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, March 31, 2015

What About Game of Thrones and Turn?

I was relieved that both Black Sails and Walking Dead made a come back for me, but what about Game of Thrones and Turn? They're both resuming this week, and I've gone through ups and downs with them as well. Not so much for Turn, since it's only had one season so far. Can't really go through ups and downs in one season.

I liked Turn in its first season, and I liked how it ended. I wasn't so thrilled with that British officer being so cruel to everyone, but that was the worst of it for me. I did like the duel between him and the mc, whose name I already forget. We'll see how the second season fares. I do like historical fiction, and Turn is set in America during the Revolutionary War.

Game of Thrones, another historical fiction has been around for a while now, and I forget how many seasons it has under its belt at this point. I like it and I don't. I thought the killing of the mc Stark in the first season was BS. It was another example of stories taking a turn that I didn't agree with. But it had enough going for it to keep me watching. I can't stand that blond queen Denaris or whatever her name is. She's immune to fire or can't be burned or whatever and wants to be queen. Can't stand characters like that.

But again, it has so much going on, it's as if two or three things bug you it doesn't matter, because there's four or five other things going on that don't. GOT is like that. Overall I keep watching, even though I don't really like the story, the characters or the events that take place. You have all these despicable characters, and you love it when they get killed, like that boy king Joffrey or whatever his name was, but then when good guys get killed like Stark and then Stark's son, you think it stinks.

We'll see how it goes. Bottom line is if you watch it, I guess. I wonder if the writer even cares if the audience likes what they're watching. Or reading. Maybe he only cares if you paid for the book, or for the HBO service. I guess it's the $$ that's the bottom line. That's all.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Ruined Shows Patched Up

A week ago I was not feeling good about a couple of my favorite shows. A week later it seems that the two shows made a comeback. Particularly the one show. Which I won't name. It took a turn for the better this weekend, and oh heck, I'll just name it. Black Sails. My two favorite pirate captains ended up teaming up. They had been uneasy allies in the past, then they became mortal enemies, and now they are fighting side by side and are allies again.

The two actors who play them, Toby Stephens as Captain Flint and Zach McGowan as Captain Vane, really do look like great pirate captains. Toby Stephens looks just like what a former British naval commander turned pirate captain should look like, and Zach McGowan looks just like what a former slave turned pirate captain should look like. (In case you are not familiar with Black Sails, Captain Vane is not black even though he's a former slave. There were some flashbacks to when he was a slave, but it seemed that his slavery days were when he was a young boy.)

Just how Vane overcame all of that is still not clear, but he's a pirate captain now, and it suits him. Just like Captain Flint. And even though the second season just ended, there seems to be a lot to look forward to, meaning another favorite actor of mine, Ray Stevenson will be coming to the show. From what I saw in the preview for next season, it looks like Stevenson will be playing the part of Blackbeard the pirate. At least he looked like Blackbeard, with a black beard and all.

As for the other show, The Walking Dead, it made a comeback for me, at least somewhat. Rick is back form acting weird, and the show explained, or rather he explained that he was right in everything he said, (if not what he did,) and the show made it so that everyone else could see he was right. So everyone seems to be on the same page as Rick now, except for the reappearance of Morgan, a guy who lets cold blooded killers live, even after they attempted to kill him, and then of course the cold blooded killers go on to kill someone else.

It seems that Morgan needs a lesson from my own character, Trent Smith in Killer of Killers. You kill the killers so they won't go on killing other innocent people. Or he could learn the same lesson from the guy in the same show. Rick. He believes, as does Trent Smith, that you gotta get rid of the bad guys. They'll only keep on being bad. And no one is the better for having bad guys living amongst them. You know what? That's true in real life too. How about that.

Monday, March 23, 2015

When Stories Take a Turn for the Worse

Have you ever been watching a movie, TV show, or even reading a book, and you were enjoying the story for a good part of the show, even most of it, and then something happens that makes you say, "No, no, that's not right!"

I mean, the story takes a twist, but instead of being a great twist, indicative of great writing, it makes you change your mind from liking or even loving the story to actually disliking or even hating the story. And that, to me, is indicative of BAD writing. Real bad writing.

Look at it this way. A writer has you hooked. You love the story. Then the writer, thinking he or she is a genius or something, takes the story in a completely different direction, and you just totally disagree with that direction because, well, for one thing it's not what you wanted to see happen. For another, it's not what you would have written. And bottom line, it's not what SHOULD have happened in that story.

This has happened to me more times than I can count. It's happened to me recently, too, with two of my favorite TV shows that are being aired right now. I won't mention them by name, but one of them seemed to fall in line with what seems to be "chic" with Hollywood these days, and that's all I'll say about that other than the fact that it just didn't work for this show or this type of story.

And  the other one had the main character behave in a completely different way than we have come to know that character to behave and then on top of that, in this story anyway, the character is betrayed by a fellow character who would never have betrayed him or her.

You don't change a character's character, so to speak, and you don't force the current trend of what's "chic" onto a story that has no business having that particular trend in this particular storyline. It's just fake. Both things are fake. And for me both ruined those respective stories.

Btw, there's something else that can ruin a story for me. And that's giving it a bad ending. You can have a great story, a great build up, a great climax even, and then all of a sudden the end totally sucks. I don't want to watch a movie or read a book and then feel like crap when it's over. I'd rather feel good, and be glad I took the time to read or watch a story. If it's a bad ending, or a sad ending that didn't have to be a sad ending, then I feel ripped off.

One example of a great story that ended sadly that didn't have to end sadly was the movie Gladiator. Russell Crowe did not have to die in the end. I mean what was that all about? Why did they write it like that? He should have killed the emperor like he did, and then fade away into obscurity like Stephen Boyd did in The Fall of the Roman Empire.  But they killed Russell Crowe for no reason. That was a lousy ending, imo.

Oh well. That's why I'm writing my own stories now. If you are a reader or a potential reader of any of my books, I can promise you this: you won't feel like crap at the ending of any of my stories. They will be uplifting and positive. That's what a story should be. imo.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Waiting for Responses

...from agents, and while I am, I'll just continue to polish the manuscript. And when I get a request for a full, that ms will be ready to send. Just hope the agent that signs me will not want to change too much. That will probably happen with a publisher, though. And if it's a Big Six publisher, then that will be okay. Even if it's not a big publisher it's okay. Just hope that whoever it is who publishes it will be able to get the book into a bookstore. That means I'm looking beyond POD publishers. That's the only knock on them. They don't get their books into bookstores.

Still I'm glad that Killer of Killers, Killer Eyes and The Vase are published. Even if it's by POD publishers. I'd rather they were in bookstores, but I couldn't make that happen. They're getting read at least, and that's the bottom line.

But it's time for me to make the next step. Meaning get my books into book stores. Meaning find a publisher who can do that. Meaning not a POD publisher. Meaning find an agent who can sell the book to a publisher who sells their books to bookstores. That's a tall order. It may never happen. The authors who make that happen write MG/YA books. Or women's fiction, like Romance or Chick Lit. Stuff like that. I may write a MB/YA book. Maybe Second Chance could qualify. Or the book I have on the back burner-called Inside the Outhouse. But that one's still a ways off. We'll see.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Queried First Scottish Agent

During my agent search last night I found an agency located in Scotland. They indicated they were in Scotland on their website and it got me to thinking. Maybe they would be particularly interested in the John Dunn story, and why? Because John Dunn was the son of a Scottish immigrant. Yes, Robert Newton Dunn, the father of John Dunn came from Scotland to South Africa where he met his English wife and got married. They had three daughters and a son, John Dunn.

Unfortunately for the senior Dunn, however, he was trampled by a bull elephant during a hunting trip. John witnessed it, and from that day on he harbored a hatred of elephants. He killed them all in the Berea, which is the undeveloped area in the colony of Natal at the time. It's just a piece of trivia about John Dunn, and it's mentioned in my book, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu. Another piece of trivia which I don't mention is the name of John Dunn's horse. He named his horse Napoleon, but I don't point that out in the book. I thought about it, but the book is not about Dunn's horse. I make only a couple references to his horse, but he never calls his horse by name in the story. At least not yet.

That might change. If I find an agent who then finds a publisher, who knows what that editor might want me to change in the book. It could be he or she will want the name of the horse in there, or maybe they'll want more than just a reference to Dunn's father being killed by an elephant. Maybe they'll want it depicted in a flashback or something. We'll see. Let's find that agent first.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Being American Might Hurt Chances

...of finding an agent in the UK. I have concluded this because one UK agency's website said UK editors are less likely to work with American authors if they haven't been published yet. I've been published, but by POD publishers, so I don't even know if that would be acceptable for UK editors. Won't know until I find out, anyway.

But that doesn't mean I'll stop trying. I'll continue looking for an American agent too, of course. Until now no UK agent has sent me a rejection. That bodes well. They say no news is good news. Some American agent have sent rejections though. That's par for the course. And I've queried about an equal number of UK agents and American agents. I'd say about a dozen each.

And out of that dozen, about half a dozen American agents have responded, so I still have the other half dozen that might at least ask for a full. And the UK agents? Why no response yet? Maybe they just take longer to get through their submissions. Or it could be that no answer means no. That's very possible. Only time will tell. We'll see. Fingers crossed.

Friday, March 13, 2015

UK Agents or American Agents?

I'm wondering if being an American will hurt my chances of finding an agent in the UK. My John Dunn book has nothing to do with America. It has everything to do with the UK and the Zulus. So maybe an American writing a story about the Anglo-Zulu War is like a British person writing about the American Civil War.

But whatever. Enthusiasts come in all different nationalities. So who's to say there aren't British Civil War enthusiasts? And who's to say there aren't American Zulu War enthusiasts? It's just that I'm not sure if being an American won't be counted against me. It could be that a UK agent might be interested in repping a book about the Zulu War, but then lose interest when he or she finds out it was an American who wrote the book.

So what am I to do? Well, I'm querying American agents, too. It's just that all the books and TV shows and movies that have ever been made about the Zulus and the Zulu War have been UK publishers and UK movie makers. It's a UK thing. Which is why I'm not limiting my agent search to American agents. You can bet I'm also querying UK agents. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Agent Replied Anyway!

This is actually kind of funny. My last post on Tuesday about sending a blank page to an agent resulted in a response last night! That's even hilarious! Many queries get no response at all. But one that was sent in error, with no text in the body of the email, got a response the very next day!

Maybe it was the subject line that drew an interest. I hope so. All the agent said was to check out her website for the proper guidelines to query. Yeah, that's what I do. But as I said Tuesday, I must have hit 'send' instead of 'save as draft,' and I wasn't going to retry that agent, because I was under the impression the agent wouldn't respond after that.

But there it was, a response as if the agent was curious as to what I had to offer. So I went ahead and pasted the message and sent it. Let's see what happens now. If it's going to be a rejection, at least it will come quickly. You would think.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One Agent Got a Blank Page

I'm still querying agents for John Dunn, but when I checked my 'sent' emails I discovered one of them was a blank page. Don't know how that happened. I suppose the agent who got that must have said to herself, "well, there's nothing here," because it was literally true.

When I query an agent I cut and paste first the email address, and then I cut and paste the query letter, and then change the wording so it applies to that specific agent. I guess I got the email address pasted, but somehow hit send before I pasted the message.

I don't even remember that happening. I think I I was distracted by something before I could paste the message and meant to click 'save as draft', but hit the send icon by mistake. That's the only thing that makes sense to me.

So now the question is should I try again to query that same agent. Maybe, maybe not, because she may think I'm some airhead and thus not worth even seeing if my story might be something she would represent. If I do query her again, she'll see that same heading in the subject line and then delete it before even opening it. So whatever.

In the meantime, I'm still polishing up the John Dunn manuscript, which I will continue to do until someone asks to see it. Fingers crossed on that. As for my history on querying agents, it was an unpredictable process. I got a lot of requests for partials and fulls for Killer of Killers, but not for The Vase. I think that for The Vase, the mere thought of a story that involved Hamas terrorists was too scary for agents. They wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.

But the John Dunn story is historical fiction and it takes place during Victorian times. And it's in South Africa, involving the Zulus. That's always been popular. There's a huge fan base of Anglo Zulu War enthusiasts everywhere in the world, like American Civil War enthusiasts. That should bode well for my John Dunn story, because he was in the thick of the Anglo-Zulu War and I cover almost the entire war in the story.

So we'll see.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Meanwhile, Second Chance Over 55,000 Words

I was talking about how John Dunn was over 123,000 words, well I've still been working on Second Chance, and it's over 55,000 words now. I suspect it may reach 75,000 words, which will be a good enough amount of words for a book like that.

And what kind of book like that is it? I call it a sports story. More specifically a football story. There's no sex, practically no violence, as almost all of the action is on a football field. In fact you might have to be a football player to understand a lot of what's going on. Maybe not.

Yes, it's character driven. And like all my books, there's a lot of characters, and the POV does change to follow some different characters. Of course I use the scene break when I change POV, as I've learned that lesson by now. It flows well, I think. But I'm still on the first draft, and like all books, it will be revised who knows how many times.

I'm still involved in my agent search too. And I've got a couple agent rejections by now. I'm thinking that a historical novel like John Dunn would have more of a chance of attracting an agent. I've queried about a dozen or so by now. And I'm only a week into it, so those two responses came pretty quickly. Still I hope I do land an agent. Agents can get you into the Big Six and get your books made into movies too. Hope it happens. Fingers crossed.

Friday, March 6, 2015

More Words Means More Revisions

Since my John Dunn story is my longest book, it is logical that it will take me longer to make revisions. A 123,000 word manuscript looms large on revisions. It was over 124,000 words at first, but after two rounds of revisions, it has dropped to 123,000 words. I don't suppose it will drop below that, but who knows? It might. Sometimes I take out entire paragraphs, but sometimes I add paragraphs, too. But sometimes it's a sentence or just a single word that needs changing, deleting, or adding.

And I'll probably have to give it another two or three passes at least. But even so I've begun soliciting agents. I figure in the time that it will take for an agent to respond, I'll have time to make those two or three passes to polish up the MS. From what I already know, agents take anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks, to a couple months to respond to queries. Or they'll never respond.

But I'm hoping that since it's historical fiction, the John Dunn story will attract more agents than thriller suspense stories, which is what my first three books were. The Victorian setting is a plus as well. And the John Dunn story has another thing going for it. The characters are mostly British, the story takes place in a British colony, and it involves a major event in British history. Those elements give me two countries of agents to query. American agents and agents in the UK. In fact, UK publishers are probably more likely to publish a story like this. There have been two books published about John Dunn already, both by UK publishers. But those were published a long time ago, and are out of print now. So who knows? We'll see.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TV Series - Banshee - Wow

I've been catching up on some of these Premium Channel TV Series, and the one I'm watching right now is Banshee. It's on Cinemax, and like the other Cinemax show, Strike Back, which I just finished watching through season three, it's full of action. But I like Banshee better. In fact, I'm thinking that I like Banshee better than any other TV show I've ever watched. It's that good.

What I like about these Premium Channel shows is that they don't have to worry about Network TV censorship. Foul language, nudity, sex, and over the top violence is all allowed. And how. It really makes a show better. A lot better. And I'm on season three of Banshee right now. Last night I just saw episode three of season three, and all I've got to say is "Wow."
'
Well, I can say more than that. Episode three of season three was one of the best episodes of any TV show I've ever seen. Ever. It was up there with my favorite movies even. Like the Transporter movies, or Jason Bourne. It was that good. After it finished, I was like..."Wow." I'm sold on Banshee. I have no problem with saying it's one of my all time favorite TV shows.

Since, "Rome" a few years ago on HBO, I was sold on these Premium channel series. I talked about Spartacus a lot, because I liked that one too, although I did have some problems with the writing. Some I didn't watch but I heard about them, like Sopranos and The Wire, but I've caught up on them now. I thought they were both good, but they don't match Banshee in original premise, writing and directing.

When I watch these shows, one of the things that goes through my mind is which actors might have a role in my Killer of Killers story. Dustin Clare was from Spartacus, and he's still the leading candidate for my main character Trent Smith in KOK. Antony Starr from Banshee might be a good option for Trent Smith, too. He's still a distant second, though. Dustin Clare remains number one in regards to what I've envisioned Trent Smith to look like.

No show can be good without good writing. And the writing on Banshee has been top notch. The characters are great, the villains are great, and subplots are great. Each episode is contained, although they do have a story arc flowing through the entire season, even throughout the entire series. That's instrumental in keeping a viewer interested. And I am.

What really sets Banshee apart is the directing. Again, wow. Some of the best directing I've ever seen anywhere. And the fight scenes? They're so good they even rival the best of Corey Yuen. In fact, the fight scene I just saw last night was one of the best fight scenes of all time, imo. And it was between a man and a woman! I've already made my opinion known about "tough chicks" but heck, I must say it was simply one of the best ever!

Yeah, Banshee wins on all fronts. It's one of the best shows ever made.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Agents Queried

After some bad experiences with agents, I decided to query agents again. No need to rehash the problems from before, but if you want to be published in the Big Six or have your books turned into movies, well, you need an agent.

I'm including agents from the UK in my queries this time because John Dunn is largely a British story. It takes place in the British colony of Natal, and it also takes place in Zululand, which was annexed as a British colony, and the Anglo-Zulu War is depicted in the story, .

It might be that a UK publisher would be more interested in publishing my John Dunn book for those same reasons. After all, the Shaka Zulu miniseries was a British production, and so too were the Zulu War movies that were made. There were two of them. The first was called Zulu, and it starred Michael Caine and Stanley Baker. The second was Zulu's prequel, called Zulu Dawn, and it starred Peter O'Toole and Burt Lancaster. Both were outstanding movies, imo, as was the minieseries Shaka Zulu.

The John Dunn book is finished with the second round of revisions, but that doesn't mean it's finished. Even after I sent the first ten pages to some agents, and the first three chapters to some more, I did find places to polish it up somewhat. Which means I made the same mistake. I was too quick on the trigger. I should have waited until today to send those query emails.

So for the next few weeks, what I'll be doing is going through that MS again and again, polishing it up to make it better and improve its chances of attracting representation. Hopefully it will happen. Fingers crossed.