in China, but here in America, there are just a few. I tried to read them, but lost interest. Don't know why. Mostly they are about police detectives or some private investigator, or something like that. And I just didn't get into them.

I found someone who wrote martial arts novels while searching for them on the internet, but they seemed to be self-published novels, and the formatting seemed very unconventional. Doesn't mean they weren't good, but, again, I couldn't get very far when I tried to read the samples. Maybe those authors can't read much of my book, either.

But my debut novel, Killer of Killers is more than just a martial arts story. It's also a love story. A compelling one, too, but with a lot of action, a brooding hero, and a deep theme. When I started writing it, I wasn't too concerned about including a theme, but as the plot unfolded, the theme seemed to spring out. So I went with it. I don't want to put in spoilers here, which would happen if I explained the theme, but it's one that people face their entire lives.

And the bad guys? Well, they may not be so bad after all. Interesting, yes, but evil? Well, again, I don't want to include any spoilers here. I'll leave it to the readers to decide.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reviews

So I have no reviews currently for Killer of Killers. On Goodreads you can put up your own review, but that doesn't sound right. I mean who will believe an author's review of his/her own book? Of course he or she will say it was a great book.

I checked around the web for how to get reviews, and all I found were reviewers who want authors to pay them for their reviews. That's not something I will do, because it sounds unethical. Pay for a review? And then what? You get a good review? I can't imagine people are going to pay for a bad review. Those reviewers won't stay in business long if that was the case.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm thinking you shouldn't be paying for reviews. It's like cheating. At least that's what I think. If someone reads your book, and they liked it, and they are inclined to write a nice review for it, then that's how it should happen. Or even if the reviewer is a professional reviewer, then he or she should only write what they really think of the book, but because they get paid by the newspaper or magazine for whom they work, not because they get paid by the author to write the review.

So, anyway, I won't be paying anyone to write a review. Maybe that means I won't get any. Life goes on, and so will my book. Reviews or not...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Authors Everywhere, but...

As I read blogs about the web, I might conclude that there are authors everywhere. An abundance of them, either published or seeking publication, or still writing their first novels, or even their second, third or fourth, etc. But I really don't see many blogs by readers.

In one way, it makes sense, that writers write blogs, and readers just read them. Okay. You would think that mathematics would dictate a large disparity of readers to writers, with readers being the vast majority. And with the success of some of these recent novels, it would seem to be true.

Still, it also seems that the number of writers, both published and unpublished, is endless. I suppose that it's much easier to be a writer than any other kind of artist. As an artist, I might say that it's true. I am an artist and an art teacher. I draw, paint, sculpt, and you know what? Doing those things does take a lot more of an effort than sitting down in front of a computer and writing.

And I'm also a musician and song writer. And sure enough, doing that also takes a lot more effort than sitting down and typing away.

So, yeah, I guess that's why the number of writers is so vast. It's an easier thing to do. I spent four or five years writing music, and it was fun. But if I want to get out there and get it known, I'd have to find other musicians to form a band, practice regularly, and then get gigs to perform.

Writing only takes you. You don't need anyone else. Of course you find a publisher, but still it's just you. Again, a much easier proposition. No wonder there are so many writers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sales Remain Steady

I posted a week ago that sales seemed to be pretty good for Killer of Killers, but I wonder who's buying it. Who's reading it? Well, someone must be reading it, because the Lulu Sales Ranking is higher than your average Lulu paperback. It shot up from a five figure number to a four digit number the first month after release, and it has remained pretty steady since then.

Aside from a coworker or two, I have no clue who is buying it or reading it. No one is reviewing it, or at least, no one is leaving any reviews anywhere that I have seen. And no one is commenting on it, either, or at least nowhere that I have seen. I did see one review on Goodreads about a month ago, but it disappeared. It was a good review, too.

It would be great to see some good reviews that don't disappear, but I suppose it doesn't matter. The sales ranking is pretty good, and that doesn't even include Amazon, because I don't think Amazon even has it yet. I hope that will change soon. The delay might be because I insisted on reloading the "template" which kept it from being put on Amazon. But now that the final reload has taken place, I think it will go on Amazon any time now. I should ask my publisher about that.

And when it does, maybe the sales will increase even more. It's time, also, to check out my local bookstores. Barnes and Nobles told me a couple weeks ago that they would stock it. I'll go see if they did. And if they did, I'll visit a few more bookstores. That will be fun. Nothing like promoting and marketing your own book. But I'd rather be writing. Have to get on with that sequel and the further adventures of Trent Smith. Killer Eyes is up next. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 9, 2012

3rd Person Omniscient or Limited

I like third person omniscient, but the word seems to be that third person limited is the preference. At least among editors. And I'm not so sure I am in the same boat with them.

Because, to me, third person limited is almost like a first person narrative. You are only supposed to write, or the reader is only supposed to know what is up with that one character in whose head the writer is "in" during each scene.

But I grew up reading third person omniscient. And I have grown a hatred for first person narratives. In fact, whenever I start reading a first person book, I drop it like a hot potato. Can't stand that type of novel.

I made Killer of Killers into a third person limited, because the editors at Melange insisted on it, and it wasn't such a difficult thing for that one to be changed. But The Vase is different. The story makes it almost necessary for it to be third person omniscient. I'm exploring the possible ways to change that, but I'm thinking it might not be possible.

There are just some stories that by their very nature must be a certain type of narrative. And I still don't buy into the argument that readers get "confused" by third person omniscient. Unless the writing is just plain bad. Maybe that's just my opinion. But I don't think so.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What about Josh Jones?

Since Amber Heard is the perfect actress for the part of Samantha Jones, what about the brother of Samantha Jones, Josh Jones? He has an important role in Killer of Killers, too. But casting an actor for that part won't be easy. Because Josh Jones is 6' 7" tall, and built like an NFL defensive lineman. That would mean he's about 280 pounds of solid muscle.

I don't think there are any Hollywood actors who would fit that description. It's one of the reasons the role of Conan was so hard to fill. And Hollywood keeps thinking Arnold is he answer, as I've just learned that Arnold is reprising his role as Conan in the near future.

As a matter of fact, Killer of Killers has a whole bunch of characters that are extraordinarily tall. I suppose that the special effects people can make actors appear taller than the really are. If KOK is ever made into a movie, that's something they can do. I heard that one of the recent Sleeping Beauty movies used special effects to make normal sized actors look like dwarves. And look at how well the LOTR movies did with making actors look like short little Hobbits.

And there are NFL players who might just welcome a chance to show what they can do as actors. A lot have already made a good transition from the gridiron to the silver screen. Bubba Smith, Alex Karras, Howie Long, Jim Brown, and Fred Dryer come to mind, and that's just off the top of my head. Even Brett Favre has made a few cameos.

I wish there was a current day Chuck Norris for the main character of Trent Smith. But like I've said, Dustin Clare would be great. Just give him some martial arts lessons, and being a great actor, he could pull it off no sweat. Heck, if David Carradine, who's had no formal martial arts training whatsoever could pull off Kung Fu, it can be done by any decent actor. That's all.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Writing, yeah, but Promotion, too

Of course, it's about the writing. First and foremost, a novel, or any book for that matter, must have good writing. It must be a well-written book. Otherwise, what's the point of writing a book in the first place. Sure, I've heard how some books became famous even with writing that wasn't good. But the first rule of writing a book, to me, is write the book well.

I only became a good writer after I wrote my first book. And then I had to go back and virtually rewrite the book. An agent told me straight up, my story line was "terrific" but the writing wasn't "strong" enough. That's a polite way of saying I didn't write well enough at that point.

But I didn't just quit. I went back and revised, revised, revised, to the point that I had virtually rewritten the book. I added scenes, subplots, and deleted a lot of it, and changed a lot. I mean right up to the point of publication and beyond, I continued making the writing better.

And now the writing is pretty darn good. And now that that is taken care of, it's all about promoting it. Killer of Killers, martial arts thriller, needs to get out there. People need to know about it. Particularly if they like martial arts stories.

And when it comes to promotion, there is no quitting there, either. Oh, if I only knew all the ways. But like writing, I'll be learning how to do that, too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Samantha Jones-Here she is-Amber Heard

No, I am not infatuated with Amber Heard. I've never even seen an Amber Heard movie or TV show. I simply ran across this even better photo of her and felt compelled to post it here, because in this photo she looks exactly how I envision Samantha Jones to look like.

In case you don't know, Samantha Jones is the lead female character in Killer of Killers, and she is a  police detective. But she happens to be a very beautiful police detective. With blond hair and blue eyes. And this photo depicts her perfectly.

The funny thing is, when I wrote Killer of Killers, I had a blond Jessica Alba in mind. The way she appeared in the Fantastic Four movies when she played the part of Susan Storm. But time goes by, and Jessica will be too old pretty soon, just as Casper Van Dien is quickly becoming too old to be Trent Smith.

So what can you do? Well, you find someone else, and Amber Heard, as she appears in this photo is the Samantha Jones. More so than Jessica Alba ever was. And Dustin Clare has become my first choice for Trent Smith, mostly because I was so impressed with his performance as Gannicus, the champion gladiator in the Starz series Spartacus.

I'm still waiting to see who readers will envision as Trent Smith and Samantha Jones. That will be interesting to me. We'll see.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sales Seem Good

So if you go to Lulu and check the sales ranking, it seems that Killer of Killers is selling pretty well. I googled what the Lulu Sales Ranking means, and found out that it doesn't mean number of sales, but rather the dollar amount sales have brought in.

And the reason for that is that some authors or sellers price their books or eBooks at 99 cents each, and generate a lot of sales that way, and Lulu figured that is not a fair indication of sales. So they calculate their rankings on how much money each book has earned instead.

I read that the total number of books on Lulu is around a million. I don't know if that is true, but it's what was written on that site I looked up. All I know for sure is that when I checked other books, and when KOK first came out, the figures were in the five digit levels.

About a month later, the figures for KOK had reached the four digit levels, and I was happy about that. In the last couple months, the ranking has fluctuated between the 5000s and the 8000s, and considering most books I checked were in the 30,000s, I think it's pretty good.

I don't know which books are in the triple digit levels or even the double digit levels, and I certainly think that if KOK ever reaches that level, I would truly have something to celebrate. But the book is young yet. We'll see how the coming months go.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dustin Clare and Amber Heard

Now that Killer of Killers is published and out there, and people are actually reading it, the characters might be referenced as particular actors who are also out there right now. And right now, as I've posted once before, my first choices for the parts are Dustin Clare as Trent Smith, and Amber Heard as Samantha Jones.

And who knows? It could be made into a movie one day. I've seen a new martial arts thriller movie being advertised on TV, and it's directed by Quentin Tarantino, who has already made the Kill Bill movies which could be called martial arts movies, too.

So, martial arts movies have been popular for a long time, and if Killer of Killers would be made into a movie, I bet it would be a great one. And those two actors would be my first choices as the male and female leads.







Actually, my first choice for Trent Smith was Casper Van Dien, but now that he is in his forties, that choice is fading fast. If Casper Van Dien was to play that part it would have to be right now. Better five years ago. 
















But Dustin Clare is young enough yet to be good for another ten years as Trent Smith.





















And Amber Heard is the perfect actress for Samantha Jones. I mean absolutely perfect. 











Anyone else out there? I suppose the casting director would have something to say about who gets cast, but if I had my say, these are the two who get the parts. Here's hoping. In the meantime, buy a copy of Killer of Killers and see for yourself if it wouldn't make for a great movie. And if you do, let me know who you think would be great for the roles of Trent Smith and Samantha Jones.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why This Cover?

I talked about the cover design to Killer of Killers yesterday, so I thought I might explain why I came up with it. To be clear, it was the Melange Books cover artist who came up with it, but it was based on an idea of mine that I got from an online image.

I posted it some months ago, thinking it would make a good cover, but as it turned out, Melange came up with an even better one. This one.

But what I was thinking at the time was that since the title of the book was Killer of Killers, a skull image would be appropriate because skulls symbolize death. And being a killer, the main character, Trent Smith, is a bringer of death. Of course, only to those killers who deserve it. He's not some mad dog murderer, no, he's more like a seeker of justice, a vigilante, or maybe more accurately, an executioner. And again, only to those who should have already been executed, or at the very least, imprisoned for life.

It's the story line that makes this concept intriguing, because even in real life we've seen murderers go free, or escape the justice that screams for them to be put away for life, or executed for their brutal crimes against innocents. Heck, it seems to happen regularly, and over the years, it seems to be getting worse.

And in the story of Killer of Killers, it is worse. And it's because of a drug. A drug? Yes, a drug. But this is a very special drug. One that you might think was a miraculous drug. But as it turns out, it's not so special at all.

Buy a copy of Killer of Killers. It's an exciting adventure of a man who wants justice. And he does make a habit of bringing justice to those who thought they had dodged it.