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.



Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Applying What I learned

I learned a lot about editing from my experiences with both Melange and Penumbra. But if I was to be objective about it, I would have to say that my experiences with The Vase at Penumbra resulted in a much better understanding of editing. And that's because Penumbra was far more strict, and had a more literal view about editing than Melange. It's probably why Penumbra publishes fewer titles per month than Melange. So it's only logical, then, that they spend more time with each title before they publish it.

There's positive and negative about that. It might take longer, but I don't care about that. Maybe I did for my first book. Being a first time published author, I was eager to see my book in print. But in the long run, that is not advisable. You want your manuscript to be the best it can be. Period. And if Penumbra implements my latest edits, (which are based on their own edits, btw,) then it will be the best it can be.

And while I'm waiting to see if they do, I'm going to apply all that I've learned to my other manuscripts. Yes, even Killer of Killers. I've already had it relaunched three times at Melange because I wasn't satisfied after it was published. At least they were cooperative, and agreed to it. But after my latest experiences with The Vase, I have found that I prefer the guidelines for writing and editing that Penumbra uses, and I want to apply those guidelines to Killer of Killers, too. I've already started. The past couple days, I've been redoing it, using Penumbra's strict POV guidelines, and other writing standards they have. It makes for better writing. The lazy writer wouldn't do that. But lazy is something I am not. And that's how you become a better writer. By taking the time to learn, and then applying what you've learned. We'll see where this leads me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Reply Received

Everything is in order. I received a reply from Penumbra that they did indeed receive my attachment  of the final edits to The Vase. So there's no problem on that front. I just hope they implement them. I see no reason why they wouldn't because I used Track Changes this time, and I explained almost all of them in the comments. You know, the comments that go in the margin. Both are very useful features in Microsoft Word programs, and very important when it comes to editing. I only used to use the comments feature, but Track Changes is just as important. So back to my other manuscripts, for now. And I'll be editing them the same way Penumbra taught me to edit The Vase. It's fun.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sent Final Edits, but no reply

I have learned in the past, more than once, that when you send an important email to a publisher or an agent, make sure they got it by requesting a reply of confirmation. I remember when I emailed my literary agent, (back when I got a literary agent,) that I agreed to be her client, I received no reply, and after a week I emailed again, and then she replied that she never got my first email. So a week was wasted there. Another time I remember sending an email to a publisher, but they never got that email either. That time, however, I emailed the next day asking if they got it, and they answered no. So I resent that email. And then they got it.

So now, after a day of no response from Penumbra, and with a very important attachment, (my final edits to The Vase,) I emailed again last night, just asking if they got it. Of course, after only one day, I don't expect that they had time to review it yet, but just let me know they got it is all I'm asking. I don't even want to remember the fiasco that occurred with Cogito. That situation was the worst it  could get. They never responded, even to my emails asking for confirmation. So now I'm waiting for Penumbra to respond. I mean, anything is possible. Could be they're out of town, out sick, busy with other projects, some emergency, or they got it, and are delving into it right away... That's why I recommend confirmation. Communication -- very important.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Now Edits Are Done

I let Penumbra know to hold their horses yesterday, and that I would have edits to The Vase finished by that night, and I did. I sent them the finished draft last night. It was late, so I'm sure they won't see it until today sometime, but I let them know about some of the changes to make sure they knew those changes were necessary. It would have been a disaster had they published The Vase before those edits could be implemented and I told them that, too.

But they were agreeable, and I expect everything to work out well. We'll see, but if they do, I would like them to edit my other books. First, however, I'll go over them myself and make sure they conform to the Penumbra guidelines, which are pretty strict. Very strict I should say, and that is something I appreciate. That's the way your book gets to be the best it can be, and what author wouldn't want that?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Received Proof of The Vase, but...

I received a PDF proof of The Vase this morning, and it looked great, but wait a minute! I haven't sent in the finished draft yet. I was still wrapping up the second round of edits. I emailed Penumbra and said I should be sending it by tomorrow. I'm hoping that there's no mix up, and they are thinking I already sent it. I didn't think I was taking too long. Again, I should have it wrapped up by tonight and send it by tomorrow. There's some very important changes in there, and I told them that. For one, I had to correct all the Mossad references to Shin Bet, but there's other corrections too. Hopefully, they understand that, and this is just a proof of what it's going to look like, and they'll insert the corrections when I send them the finished version. That's probably all it is.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Finished, But...

All right. Last night I made it all the way through that second round of edits. And even had some time to review some of them. But I wasn't fast on the trigger, and I didn't send it back to Penumbra yet. No, I've learned by now to not be so quick. Instead, I'll go home after work today, and review those edits. Even the ones I've already reviewed. Of course, the amount of revising wasn't as much as the first round, but still there seems to be a lot, and I even had to rewrite a couple paragraphs. I'm using Track Changes, this time, and when you do that, the original wording is left on the document, but it's crossed out, and combined with using comments in the margin, which also highlights the relevant text, it can look a little confusing and/or convoluted. So I put the clean rewritten versions of the two paragraphs I rewrote in the comments, just to make sure they are clear on how those two paragraphs are supposed to read. Bottom line, the manuscript has never been better. I believe it could pass the inspection of even the toughest literary police out there. I'm hoping it gets the chance. It's a winner.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Not Quite Ready

I didn't get to spend as much time on those edits to The Vase over the weekend as I wanted to, so I didn't rush it, and I'm still not quite done. I'm getting there, however, and just one or two more days, and I will be done. And just to be sure, I'll review those edits start to finish one more time. You learn with experience. Don't rush it. Don't be too eager, and never be over anxious. You'll be glad you took your time. And that's just what I'm doing.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hope to Finish Soon

By this weekend I should be finished going over those final edits to The Vase, and send them back by Monday. Of course, I'm backing up every version, not once, but twice, on two separate flash drives. The lesson learned was one I will never forget, and one I really knew already. Always, and always back up your work on a flash drive or something that you can access outside your own computer.

But getting back to the edits on The Vase, I am so impressed and so thrilled with the quality of these edits, it's as if this book might be competing with the top literary works of today. And I'd bet it would hold up, thanks to the high literary standards at Penumbra. We'll see.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Editing Quirks

One of the things about editing/revising that I might label a quirk is when you sit for an hour trying to think of the best word to use in a particular part of your manuscript. And then you realize it was all for nothing. What happened to me last night was I spent, well, maybe not an hour, but almost an hour, trying to figure out what verb to use in a dialogue tag in my book The Vase. It's when Professor Weiss is hurt and he is responding to someone asking him if he can walk. So I was trying to figure out what dialogue tag to use when he answered. I was thinking to just write He answered. But no. I almost went simply with He said, but no. He groaned? He muttered? After nearly an hour of getting nowhere, what was my solution? NO DIALOGUE TAG. Sometimes, no dialogue tag is the best way to go. But I wish I realized that a lot sooner. Oh well. Such is the life of a writer.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Getting Better Every Day

The more you do something, the better you get. And with writing, it's even more true. But that is mostly the case when you're working with editors and publishers who are vested in your manuscripts. I got better from my experiences with Melange, and now I'm getting even better with my experiences with Penumbra. When I think about my experiences with my first two publishers, Virtual Tales and Cogito, I became a more experienced writer, but for some reason, those two publishers didn't have the same kind of editorial guidelines that Melange has. And Melange doesn't have the same kind of guidelines that Penumbra has. When it comes to POV, they do, but not as strict, and when it comes to verbiage, they don't. Penumbra is the most strict of them all, and far and away Penumbra has the highest standards when it comes to literary application. And I'm glad The Vase is being published by them. Everything happened for a reason, at least as far as The Vase is concerned. And now it's being published by the publisher who is making it the best literary work it can possibly be. I'm thankful for that.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Good to be back in the groove

It's not only good to be back in the groove of going over your edits, it's great. That's because going over your edits for your manuscript that's in queue to be published is the most enjoyable part of being a writer. And since this is the last round of edits, then I'm making the most of it. I was almost done when my computer crashed last week, so instead of picking up where I left off, I decided to just start from the beginning, which I did the day before yesterday. By last night, I've almost reached where I left off, and I expect to reach that point by tonight. And still I'm finding some areas that I'm improving. Not a lot by this point, but there are some. Can't wait to get home from work and get back to it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Disaster Averted

Well, the people at Fry's Electronics came through, and yes, they saved all my files. Whew. And the first thing I did after I brought my computer home was put the latest versions of my manuscripts on not one, but two different flash drives. As I said before, I used to do this every time I updated my manuscripts, but that was when I was in the process of writing them or revising them. But I had stopped doing that last summer, and the latest version of Killer Eyes might have been lost when my Sony Vaio crashed last week. That would have been the worst thing. But losing the last two weeks of going over my edits on The Vase would have been somewhat discouraging, too.

But none of that is the case. All my files were saved, and now they're backed up, and everything is okay. So I'm reviewing all my edits again, and once I reach where I left off, I'll finish this with the knowledge that The Vase is as good as it can possibly be. And that is because of Penumbra's staunch literary standards. I'm very pleased their top editor has such a high stake in my book. He is obviously vested in it, seemingly as much as I am. And that's what it takes to make a book the best it can be. Your editor has to be committed to it as much as you are. And apparently he is.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

So time for a vacation, then

I'll be waiting at least until the end of today or even tomorrow to find out if my files can be recovered, so in the meantime, I'll be taking my family on an overnight vacation down the West Coast. Gotta keep the wife happy, after all. I figure if I go ahead and get started again on going over those edits for The Vase, and then Fry's people do recover my files, then that time was wasted. It would have been extra work for me that didn't have to be done.

And if the files cannot be recovered, then I'll get started on redoing the edits from the last two weeks. So for now, it's vacation time. Until tomorrow anyway.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Disaster Struck

Well, I should have known better. My computer crashed yesterday, and wouldn't you know, I hadn't backed up any of my files for the past six months!

The last time I did, I had my manuscripts on two different flash drives, but the last time I saved them was about six months ago or more.

This means the work on The Vase that I've been doing since Penumbra sent me my second round of edits might be lost. My fingers are crossed that they are not. Right now, the guys at Fry's Electronics are working on my computer to replace the hard drive, and they said that in most cases they can recover the data, but there is always a chance that they can't. So again, my fingers are crossed.

It won't really be a disaster for The Vase. Because as far as The Vase goes, it means just redoing the last two weeks of going over those edits. I can do that again, and it will probably even be better.

But Killer Eyes hasn't been backed up since last June. That means all the work I did on that one since June might be gone. And that will be a shame. Even a disaster.

Why did I get out of the habit of backing up my files? Because I had a brand new Sony Vaio, that I believed wouldn't crash like that, that's why. No other computer I've had ever did that. Not my Dells, not my HP, and not any of the Apples I've had at work. Nope. Only the Sony did this. Sony. What I thought was the best, turned out to be the worst. It was only two years old. My family uses my old HP, and it's still going strong. Four years later, that is. I've had my Sony Vaio for two years and now it's caput.

So this means that Sony is not nearly as good as HP, or Dell, or Apple. Hey it's not like I abused it in any way. I treated it like gold. Kept it clean, stayed free of questionable websites, and had Norton Antivirus on it, and scanned it almost daily.

So no more Sony for me. If Frys can fix it, (I bought the three year service contract) then great. I'm typing this on a Lenovo which is my loaner from Fry's. By comparison, I'm liking it better than my Sony. But that's not hard to say when my Sony is caput. So here's to hoping Fry's can fix my Sony and retrieve my data. But if they can't, I'll never buy a Sony again. Period.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

This Week Off

So, yeah, it's great being a teacher. Spring break is here, and it's not just for kids. Teachers get the break, too, and it's perfect for working on your book. Unfortunately, I had some dental work done yesterday, and didn't get a lot done, but in the evening I managed to get back in front of the computer, and do something. Made some progress. And the same thing today. Really, I can't wait to send this version back, because Penumbra said that's when they'll publish it. So here's to making more progress. Tally Ho!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Vase, Better Than Ever!

Going over these edits for The Vase is a very satisfying experience. I've already talked about how much fun it is, but when you see your manuscript improving at such a rate, even after it's already been improved by other editors and other edits, it's like a miracle. Penumbra has taken steps to see to it this manuscript can pass any literary guidelines from any literary critic. I can be assured that if this book were to be presented as a literary piece, meaning the genre literary fiction, it would hold up no problem. Maybe that's their intention, but even if it isn't, I'd have no problem with that. I'm not quite done yet with this round, but it's shaping up quite nicely. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Catch Those Errors Now

So going over the changes first and then reading the manuscript word by word is pretty effective. You don't get too bogged down thinking about how to change something after the fact. It's already been done. Now you can just read the manuscript like you would anything else, and you catch anything that snags right away. Especially typos. There's nothing that bugs me more than typos glaring out at you after your book has been published. It's like, how did that get missed after all the times you had read it, and after all the times an editor had read it?

Well, there is something that could be worse. Getting something so wrong that readers will think you didn't do your research. Now, I did do a good amount of research in The Vase, and learned about Mossad, the Kidon, and the IDF. But in that research I missed Shin Bet and Aman. But as I go back and research it now, I can't believe I missed Shin Bet and Aman. After all, they are two of the three main intelligence "communities" in Israel, and have been for some time. When I research them now, they are there plain as day. How did I miss them before?

To be clear, Aman is the military intelligence branch, Shin Bet is the national or domestic intelligence branch, and Mossad is the foreign or international intelligence branch. So if the intelligence activities were to take place outside of Israel's borders, then it's on Mossad. But within Israel, it's all about Shin Bet. So my story, taking place in Nazareth, which is inside of Israel, would be under the jurisdiction of Shin Bet.

So, okay, I got that now,  and in time. I'm making all the changes and all the adjustments. The Vase will be legit now, and I won't look like a dummy for using the wrong agency. But I still can't believe I missed it before. No worries, it's not missed now.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

So Just How Does One Review Edits?

While I'm going over this second round of edits, I decided to do it differently this time. Instead of reading through it word by word like I did the first round of edits, I'll review all editorial changes first, and at the same time review the changes I had made on the last version to see if they were incorporated. And after that, then I will go back and read it through word by word to make sure it reads smoothly, and also to make sure nothing was missed, like typos or punctuation. And, as I've learned repeatedly, I will most likely find better ways to write parts of it here and there. Penumbra has already told me that they want this round to be the last round, and that means the version I send back will most likely be the version published. So it's now or never. Here goes...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reviewing Edits, the most fun

I've said before that going over your editor's edits is the most fun a writer can have. At least this writer. You have the knowledge that your book is getting published, so all that pressure is off your back. And even better, it adds to the fun. You see how your writing is improving by leaps and bounds. You learn a lot, too, and again, by leaps and bounds.

Fortunately, I learned about the difference between Shin Bet and Mossad, and in time to be included in this latest round of edits. Most importantly, all the grammar and punctuation, etc. will be spot on. Because there will always be haters out there. People will criticize other people's work just for the sake of criticism. And it's better if that criticism was based on something subjective, like whether or not they liked something based solely on their opinion. But if it's something objective, like flaws in grammar, punctuation, et al, that could be embarrassing. And that's the biggest benefit in having a strict editor. I'm glad my editor at Penumbra is as strict as they come.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shin Bet

So for this last round of edits in The Vase, I will call the Israeli Security Agency Shin Bet. That's what I'm told it's called in The Gatekeepers, which, btw, I'd like to see. But it's not playing anywhere in my vicinity that I can find. Not yet, anyway. Maybe it just hasn't arrived yet. But if it does, I'll be sure to see it.

At any rate, since I'm told it's called only Shin Bet in that movie, I think I'll follow suit and call it that. Not Shabak, and not the ISA. After all, I was calling Mossad Mossad, and not the English equivalent. (Although I'm not sure it has an English equivalent.) But Shin Bet sounds better than the Israel Security Agency. And furthermore, I already have several references to the IDF. I don't want to compound my manuscript with another three letter organization that starts with an I. So after a night's worth of deliberation, at least for now, I'm settling on Shin Bet.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Edits Are In

Friday night, just as I hoped, the second round of edits for The Vase returned. It's interesting, too, because I had just found out that the Mossad is Israel's foreign intelligence agency, and Shin Bet, or Shabak, is Israel's internal intelligence agency. And since Nazareth is internal, I should be using Shin Bet, or Shabak, instead of Mossad. So it's no problem to just change every use of the word Mossad to Shin Bet. Or Shabak. Or maybe just refer to it as the Israel Security Agency. Or the ISA. Hhmmnnn, so which name do I use?

To be clear, in English, it's the Israel Security Agency, or the ISA. But in Hebrew, it's a lot of Hebrew words which I won't even try to write here, or even in my book. But Shabak is the acronym for it. And Shin Bet is the first two Hebrew letters for it, you know, the abbreviation, like the CIA or FBI. So they call it Shin Bet, but according to Wikipedia, it's better known as Shabak, but since my book is in English, perhaps I should just call it the Israel Security Agency, and the ISA.

More people are familiar with Mossad, though, and I wish I could just call it that. But there's a new documentary/movie out now, called The Gatekeepers, and even though I haven't seen it yet, I'm told it features Shin Bet. Or Shabak. I'll have to see it, and then I might have a better idea how I should refer to it. Shin Bet, or Shabak, or the Israel Security Agency.