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, March 29, 2013

Titles Not Copyrighted

Even though I copyrighted my novel Killer of Killers, no one can copyright a title. And it's a good thing, too, because Michael Winner's movie, The Mechanic, starring Charles Bronson was originally called Killer of Killers. I saw that movie back in the 70s, but never knew it's original name. Actually, The Mechanic is a better name for that movie, because as I remember it, not all the victims of "the mechanic" were actually killers. The recent remake of The Mechanic, with the same name, The Mechanic, starring Jason Statham, was a much better movie. After watching the remake, I tried to re-watch the original Charles Bronson movie and the original sucked in comparison. The acting, the production values, the directing was all inferior. So, whatever. But I'm pretty sure that my book, Killer of Killers is the only book with that name. And that's good enough for me. Killer of Killers, a martial arts thriller, is available now from Melange Books. Click on the image to the right of this post and buy your copy today!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Expecting Edits Back by Tomorrow

Tomorrow will be two weeks since I sent my edits back to Penumbra for the next round of edits on The Vase. It's what the lead editor said. "Two weeks," he said. And The Vase will be all the closer to publication. I can't contain my excitement. Even though I've already got a published book under my belt, there is just something special about this one. Maybe it's because The Vase was going to be my first published book, but both times, things fell through. And it's a good thing they did. Because at Penumbra, the editors have really taken a keen interest in The Vase. Or the top editor has, anyway. I am so glad for that. The Vase is top notch, now, as far as writing goes. Grayson has seen to that. I am very appreciative of him, and his efforts. As a writer, there's nothing better than having a publisher and an editor who is as interested and committed to your manuscript as you are. Gung ho, people. Gung ho!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What About Game of Thrones?

I talked about these special TV series, like Walking Dead and Spartacus. I liked them enough to watch them, but that doesn't mean they're without flaws. Walking Dead is for Zombie lovers, obviously, and I'm not really a zombie lover. I do like heavy drama, gritty action, and great characters. And that show has a little bit of all three. Daryl and Merle are great characters. After them, though, the greatness of the characters takes a serious hit. The action is gritty enough, and the drama is neverending, which is necessary to keep people watching it.

Spartacus has all of the above, as well, but my complaint about Spartacus is that it's too much. I love over the top stuff, but Spartacus has everything over the top. Violence, sex, drama, up the ying yang. It's waaaayyy over the top. For example, one person on that show can spurt enough blood to fill the veins of a dozen characters. And even though they are making the Romans into the bad guys, that doesn't mean Romans can't fight. It's one gladiator against a dozen Roman soldiers, and all 12 Romans will bite the dust, and the gladiator has no scratch. I won't even talk about the over the top sex That's a discussion that will take several blog posts. Suffice it to say that it's also waaayyy over the top.

So, whatever. But there is one show where I can't really think of anything to complain about. Game of Thrones. That's a really well thought out show. I heard the author of the books already had a serious connection to film and TV. He was already a somebody BEFORE he wrote the books. Is it any wonder, then, that he got his books made into the TV series. Connections or not, it's a great storyline, with great characters, and drama that matches or surpasses any other show. The third season is coming up pretty soon, and I'm primed to watch. I've never been a fantasy buff, but it's a well made show with production values that match anything Hollywood has ever done. It's definitely worth watching.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Believability = Credibility

Talking about those TV shows yesterday made me think about some of the worse moments they had to offer. And when it comes to bad moments in a show or movie, the first thing that comes to my mind is either bad writing or bad acting, and usually, I think, the two come hand in hand. I mean when the writing is bad, usually not even the best actors can save it. It doesn't mean the opposite is true. Good writing can also be acted poorly, but usually, when the writing is good, the acting is a much smoother deal all the way around. In any show, you shouldn't have a character act out of his/her character, and never should any character act in a way that is not consistent with human nature. Unless of course the character is not human. But if the character is human, there are just some things he/she shouldn't do. Not in the real world. Otherwise your story will lack credibility, and believability will go down the drain. And when that happens, so does your story.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spartacus, Walking Dead, and now DaVinci

I've talked about the Starz show Spartacus at times because I like the actors, Dustin Clare and Ellen Hollman, who would be well cast as the two lead characters in Killer of Killers. But the show Walking Dead has also been on my watching list lately. Yeah, it's another over the top show, over the top bloody, that is, but it's a pretty dramatic show, with good acting, mostly good writing and an overall good story. (If you like zombies.)

And now I can add DaVinci's Demons to that list. I've always admired what history has had to say about Leonardo DaVinci, and now Starz is going to air a series about him, featuring his younger "lost" years. Which I think is a great idea. I can't remember if any show or movie has ever featured Leonardo DaVinci. And even better, the guy who cowrote the Batman movies, (the good Batman movies,) is in charge of it.

And that's not only a good thing, it's a great thing. I'm not a Batman fan, really, but I'm no stranger to the Batman mythos, and I believe that if anyone was close to what Batman is supposed to be, then maybe it was Leonardo DaVinci. Minus the cape and cowl, I mean. I'm not saying DaVinci was a crime fighter of any sort, but he was the original Renaissance Man, as Batman's supposed to be, and most definitely he was one of the greatest characters in history. And I've always had a soft spot for real life characters. So I'm planning on watching this show when it begins in April. Can't wait.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Killer of Killers vs. The Vase

So yesterday, I was saying that I liked Killer of Killers better than The Vase, but that doesn't mean it's a better book. Let me say it this way: I like Killer of Killers better than Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Great Gatsby, too, but no one will ever say it's a better book than any of them.

But So what? I still like it better than those other books, no matter how great they are. And that would be true no matter who wrote it. Why? Because Killer of Killers is the kind of book I like, and that's what matters to anyone who wants to read a book. It's got to be the kind of book that they like. It has to be a book that appeals to them, and Killer of Killers is exactly the kind of book that appeals to me, and anyone else who likes the kinds of things that I like.

Meanwhile, The Vase will appeal to virtually everyone. The difference is that Killer of Killers is more specific, meaning it's for readers who love action and scenes with a lot of fighting. Essentially, Killer of Killers is a story that men will appreciate. (Although plenty of women have told me they loved it, too.) Martial arts action is constant throughout the story. Yeah, there's romance, but romance that men can appreciate, (no wink, wink intended.) Yesterday, I compared the character, Trent Smith, to James Bond, Conan, and others from well known action movies, and also noted that he wasn't like any of them. And very importantly, (because I'm a teacher,) it isn't for kids. Too much adult content. The violence alone makes it not for kids, but there's some love scenes, too, although not graphic, still, it's not for kids.

But The Vase is not that kind of story. It's heavy in drama, in suspense, but not so much in action. It's a book that everyone can appreciate. Even kids. The overall theme is universal. It's a story of love, hate, revenge, and redemption, to be sure, but there's much more to it than that.

There's a decent amount of humor, too. It's no comedy, but there are lighter moments. And the climax, yes, the climax is what should really attract the large audience. Much like Dan Brown's books, I would think. The world's religions are featured in The Vase. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. None are favored over the others, and none are put in a negative light. I walked with soft shoes in that regard. I think I succeeded. Pretty soon, when it's available you can judge for yourself. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Killer of Killers still my favorite

As much as I love The Vase, and as much as I think it will have a wider appeal than most other stories for various reasons, I still have a sentimental attachment to Killer of Killers. It was my first novel. It was  my debut novel, (which isn't always your first novel,) and it is the story and character that I just happen to love the most.

Killer of Killers is the book I wrote when I wanted to write a book that I would want to read. I had no interest in reading any other books. I had already read most or all of Robert E. Howard's books. And I had no interest in reading anyone else's books. I tried to. I went to bookstores and tried to pick up books, but I put them all down before getting to the end of page 1. Most made me disgusted.

So I decided to sit down and write a book that I would want to read. Doesn't mean anyone else wants to read it, but it's the book I would want to. And it's a good thing, too. Because, by now I must have read it a hundred times! And every time, I'm telling you, I love it just as much as the first time. It's the book for me. I love a great character, a cool character, in the mold of a James Bond, a Captain Kirk, a Conan, and more recently, a Frank Martin (The Transporter) or a Jason Bourne.

So I created Trent Smith, and you might say he's a combination of all of the above and none of the above. He's just as original and totally different. He's like them, and not like them. Bond worked for England, Kirk worked for The Federation, Conan worked often as a mercenary, Frank Martin worked for whomever hired him as a transporter, and Jason Bourne worked for the United States. Trent Smith is the ultimate hero. He works for no one, and that's the way he likes it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Back to Blogging--for now

So this blogging thing. It's getting old. I've noticed many old time bloggers, people who had blogged religiously everyday, either no longer blog, or have taken to blogging very infrequently. Even that guy who used to be a literary agent has become an inconsistent blogger. I remember that it was his blog I liked the most.  He blogged everyday, and provided a lot of information that was  useful to me, and I most certainly did learn an awful lot from his blog about writing and the publishing process. But now he's down to blogging once a week, maybe twice a week, and doesn't focus as much on writing and publishing anymore. So that's cool. Good thing I read his blog when I did.

But what about me? I never had as much to say, really, just wanted to promote my books. Now that Killer of Killers is published, and The Vase is in queue to be published, and I'm almost done with Killer Eyes, which will also be published, should I keep writing this blog? As I said yesterday, I'll probably keep it up until this summer. Then I'll probably stop, but if I do stop, the main reason is because this summer is when I want to start writing my fifth novel, the third book in the Trent Smith, (Killer of Killers) series. I really don't want to call it a series, but I guess that's what books are called if they have the same main character. And besides, I'm getting some ideas for future Trent Smith stories. I mean, if your character is the world's greatest martial artist who can take on anyone, then you've got something to work with. And I suppose I'll be doing just that for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Blogs, Yes and No

Yesterday I was writing about how some blogs were helpful to me, and at the same time, how I didn't like the people who wrote them. Well, I could be just another one of them. My blog is probably not helpful at all to anyone. So what if I don't swear on here. For all I know, no one even reads this thing. I have no doubt that this blog does nothing to increase sales for my book. It could very well be true that this is just a waste of time. And wasting time is something I would rather not do.

So, just how long I continue writing this blog is up in the air right now. You write because you love to write, and writing a blog is just another form of writing, I suppose. But there is another factor. Purpose. You write for another reason than just the love of writing. You would think people write because they want other people to actually read what they write. Now, on the stats page of this blog, it indicates that people are reading this thing. You wouldn't know by the comments, but the stats do provide the data. And from all over the world, every corner of the globe.

But I would hope that the other reason for writing this blog would be panning out. That would be promoting Killer of Killers, and soon The Vase to the point that people actually buy those books and read them. Has it happened for Killer of Killers yet? Not sure. I will make that determination by this summer. If it seems like it's happening, then I will continue. If not, then I discontinue. It's that simple.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Blogs Useful? Hhmmnn...

When you're a writer and you research the things writers are supposed to do, you find out that writing blogs is one of them. So after doing it for a couple years, or even more, I ask myself the question: Is it useful? Well, to be sure, I have found other blogs useful. Particularly the blogs of literary agents, other writers, editors, and publishers. It's one of the main ways I learned how to write a publishable novel, and the ins and outs of the publishing process.

I have also found that after reading some of these blogs on a daily basis, that I don't really like the people who write blogs, (at least the ones that I've been reading.) It seemed as though, after a good length of time, you get to know a lot about those people. It is very interesting to me, that, again, after reading these blogs daily after some years, you get to know some things about those people that I don't think they wanted you to know. Maybe they do, maybe they don't really care, and maybe it's just the way everyone is, but their foibles eventually get exposed when they write a daily blog.

One of things I have never liked about some people is the way they use profanity. Now I'm no angel. I will use profanity sometimes, too, but not on a daily basis, and never in my blog. If I were to stub my toe, for instance, and it was a very painful stubbing, I will probably use a variety of combinations of profane words. But I don't when I'm talking casually to someone. Maybe I will if it's someone I am close to, or spend a lot of time with, but not someone who is just an acquaintance, or  someone at work, and certainly never with someone I don't know.

I had a principal, a few years ago, at a different school than the one I'm at now, who used profanity as part of her daily speech patterns, and I just found her to be a dirty-mouthed woman. It certainly didn't convey any professionalism on her part. Maybe she was trying to be one of the "good ol' boys" or something, but again, she just came across as a foul-mouthed lady to me.

Likewise, when I read blogs that use the "F" word as a matter of course, for no other apparent reason, than just being a part of the blogger's casual vocabulary, it gives me a very bad impression of them. And these blogs, again, are women bloggers. Women literary agents, that is.

Look, I said I'm no angel. But when it comes to being professional, imo, you don't use profanity. If you're with friends and having a grand ol' time, on your own time, no problem, but it's just not something that you do if you want to convey professionalism. It's just the way I feel. And the same thing is true in your writing. As an example, there's a book for which I used the "look inside" feature, and the first sentence of the book, the "F" word is used, not because it was someone's dialogue, which I know is necessary if you want to be realistic, but in that book it was part of the narrative.

Nope. I stopped reading and thought to myself, this person is not a good writer, and that was that. And there are a lot of other things you learn about people in their blogs, but this post is already too long. I'll get to that another day.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Vase Sent Last Night

Been too busy to post today, and I had some follow up news, too. I sent the edited version back to Penumbra last night, and they replied that they have it. I don't doubt it will come back with some further edits, but I dare say the monster's share of editing is behind me now. So with that in mind, I'll be getting back to Killer Eyes in the meantime. But I'd be lying if I didn' admit to a little eagerness to see how they like my version of their edits. We'll find out in about a week or two. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Now, The Vase is Ready

I think. I mean, I had finished all the edits last night at around 9:30, and then I took a break, spent some time with my son, and I was going to send it back to Penumbra, but at the last second, I decided just to skim through it  one last time before sending, and sure enough, there was a dangling preposition. Now, it really isn't that necessary to not have a dangling preposition, especially these days when the Word Police are more lax on stuff like that, but this particular one just wasn't needed. I remember typing it, and thinking then that it was a dangling preposition, but thought it was a necessary one. But when I skimmed though the manuscript late last night, I realized that, not only was it not necessary, it stood out like a sore thumb. So I deleted it, and the sentence reads just fine. But then I thought, heck, just wait one more day, skim through it one more time tonight, and then send it. So we'll see. Could very well be that today will be the day.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Still Not Ready

But it almost is. I'm referring to the author approved edited version of The Vase. And it's like the sixth or seventh time that I'm going over it since I received the edited version almost four weeks ago. But I keep making it better, and I'm doing that because I don't want to find something later, and wish I had changed it. So I'm taking care of all of that now.

Yes, I will receive the next version one more time before publication, so I don't have to worry about that. It's just that I want the absolute best version going back to Penumbra, and of course, they will take it from there. So maybe it will be ready tonight. I have at least until Friday, per the contract. So, again, we'll see.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Yesterday Wasn't the Day

I thought I'd send The Vase back to Penumbra yesterday, but as it turned out, I did too many revisions, and whenever you do that, you want to sit on it for a day. That way, the changes can settle in, and you can go over them fresh the next day to see if they are still as good as they seemed to be when you made them. It's happened before. I might write something or change something and think it's super when I did it. But then the next day, I'll reread it and think, "What the heck is this?" And change it back. So when I get home from work, I'll recheck it. If it holds up, then I send. But we'll see.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Today's the Day

Over the weekend, I went over the edits to The Vase and over them again, and again. And every time I found places to improve, and improve them I did. I even found some words, not many, one or two, that had been edited in other parts, but missed in the many times I went over it previously. Yeah, somehow that happens. Inexplicably, a word that is incorrectly used, can just be invisible or something. It's caught in other parts, but it just goes unnoticed time and again until that one time it's finally caught.

And that is the reason I have not been quick on the trigger. Because I've learned that already. For once, I'm applying what I've learned in the past with both Killer of Killers and The Vase, to my situation now. Had I sent it the day before or the day before that, or the week before, I would have undergone the same regrets that I've already experienced. So here's to experience and learning from it. So today's the day. When I get home from work, I'll go over those edits one last time, and I plan on sending it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Vase, Better Than Ever!

It's true. The entire manuscript has been edited by professional editors who work for real publishers, and now even I have gone over the latest and most extensive edits three times. Last night, I polished up that one scene, which had been rewritten, but needed more work.

The problem was when you write a narrative, the words you use in a narrative, are not necessarily the same words that a character would use in dialogue. That was the main thing, really, that needed fixing. And it's fixed.

But you know what? I'm going to go over that manuscript one more time. What? I thought I was going to send it today, after the third time. Heck, I thought I was going to send it Wednesday, after the second time. But I keep making it better, and the contract gives me until next Friday, so I might as well. I'm always glad I did. So tonight will be the fourth time, and then I'll send it back.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

And I'm Glad I Did

Just like I knew I would, I made a lot of improvements to my improvements on The Vase. It probably has been revised as much as Killer of Killers by now. Except KOK didn't have five different editors work on it. The Vase has by now. And even then, there's always more you can do.

So, one more time, again, I'll go over that manuscript. Mostly I'll be focusing on one particular part. It's a part that was originally a flashback. One of the characters is telling another character what happened, and I originally made it into a flashback after he began talking. But my latest editor doesn't want it to be a flashback, so that part needs a little more work. It's almost there. I think this last time should do it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Still One More Time

So I checked over the edits again last night for The Vase, and I found myself editing the edits! But I wasn't really surprised. It's happened before, after all. My intention was to go over the edits a second time and then send it to Penumbra today. But I will wait. I want to go over them still one more time.

It's not like I'm reading every word throughout the entire manuscript like I did when I went over the edited version the first time. That would take me another week. No, the second time and now the third time I'm just going over the changes. And each time I do, I make better changes.

So why not one more time? Undoubtedly,  I"ll find some places I can improve. And if I don't, then that's the assurance I'll need that it's ready to send. And then, who  knows, they may make more edits, and send it back to me, and I'll start all over again. We'll see.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Check It One More TIme

I checked over my edits for The Vase last night, and even rewrote half of a scene. It's that POV thing again. When I first wrote that scene, my POV character wasn't established early enough, so I rewrote it to make sure I it was. It's a lot better now. In fact, the entire manuscript is a lot better now. A whole lot better. This is something to celebrate. But not yet. I have learned so many times in the past to be patient. Don't be quick on that trigger. Don't be eager to send your manuscript until you have taken the time to check it thoroughly. And then check it thoroughly again. So last night, I did check it thoroughly. Tonight, I will check it thoroughly again. Then I'll send it. And the ball is bouncing.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Finished Going Over Edits in The Vase

Whew! What a blast that was. No, really, I've said before that going over your editor's edits for your novel is one of the best thrills in life. That is if your editor is an editor for the publisher who is going to publish your book. And in this case, it is.

But this time, it wasn't just one editor, it was at least two, and at least three editorial passes. And as a result, you can say that The Vase was put through the editorial "wringer."  Boy was it ever. And I'm glad for that. I mean, if I want it to be considered a literary piece worth its salt, I do. And I do.

Virtually every detail worth mentioning in a literary sense was tackled. And I went with it. I didn't object to any of it. Sure there were a couple places where the editors weren't on the same page as me. A couple places where they misunderstood what I was doing, but that was smoothed over. And I didn't know that they were going to require a "source" for the historical figure I mentioned in the book.

That figure was the Roman Military commander in Israel early in the first century. In The Vase, I made that man Marcius Rufus. And the editors wanted the link to confirm that. Fortunately, I did my research, and I had the link. It was a website that had actual letters written by Pontius Pilate when he was on his way to assume the governorship of Israel. Traveling with him was Marcius Rufus, and Pilate made a reference to Rufus being his chief military officer.

So I'm good. But before I send this back, I want to at least review it again. Not read it through word by word, but review all my comments, and all the things I changed. Just because I've learned that that is the smart thing to do. I've learned many times not to be quick on the trigger. Wow, if nothing else, I've learned that. So maybe I'll email Penumbra and tell them I'm done, but that I'll be sending it tomorrow. That's the smart thing to do. And it's what I'll do.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Days are too Short

Last night, after work, I managed to get through one of the most important chapters of The Vase. But my complaint is that the day is too short. From about 6 am to about 4 pm I'm busy with my day job. After that I'm busy with my sons until about 6 or 7 and then the wife until about 9. Then I get about one hour, maybe two to get something accomplished on The Vase. Well, the chapter I just finished was chapter 18, and there are 24 total chapters. So five more to go. Maybe, just maybe I can get through them this weekend. But then I'll review all of them before I send it back to Penumbra. That's a lesson I've learned by now. Always review what you've done, just to make sure you didn't miss something. And then, you know what? You'll probably still miss something. But not as much as you would have otherwise. That's all.