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.



Thursday, February 28, 2013

Extensive Edits

Compared to Killer of Killers, The Vase is undergoing some extensive edits. Killer of Killers is the book I wrote first, and had a lot more time spent on it, but even so, I don't think I ever put it through the kind of edits The Vase is undergoing. To be sure it had its share of edits, including an entire rewrite. But when you consider that The Vase underwent two edits before it even reached Penumbra, and then at Penumbra, underwent three editorial passes before it was even sent back to me, then I think it's safe to say The Vase is being subjected to some pretty extensive edits.

I wish Killer of Killers had the same amount of editing. But when I think of how many times I rewrote that book and revised it and passed through it, I don't have to worry that it didn't receive its share of attention. Not at all. I'm happy with it. And Killer of Killers is still my favorite story with my favorite character. Doesn't mean The Vase doesn't hold up. It sure does. Boy, does it ever. You'll see. I've got another week of going over these edits though. At least.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Consistency and Impact

When it comes to how your characters refer to each other, like in real life, it should be natural. In The Vase, I have a lot of characters, and some of them have titles, like Professor, or Captain, and the question is how should they refer to each other. They are colleagues, but they are also friends, but not best friends. They don't hang out or anything, and may even go a year or more without having seen each other. So do they call each other by first name? Or by their titles.

I would think both, but then there's the issue of consistency, and POV narrative, and dialogue tags, and when this is all mixed together it can get confusing. The appearance of flip-flopping could happen, and that means in one scene, say a character calls the other by their title, but in another scene, or even in the same scene, it's a first name basis. That can seem inconsistent.

To correct that, I have changed it to a consistent basis, until an impacting event occurs making the characters bond and thereafter they're on a first name basis. It makes sense and eliminates inconsistencies. And it becomes better writing to boot. And that's the bottom line.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Committed Editor is an Author's Best Friend

Even if you've never met him/her, if your editor is as committed to your manuscript as you are, then that person is your best friend hands down. I mean if you can actually find one. Sometimes an editor, like a best friend, has to tell you things you don't want to hear. And if you truly have a best friend, then he/she will do that. And so will an editor who is as committed to your manuscript as you are.

Unfortunately, a lot of writers don't want to hear criticism. It's human nature, I suppose. Who wants to hear things that are not complimentary? But the reality is that no one's perfect. You might have a great story, and your writing could very well be excellent, but there will be things that are not right about it, and you need an editor who is not afraid to tell you what you did wrong. And I mean everything you did wrong.

And there is the thing about style and taste. Some editors I've had in the past had no problem with some of the things I did in The Vase, but those things were not allowed to happen with my current editors. But still, I am glad to abide by everything, no matter how picky or even trivial they may at first appear. Because every little thing that improves my manuscript only makes it better. And what writer wouldn't want that?

Monday, February 25, 2013

School Back in Session

Okay, I'm back in the classroom, and the week was well spent. I am about 3/5 through the manuscript, and feel real good about it. So I figure I can wrap up the final 2/5 this week and send it back. And that will be a milestone for The Vase. Because the last two times I wrapped up the edits and sent it back, things fell apart. Not Killer of Killers, but with The Vase. The first time I sent back my response to edits, Virtual Tales folded. The second time I sent back edits, Cogito was being disrupted by internal conflicts, and it was the people handling my book that were the ones who quit the company. So now it's Penumbra, and I sure hope that it pans out this time. I am confident it will. But I've got to wrap it up first, and then we'll talk.

One of the things I have already raved about is that they are really "owning" that book. Especially Grayson, one of the top editors over there, and boy does he know his stuff. He is really picky, and I am glad he is. I wanted that. Because every little thing that he is picky about, makes the manuscript better, and that's what I want. Sure sometimes it can be a little brutal. Writers, like any artist, like to be complimented. They want to hear how good they are. They don't like to be criticized. But I'm beyond that, thankfully. Look, the book is getting published. I want every little thing perfect. Every detail perfect. And with The Vase, it's happening. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 22, 2013

It's late, but this is too much FUN

I better get to bed, but I'm telling you, going over these edits is just too much fun. Maybe the MOST fun. Yes, easily the BEST part of being a writer...and an author. The part where you get your manuscript back from a PUBLISHER, who has just EDITED your manuscript, and you are going over those edits and making your manuscipt PERFECT, because the editors did an OUTSTANDING job on YOUR BOOK!

I mean, this is what writers live for. It's real. It's happening right now, and you don't want it to end. I know that this is not the first time for me. It's actually the THIRD time for The Vase, and of course I went through this with Killer of Killers, too. And that one actually got published.

But like I said, Penumbra is OWNING this book. I mean, I really have the feeling that they have taken this book SO SERIOUSLY. Especially Grayson. Man, oh man, I am pumped. How can I hit the sack? If I do, I won't sleep. My wife's already asleep, so I'll get back to work. Better call it a night pretty soon, though. I dare not stay up past two. If I do, it'll end up being four in the morning before I hit the sack. But this is just too much fun. Okay!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Talk About Edits!

Wow, Penumbra Publishing is full steam ahead about edits! Now this is what I'm talking about when it comes to editing. Yes, I received my edited version of The Vase back yesterday, but it wasn't just one pass through. It was three. You can tell by the comments. You know, in the margin of the document, you see the initials of the editor on every comment? There are three different sets of comments. So three different passes by three different editors.

One of the things I've read and heard a few times from various places about writing and publishing is that you are best served when a publisher, or more specifically, an editor "owns" your manuscript. That is to say, an editor loves your novel as much as you do, wants the best for it as you do, and puts in the extra mile to make it as best as it can be, just as you would do. Well, Grayson Little is all about that. From the start, even before I signed the contract, I believe he was fully dedicated to making The Vase the best manuscript it could possibly be.

So why didn't he offer a contract right away? Because of the  nature of writers, that's why. A lot of writers are very sensitive. You know, they have a thin skin. And constructive criticism is not received well by a lot of writers. And then there is the reworking of the manuscript. It's a lot of work to rewrite a book that you have already written. A lot of writers don't want to do that. And it seems as though, through his experiences, he knows that he doesn't want to go through that again with a writer who's been contracted.

So I proved myself to him. And I have the contract. And he is "owning" my manuscript. And we are on the same page, pardon the pun. And as a result, The Vase is becoming a spectacular book with the most thorough editing I've ever received. And make no mistake. The Vase had already been edited twice before by two different publishers. And I've nothing negative to say about those other edits, but it's true that Penumbra has very strict guidelines, and they are sticking to them when it comes to how they want the books that they publish to be written.

So, yes, I am very happy to be scrutinized to this degree for The Vase. And I'm very happy to be with Penumbra. Look for The Vase soon, from Penumbra Publishing. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dialogue Tags

One of the things I noticed that I delete a lot during the revision stage is dialogue tags. Usually the reader already knows who's talking, so in that instance you don't need dialogue tags. Since the reader already knows that he's talking, you don't need to put he said in there. Or she said, or whatever.

It does make the conversation flow more smoothly, and it also eliminates the effort of having to think of which dialogue tag to use. Meaning you don't have to choose he said, or he snarled, or he growled, or he commented, or he cried. But if the story needs the reader to know that he growled something instead of just saying it normal like, then you might want to specify that at that point.

But sometimes you don't even need to do that. Sometimes, just the mood of the conversation will be enough for the reader to automatically read it the way you want it to be read. Still, there are times when dialogue tags are necessary. I've found that in my first draft, I use them more than I need to, and in the revision stage, I find myself deleting them. Yeah, I leave a lot of them in, too, but, I would guess that I delete about 30 - 40 percent of them at various places in the manuscript.

Just some interesting side notes, that's all.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Corey Yuen, the right director

I had been talking about casting Dustin Clare as Trent Smith if Killer of Killers was ever made into a movie. But Trent Smith is an American. Dustin Clare is an Australian. Well, if Hugh Jackman, another Australian can play Logan, AKA Wolverine, who's a Canadian, and if an Englishman, Andrew Garfield, can play Peter Parker, who is an American, then it can be done.

So if only a producer or a director would read the book and want to make it into a movie. Actually, the right director would be just as important as the right actor. Corey Yuen would be a good fit. He's an action movie director all the way. In fact, Killer of Killers would be right up his alley. Here's to hoping he reads the book. Corey Yuen, you're the man!

Monday, February 18, 2013

This Week Off

School's out this week, and that means, since I'm a teacher, that I have the whole week to complete the revisions to Killer Eyes, and then send it to my publisher. I told Nancy, (Melange's publisher) that Killer Eyes would be ready this month, and I still think it will be.

But I've learned not to rush things. If it's not ready, I won't send it. It's not like I've been working on it all these years. That time was spent on Killer of Killers and The Vase, both of which are doing pretty well. Killer of Killers was published by Melange Books last August, and The Vase is in queue to be publisher by Penumbra Publishing right now.

But with all I've learned from the process, Killer Eyes won't need as much prepping. Becasue now I'm an experienced and published author, and that experience is being used wisely in Killer Eyes. In other words, everything I've learned about the writing process and publishing process from Killer of Killers and The Vase, I'm applying to Killer Eyes. It's a great coninuation of the Trent Smith Story. Can't wait for it to be finished so I can get busy with the third book in the series.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Keep Trudging Through

At some point in the revision process, you just have to keep on trudging. Meaning you've fixed all the typos, plot inconsistencies, clunky sentences or even POV discrepancies. But you keep trudging though it anyway, because every time you read it through you find something else to fix regardless of how thorough you thought  you were the first half dozen times you read through it.

With Killer of Killers and The Vase, I couldn't tell you how many times I read through them, polishing up the prose, and finding clunkers here and there. But every time I did, I found more to fix. And you may as well. The manuscript only improves every time  you do, and of course you want that. It's like a maturation process. You're writing evolves, and of course, it becomes better.

So if you want your writing to be better, keep improving it. Start with what you've already written, and make it better. Then go to the next one, and the next, and you get the point.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Addition by Subtraction

I have deleted more scenes that had that subplot in Killer Eyes I was talking about this week. It wasn't adding anything to the story. So it's better without it. At the time I wrote it, I was thinking it would be a good subplot, a little mysterious, and intriguing. But after reading it a couple times, I think that it wasn't successful. So it's gone now.

The thing is, writers have a tendency to NOT want to delete entire subplots, or anything else that took an effort, particularly if they think it's well written. They  call these parts of their manuscript "darlings" and have a natural aversion of deleting them. But you have to make the hard decision to delete them. It really is an example of addition by subtraction. That's all.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Killer of Killers Continues to Sell

What makes an author happy? I mean after his/her book has been published. Well, sales for one thing. And Killer of Killers seems to be selling pretty well. So I am happy. And yesterday, a buyer came to me and asked for me to sign the book. That was cool. He was a former student of mine, and after school, he showed up with the book in hand, and asked me to sign it. Of course, the pleasure was mine.

So, yeah, that is a good feeling. I hope that continues. Meanwhile, I did delete one of those scenes in Killer Eyes, that I was talking about recently. It's not the entire subplot, which I still may delete, but that particular scene was not needed, and so now it's gone. Yeah, sometimes you improve by subtraction, and this was one case where that saying applied.

So here's to hoping the Killer of Killers sales continue to be good, and the sequel, Killer Eyes, continues to improve. I want to submit it by the end of this month, and I think I'll make that goal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Waiting for One, Working on the Other

So while I'm waiting to review the edits on The Vase, I'll continue to revise Killer Eyes, and I'm glad I am. I've got all the POV issues finished, so that's no longer a problem. But I am considering deleting a scene, and maybe an entire subplot. The question I have to ask myself is does it add to the story?

If it doesn't then I would be wise to delete it. The story has already been trimmed about 5,000 words by now. From 91,000 plus words down to 86,000. And if I delete one or all three scenes in question, that might be another thousand words or so. And then there's the ending. It was an ending to the Trent Smith story line. I mean the final ending. That doesn't mean the death of Trent Smith, so don't go jumping to that conclusion. I won't say exactly what kind of ending, though, other than a final one.

And the reason I might delete it is because of my intention to write a third book in the series. And if I want it to continue to be a series, meaning more than just three, then maybe that ending, which is over  4,000 words should never be included in any of the books. So, we'll see how it goes.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Production has Begun on The Vase

I received an email from Penumbra last Friday afternoon advising me that production has begun on The Vase. One round of edits has already  been completed, and one of the top guys is already reviewing those edits before he sends it to me. So I expect it sometime this week. Am I excited? You bet I am. But this is the third time I've been excited for The Vase.

Unlike Killer of Killers, which was published by the first publisher who accepted it, this is the third time The Vase has undergone a publisher's edits. But third time's a charm, or so they say. And I expect it to be. Penumbra Publishing has been true to their word. And I'm looking forward to getting The Vase published. I think it will be a successful book. Fingers crossed.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Second Sequel to Killer of Killers

I'm still revising the first sequel to Killer of Killers, and Killer Eyes is coming along nicely. It pretty much picks up where Killer of Killers leaves off. Make no mistake, Killer of Killers can be considered a stand alone story. My publisher, Melange Books, even thought it was, because I had made no mention of a sequel until after Killer of Killers was published.

But I've told them since, and they are expecting the manuscript this month, because I told them it should be ready by this month. And I think it will be, because I actually wrote it a couple years ago. I just didn't start revising it until recently. And it's getting there. One of the things I concentrated on was this POV thing. I learned about it from Melange, but it was Penumbra Publishing who really drove the point home to me. And that was during the rewrite of The Vase. Can't wait to see how their editors feel about how it is now.

But with the Killer of Killers story, the sequel, Killer Eyes, not only continues where Killer of Killers left off, it actually wraps up that particular story arc. All the questions are answered, and all the conflict is resolved. And the reason I did that was because I wasn't sure Killer of Killers was ever going to be published, and I didn't want to keep writing sequels to a book or books that would never see print.

My mistake. I should have had more confidence in that story, since it DID get published, and the sequels will be, too. But so far there is only one sequel. Which brings me to the title of this post. The second sequel. I wanted to call it The Killers Guild, or use a title that has Killer in it. Then it could be referred to as the Killer Trilogy.

The Killers Guild is a club of killers, obviously, professional assassins, actually, and Trent Smith, the main character kills them all in Killer Eyes. So if they're all killed, how can I have another book called The Killers Guild? Well, they're reformed. That's how. By whom? Well, that's a good question, and I'm still figuring it out. Hey, I haven't written it yet. Let me finish Killer Eyes first, and then I'll write that one. But I'm thinking about it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stories and the Characters in Them

First you need a great story. Then you need great characters to "act" it out. Sometimes a great character can make a story, and sometimes a great story will work with any characters. But when you have both, a great story and great characters, you've got something special. And if you can add great writing to the mix, you've got a real winner.

But there's always that intangible element.  It's called opinion, or personal taste. Meaning, what is great to one person may not be so great to another. And it's about taste. Some people love stories with action, shoot 'em ups, and a lot of blood. But that kind of story could be repulsive to other people. Just like War Stories. Some people love them and some hate them.

And don't get me started on Romance stories. I can't stand them, but obviously a lot of women love nothing better. Actually, I do like a little bit of romance in a story. After all, Killer of Killers has a romantic subplot, and so do my other books. It's not the main focus of the stories, but since romance is a part of life, I did make it a part of them.

If you weave romance into a story with a good helping of action, suspense, and intrigue, then I believe you've got a great story. That's what I've done with all four of my books. And since Killer of Killers is published, and The Vase is in queue to be published, and Killer Eyes is up next, as the sequel to Killer of Killers to be published, I can be happy with how things are turning out. Can't wait to get back to John Dunn. That one's quite a story, too. And completely different than the other three. But not when it comes to romance. I guess that is the one common element in all of them.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Stories Featuring Obsession

I know it's been done a few times. There's even a couple movies with Obsession as the title. Someone gets obsessed with someone or something, and that makes for the plot of the story. In Killer Eyes, I talked about the Chinese woman who is the antagonist in that story. And she becomes obsessed with Trent Smith, who is the main character.

First of all, Ming Sang, (that's her name,) is the leader of the Killers Guild. The Killers Guild originated in China during WWII, and their mission was killing the Japanese invaders. But in the years following, and especially after Ming's father died, it took on a different objective. They became little more than hired assassins. And they were hired to assassinate Trent Smith. But instead of killing him, she becomes fascinated with him. Yes, even obsessed.

I'll probably be talking more about it in the months to come, but that is the basis for the story at this point. Oh, there's much more to be sure. But it's still being revised. We'll see how it turns out.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Stories Should Make Sense

When it comes to a story, I think the events should make sense. Or the things that happen, which at first don't seem logical, should be explained somehow later on in the story. If they aren't, then I think that's a sign of very lazy writing, and for me, it ruins the story.

For example, take that TV show Lost. The people called 'the Others" on that island were treating the survivors of the plane crash very cruelly. They tortured and murdered them, and all the while, the audience was never privy as to why.

And I'm watching this show, and thinking, well, they want us (the audience) to dislike these "others" but even still, I wanted to know why the "others" were being so downright mean to the survivors. I mean, when people survive a plane crash, it would be normal to want to help them, tend to their injuries, do whatever you could for them. But no, they were so mean and cruel, it just didn't make sense. And now that the show is over, they (the writers) never explained why! You can guess it was because they considered the plane crash survivors as rivals, but rivals for what? The affection of the island? I mean the survivors were obviously not there because they wanted to be there. It was a plane crash for goodness sakes.

Ultimately, the writers were going after tension, as that's something that keeps an audience watching, but there was just no reason for it in that circumstance, and yes, it did ruin the story for me. And for a lot of other people, I might add.

Now, I'm watching that show called The Walking Dead. It's in its third season now, and this community of people ruled by a dude called The Governor just wiped out some military guys, but for no apparent reason. They posed no threat to them, they weren't rovers or vagabonds, and with their knowledge and training, they would have made good additions to their community. But instead, the Governor has his men surround them and wipe them out. Why? Other than guessing, there was no reason for it.

Maybe it will be explained later, but I'm getting the feeling that, like in Lost, there won't be any explanation coming very soon. We'll see.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Justice Prevailed

So the Forty-Niners lost their first Super Bowl. Ho hum. Who cares? Not me. But they deserved to lose. In fact, they should have lost by a lot more than they did. That was an awfully convenient power outage, wasn't it? The Ravens were steamrolling the Niners, something like 28-6, or thereabouts. Then the lights go out? Too convenient if you ask me. But you don't have to ask me. It was all too obvious. Was it a deliberate act by someone? I wouldn't be surprised, because it sure worked. The Ravens lost all their momentum after that, and had to hang on for the win. But hang on they did, and they won. So, at least justice prevailed. Just like in my book, Killer of Killers. Justice prevails. It's one of Trent Smith's catch phrases, and I quote: "I'll see to it that justice prevails." He says that in the book, and not only does he talk the talk, he walks the walk. You'll have to read it to see for yourself. Buy a copy today! In Killer of Killers, justice prevails. Just like last night!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Super Bowl Not for Me

Even though I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm not looking forward to this Sunday's Super Bowl. Never liked the Niners, and I'm still mad at the Atlanta Falcons for choking in the NFC Championship game. I'll prefer to be writing, or revising Killer Eyes. And speaking of Killer Eyes, I'm liking it more and more every time I sit down to revise it. It's the first time I actually make a female character into a villain. In my three other books, Killer of Killers, The Vase, and John Dunn, all the female characters are good people. But in Killer Eyes, the evil antagonist is a woman. And why shouldn't it be? You can't tell me there's no evil women in the world. And this one's from China. So how often have there been stories with the main villain that's a woman and from China? I gotta think it's happened before, but I couldn't tell you in what book or movie. Can you? I didn't think so.