Will iconic images recorded in the grooves of an ancient vase unite the Holy Land or rip it further apart?
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, April 30, 2015
I knew martial arts because I had trained in Ju Jitsu when I was younger and my son was training in Ju Jitsu at the time, which gave me great access to the local dojo and the senseis and shihan there. I did some research when it came to chemicals, poisons, and the scientific elements involved with the drug in the story. One thing that helped me was my experience working in a drug company. Syntex, the maker of Toradol and Naprosyn (AKA Aleve) is located in my neck of the woods, and I worked there for a year or two, and I became familiar with the processes and procedures of drug production. I used that knowledge in my book, Killer of Killers.
The Vase is a ceramics based story, and that's what I am. A ceramicist. I don't throw pots, but I do make ceramic sculptures, and I know how to throw pots, meaning I've done it before. But I did have to do a lot of research about Nazareth, Judaism, and Islam. Plus I had to research things like Shin Bet which is the Israel Security Agency.
When I wrote Killer Eyes I researched a lot about nuclear medicine. That's how the drug in the story evolved. I learned a lot about radioactivity, radioactive half-life, background radiation, radioactive elements, radiopharmaceuticals, and even Chinese funeral practices.
But when it came to John Dunn, wow, that's where the research had to kick in full gear. That involved more research than all the books put together. I had to read no less than five or six separate books about the Zulus, the Zulu War, John Dunn, and King Cetshwayo. Not to mention all the online sites I looked up. That was a lot of reading. But I did it. I'm not calling myself an expert on the Zulus or the Zulu War, but I learned enough to write the book. It focuses on John Dunn's experiences between the years 1856 and 1879, and that's where I focused my research.
It was fun. Time consuming, but fun. And now it's ready to be published. If all else fails, I know I can get it published with one of my two current publishers. But like I said before, I want to step up from POD. That's my goal for John Dunn. We'll see how that goes.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
I do have an acknowledgment page in both Killer of Killers and The Vase. In KOK, my first book, I dedicated the book mostly to my family, (my brother, wife, and sons,) but I also acknowledged the martial arts academy who assisted me with the martial arts terminologies and philosophies. KOK has a lot of martial arts philosophies, and those philosophies are the same ones from that particular martial arts academy. It's where my son trained, and being a regular attendee, I was able to interview the senseis (instructors) and the shihan (that's the top guy who runs the place) and use the terms and philosophies that are used in that academy.
I dedicated The Vase to my colleagues and coworkers at the school and district where I work. I've had such a great experience being a teacher in the school district of my home town, that I thought it would be appropriate to cite them in the acknowledgment page for my second book.
My third book, Killer Eyes, the sequel to KOK is coming out this summer, but I haven't really considered to whom I will dedicate that book. The question is who inspired me for that book? A lot of people really have inspired me, and not all of those people were mentioned in those first two books. Probably no one really cares, but dedications are personal things - to the author if no one else.
That's why most authors dedicate their books to their spouses, their children, or even their parents - people who touched their lives in some personal way, or had a hand in the creation of the book - which is what I did for my first two books. But now that I'm on my third book, due out in a couple months, it's time to think about who's next. Not sure. Maybe I won't have an acknowledgment page. Not for my third, nor for my fourth, the John Dunn book. Still, it remains to be seen. We'll see.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Well, it's better now. As I'm rereading this manuscript, I am improving it here and there, all minor stuff, and I'm keeping track of all changes minor as they are. So if Knox Robinson does offer a contract, I'll have a list of the changes I've made in the meantime to put in the manuscript once we get to the editing stage. Yeah, these are some things I've learned with experience. Not that I'm so experienced, but I am a veteran of sorts by now.
It's a lot of fun. From art to music to novels, the creative process keeps you going. Two sons and a wife keep you going, too. It's a wonder I have any time to write at all. But I do, and it's a great thing for a couple reasons. It's something that I can do at home, in the same house with my family, and unlike when I was doing music, I'm keenly aware of the happenings in the house while I'm doing my writing. (With music, having the headphones on was like being isolated to a degree.)
And with art, having paints out, and a painting area laid out, it's something that can't be dropped at a moment's notice. Too much clean up involved with painting, whether it's oils, acrylics, or watercolor. No, with writing, you can stop and go, go and stop at any point. It's the wonder of the computer. Without computers, I'd be stuck on the canvas. Three cheers for computers.
Monday, April 27, 2015
But I'm seeking a new contract now from a new publisher, and this is where the great Victoria Strauss comes in. She's like the guru of authors, the sage of writers, and the queen of anyone who needs advice when it comes to the publishing process. She does it out of the goodness of her heart, and imo, there's no one with a greater heart.
Yes, there are others at Absolute Write, and they all are great. But Victoria will be the one to help you about anything, when it comes to publishing contracts, agent contracts, and any advice when it comes to being a writer, or an author seeking publication.
She's tied in with Preditors and Editors, too. (That's not a typo, they spell 'preditors' like that.) She doesn't do it for money. She's just a great lady. And I've learned a lot from her when it comes to contracts. Still, I will have to make up my own mind. Her advice is just that. Advice. You can heed the advice or not. For me, when it comes to contracts there will be varying factors I'll have to weigh. And I will make my decision based on those factors.
First, however, I have to have a contract. So let's see how that goes.
Friday, April 24, 2015
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
So he moved away from white society with a girl who was half-black and lived in Zululand until one day by chance Captain Joshua Walmsley, the Natal border agent, found him.
By then, Dunn was more Zulu than white. He barely remembered how to speak English. But Captain Walmsley retaught him English, how to read and write, and provided a home for John, his wife, Catherine, and the three children they had in the years they lived in the wild. Walmsley even hired John as his assistant. But Captain Walmsley and his wife, Maria, were about the only white people to like John. They were the only white people who didn't care that he was married to a colored girl.
The word "colored" to people in South Africa back then meant a person who was half white and half black. Catherine's father was an Englishman, but her mother was a native from the Cape Colony. And she had to deal with racism all of her life. But not from John. John Dunn, in my opinion, was a perfect example of a man who didn't care about skin color. To John Dunn, people were people no matter what the color of their skin. To John Dunn a man was a man, no matter what race he was or what language he spoke or what kind of home he lived in.
I believe I'm the same way. Race never mattered to me. I can honestly say that all my life, skin color did not matter to me. Nor the country of a person's origin. Nor the language that a person spoke. I have always believed that people are people no matter what color is their skin. I am proud to say that, because I know that it's true. Anyone who's ever known me knows that it's true.
And John Dunn was like that. But he had to deal with racism. He had to deal with prejudice. He had to deal with the English belief that they were superior. And they took their racism to the Zulus by making war against them. The Zulus didn't do anything to the English. But the English declared war on them anyway. It's all in my book, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu.
And John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu is quite a story, beginning with his participation in the Zulu Civil War of 1856 to the end of the Anglo Zulu War of 1878-79. That means he fought in, not one, but two Zulu wars. And he survived them.
As Mr. Spock raising an eyebrow in Star Trek would say: Fascinating!
Or as that German soldier smoking a cigarette in Laugh In would say: Verrrry Interesting!
Saturday, April 18, 2015
She said it's a man's book. (It is, actually,) and she also said it would make a spectacular film! Here's the quote: "Killer of Killers by Mark M. DeRobertis is a 1980's action movie in the written form. I think the best definition of the work is a precise and excellently layered treatment for a movie script. Killer of Killers would make a spectacular film, filled with intricate martial arts sequences and an actor/martial artist like Georges St. Pierre as main character Trent Smith."
I never heard of Georges St. Pierre. I still think Dustin Clare would be the right actor to play Trent Smith. But whatever. She ended the review by recommending it to martial artists and any producers and directors looking for their next movie. Here's the quote: "...I recommend Killer of Killers to any martial artists that want to see action sequences written excellently. I also recommend Killer of Killers to any action-oriented Producer and Director who are looking for their next movie."
But hold on, this is the same reviewer who thought The Vase was only three stars. Goes to show how opinions vary. I'll take the good with the bad. The bad was basically how she believed I don't let my characters show their "feelings" enough. She wants male characters showing their emotions to the women they love. I suppose she's right in her perceptions that in both KOK and The Vase, my male characters hold back on expressing their love for the women in their lives.
Maybe it's the way I am. It's not my style, and anyone who's ever known me, knows it. (And, btw, she doesn't know me from Adam, so of course she doesn't know it.) My wife of 26 years will tell you. She's still with me, so I must be doing something right.
But again, whatever, it's her OPINION. Everybody has one. I can accept differing opinions. My problem is when reviewers say something about a book that's plain not true, like that dude I mentioned recently. But she didn't do that. She kept her comments to opinions. As it should be. You can read the whole review at Goodreads.
So I write the way I write, and opinions will vary. I'm just glad she gave Killer of Killer four stars. That's the bottom line. It was a good review, and I'll take it. Still, I'm not soliciting any more. That phase is over for me. From now on, any reviews that come in will either be from reviewers I've already solicited or from someone who wants to review it on their own.
Friday, April 17, 2015
It's interesting how that works. I outlined the story, but as you write, a lot of other things happen that aren't in the outline. It's like the writer is actually living the story. It's real for the writer. That's probably why readers will never connect to a story like the writer does. Maybe some readers do. Those readers who are more empathic. And there's probably a lot of readers who are.
For Second Chance, however, only readers who know football will be able to connect to that story. I hope a lot of readers like football. It's kind of a personal story for me. I played football, I loved football, so much so, that at one point in my life it was the most important thing to me--the most enjoyable thing. I made many mistakes, however. And wouldn't you know that the mistakes I regret the most in my life are those mistakes I made regarding football.
If someone can say that their worst mistakes were those that involved football, then you can also say that their mistakes weren't so bad. After all, how important, really, in life is football? It's only a game. But for me, in my life, it's true. My mistakes regarding football have been the ones that have haunted me for most of my life. I've had recurring dreams for the last forty years about those mistakes. Even the story in Second Chance came to me in a dream. A dream! Maybe once I'm finished with this story, it will be some kind of a "coming to terms" thing.
One thing that resulted from my mistakes, at least, was they enabled me to advise my oldest son. And from that advice, he's living his football "dream." He was a star running back for his high school team. He was the team's MVP, the league's Offensive Player of the Year, he made the All Star team, played in the All Star game, scored a TD in the All Star game even, and he's playing in college now. So it could be true that because of my advice he's not making the same mistakes I made.
Second Chance is a football story. Who reads football stories? Maybe no one. We'll see.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
There were a couple other scenes that happened in real life that I might have put in there. There was the fight between two Zulu regiments that Dunn witnessed firsthand which killed about 75 Zulus. And there was an event involving a Zulu chieftain and gun registration, where he refused to do it, then fled, killed three white policemen, was caught, went to trial and was convicted. Some say it was another factor that led to the Anglo-Zulu war.
But the book's already over 120,000 words. It's plenty long enough. And neither scene would really add much more to the story. It's good to go. Ready for a Beta reader.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
I will probably wait until I find a publisher. And confer with them. For my first three books, my publishers have not asked me to change the titles. Nor have they asked me to make any significant plot or story changes. Penumbra did want me to change the flashback in The Vase to Hiram Weiss relaying what happened to him. It wasn't changing the story though. At one point after the climactic scene, I had Weiss begin to tell what happened to him after he ran off, (not giving away spoilers here,) and then I went into a flashback mode. But the editor wanted me to keep it at him just telling Captain Mathias what happened. It worked either way.
But that's it. Killer Eyes has not undergone edits with the publisher yet. It's due to be released this summer, so I expect that to happen any time now.
As for John Dunn, I may make some changes on my own. I have a scene in there with Dunn and twenty-five of his wives that I may cut out. I'm thinking I'm delving too far into sensationalism with that part, and I'm 99% sure I'll delete that short scene today. It'll take a rippling effect, though. You have to keep in mind that any changes will have to be followed up throughout the story line to keep it consistent. I'm sure it will be an improvement. Don't want to sensationalize the Dunn story. The true parts are sensational enough. Truth can be stranger than fiction. Or more sensational. And in the Dunn story, it's a great story on its own true legs
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Well, my agent search for John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu has only been underway for a little more than a month, but I'm ready to forget about it. It's not worth it. I didn't need agents for The Vase. On my own I found no less than FIVE publishers who wanted to publish The Vase. Two publishers were quick to say yes. Aberdeen Bay and Spencer Hill both offered contracts for The Vase right away, but Victoria Strauss over at Absolute Write told me those were bad contracts. Victoria Strauss is probably the greatest lady on the planet, but that's another story for another day.
Then there was Virtual Tales with whom I actually signed, but they folded, so I signed with Cogito next, and that came close to fruition until they had some kind of internal strife. Smack dab in the middle of editing The Vase, my Cogito editor quit Cogito and was suing them. The Vase got lost in all the chaos so I pulled out. Turned out I'm glad it didn't work out with Cogito. They're one of those publishers who want half of your money if your book ever becomes a movie. That alone makes a contract unsignable. No publisher has the right for even one percent of your money if your book becomes a movie. I ultimately signed with Penumbra Publishing, and I'm glad I did. They taught me a lot about editing and writing.
For John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu I want to take the next step. I want to move up from POD publishers to a publisher who gets your book into a real brick and mortar bookstore. And having an agent is the best way to get that done. But not the only way.
There are publishers that get your books into book stores that don't require agents. So if I go it alone I don't doubt I'll have at least equal success I've had with Killer of Killers, Killer Eyes and The Vase. And if I can find a publisher that gets their books into bookstores, then I will have succeeded in taking the next step. And without the useless agent. Fingers crossed and we'll see how that goes. The publisher search begins.
Monday, April 13, 2015
I don't want to sound like that one author a couple years ago whose response to a bad review went viral. And I don't want to go online and call this particular reviewer a liar. But he said a few things about KOK that just weren't true! I mean, where did he get those things? Could he just have gotten mixed up? If so, then that means the writing should have been more clear. But I don't think so. I think the writing was very clear. At least on three things he criticized as follows:
One: He said it wasn't explained in the book how Trent had the money for travel expenses, food, etc. But it WAS explained in the book. I even wrote him a nice and polite email telling him on exactly what page it was explained, by whom, and I quoted the passage. How did he miss that?
Two: He said there was a trick with smoke, but it wasn't explained. In the polite email, I told him there was no trick. It was explained repeatedly in that scene that there was a busted electronics panel that spewed sparks and smoke into the elevator. How did he miss that?
And three: This is the one that really gets me. Rather than missing the very clear explanations, (and then saying there were no explanations,) this guy makes up something that was NEVER in the book. He said that my book said there were "external marks" on Trent Smith's first victim. That the doctor was paid to cover them up. (It's important to note that Trent Smith kills his victims without an outward mark.) But the guy said the first victim had external marks. This is NOT TRUE. Nowhere in the book did it say the first victim, Benjamin Stiles, had any external marks on him. So where did this guy get that from? In my polite email, I asked him where did he get that from?
The other critiques he gave were definitely based on opinion, so I won't even go over those. It's just those three things above I thought warranted venting. It's one thing to have an opinion, whether a reviewer likes something or not, or agrees with something or not. But it's another thing to say things that are just plain not true. That's not opinion. It's error. Or lies. So why would the guy lie? I don't believe he would. So he must have just made a couple errors based on either memory lapse or he just plain missed the explanations. But that doesn't explain why he said there were those external marks on the first victim in point number three.
So whatever the reason for the errors, after my polite email, I gave the guy a couple days to amend his review. (I didn't say in my email that I expected him to, I counted on his integrity.) But this is the third day, now, and even though he did email me back and thanked me for the explanation, his review remains as he first wrote it. So, no, I won't email him again. And I didn't comment on the review, because, like I told him in my email, I didn't want it to sound like a rebuttal. I asked for the review. I got it. He took the time to read and review it. I thanked him for that, and then left it at that.
Here's the funny thing. After I initially solicited this guy for a review, (and he agreed,) I had changed my mind. I just had a bad gut feeling about it. But then I read an author's blog who said that all reviews are good reviews even when they aren't. Because the bottom line is it gets the word out about your book. So I changed my mind again, and sent him the book for the review. Now I wish I stuck to my gut feeling. (Interestingly, Trent Smith has those gut feelings, too.)
So what did I learn? Nothing that I didn't already know. Different people think differently. People have different "memory" capabilities, and people can put something in a book or story that was never in there. It's strange, but that's the world we live in, isn't it?
I don't know if I agree with that author about all reviews being good reviews even when they aren't. I suppose it's another opinion. And that's what makes the world go around. Opinions vary. I suppose that's a good thing. Yeah, it's a good thing. So if you're an artist, a writer, a composer, any kind of creative person, get used to it. Opinions will vary.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
I certainly don't want to put anything in there that shouldn't be in there. I think I've done a good job up until now. It's a sports story, a football story, and during my search for an agent for John Dunn, (which isn't going very well, btw,) I've seen agents who represent sports stories, so I'm keeping tabs on those guys, just in case I'm still looking for an agent when it comes to Second Chance. (And by the looks of things right now, I probably will be.)
Speaking of agent searches, I am discouraged. When I first started querying agents way back for my debut novel, Killer of Killers, I was getting bites left and right. Requests for partials and fulls, it was encouraging, and I did land an agent. (Well chronicled on this blog.) Even though that agent didn't work out, my point is there was interest out there for KOK.
But then a strange thing happened. For The Vase, a novel that I thought would garner even more interest, garnered next to no interest from agents. Although the flip side of that is that The Vase attracted a lot more interest from actual publishers than KOK did. I was offered four different contracts for The Vase. I actually had a collection of publishers from which to choose. That was very encouraging, and I guess having publishers interested in publishing your book is better than having agents interested in representing it. Although that is arguable, since it's the agent who get you into the Big Six.
KOK got just one publishing contract offer. But that's all you need. And Killer Eyes will be published by the same publisher, meaning the contract has already been offered and signed.
Next up is John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu. I thought that historical novels were popular. But so far no agents are interested. I've been rejected by about a dozen agents at this point, but that's not what's bothering me. What's bothering me is that no agents have requested a partial or a full. It's reminding me of what I went through with The Vase. And that's discouraging. Still you keep at it, you don't give up. If I had given up, KOK or The Vase would never have been published. Or Killer Eyes.