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, May 29, 2015

Edits Are In

Got the first round of edits to Killer Eyes yesterday. I was quick to get started on them. Once I got home from work, I went to work on those edits. I got a lot done the first day, too. Mostly small things were edited, like the removal of a few words here and there, but for the most part the manuscript was "clean" or at least that's how my publisher described it. And she was right. I spent a lot of time on that manuscript making sure it was clean. Just as I'm doing with my John Dunn manuscript. The longer you work on it the cleaner it becomes.

So I'll be eager to get back to work on the edits when I get home from work today, too. It's an enormously fun thing to do. Like doing art, or writing music. It's all related, really. It's creating something. I've had a lot of experience at this point in my life creating things. Art, as in drawings, paintings, and sculptures. Music as in songs. And now books, as in novels. Writing novels might just be the most fun. Well, maybe it's a toss up. No, I think it is. You create a universe, you populate it and dictate the course of events. What could beat that?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

TIme to start planning new book

Killer Eyes is done. John Dunn is done. And Second Chance is just about done. And summer vacation is imminent. That means right about now I should start planning a new book. Should I finally write that YA book I've had on the back burner? Or should I write Book Three in the Killer Series and continue the saga of Trent Smith?

I most definitely want to do that. I even have a tentative title: The Killers Guild. This summer what I expect to do is proceed with the publisher's editing of Killer Eyes. And maybe proceed with the revisions to Second Chance. If I get a break, maybe I can proceed with a publisher's editing of John Dunn, too. That's three books all being polished at the same time.

But Book Three to the Killer series is going to happen. Eventually. And now that Book Two is being published, I suppose it's time to start. I did leave room for a Book Three. And besides, Trent Smith is my favorite character. Along with Conan, James Bond, and Captain Kirk. So this summer might be the best time to start the third book in the series. Or at least start with some kind of outline. Then maybe when school starts again, I'll have something to go by. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Show Turn-set during the American Revolution

I've been watching the show called Turn, which focuses on spies during the American Revolution. If it were a book it would be Historical Fiction, like my book John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu. It has real historical characters like George Washington and Benedict Arnold in there, but it gives them a fictitious story line. For instance, we all know that Benedict Arnold became a traitor to America, joining the British, but this show is writing those events in a very much fictitious way.

I don't have a problem with that. But the show is also giving a fictitious story line to George Washington, making him near delusional and insecure as to how he goes about commanding the American troops. Is it the show's attempt to show Washington's human side? Not sure about that, but focusing on his weaknesses is not really entertaining stuff. Especially when those weaknesses are nothing more than the writer's imagination. Meaning, it's like the writer is asking, "Yeah George Washington was a great leader and all, but he was only human, so he must have had human weaknesses. So what might those weaknesses have been, and how can we portray them in this story?

The show's main character, someone named Abraham, is pretending to be an American Loyalist, but he's really a Patriot spy. He's a fictitious character, and so the bulk of the story line is fictitious, although it does have some real historical events taking place, to match the real history of the American Revolutionary War.

So it's kind of similar to my own Historical Fiction book, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu in that it's based on real historical events, but they utilize a lot of fictitious events to make the story entertaining. But with John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu, I'd say the ratio of real events to fictitious ones is about 80:20, whereas the ratio of real historical events to fictitious ones in Turn are more like 20:80.

I've heard that truth is stranger than fiction, so imo, you don't really have to dilute the truth as much as they are in Turn. It doesn't matter in the long run as long as the writing is good. But in Turn, well, for me, it's taken a "turn" for the worse. This last episode, without giving any spoilers, was very unbelievable to me. My brother would call it "lazy" writing, and the reason I say that is that things are happening that just don't coincide with the way real people would behave. If you change the basic human nature, then the believability factor is compromised, and that's been happening with Turn. Especially in this last episode.

But I said the same thing about Vikings and Black Sails, and they turned out okay. Let's see how Turn turns out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Waiting Game

All authors know about the waiting game. Funny thing is I really don't have to play it this time. I have not one, but two publishers ready and willing to publish any books that I write. Even for my second book, I didn't have to play this game. I chose to find a second publisher for The Vase, not because I wasn't satisfied with Melange, but because it's wise to have more than one publisher. Especially when that publisher is a small independent publisher.

I don't want to get into all the reasons why that is so, as I've blogged about it many times before. Just as I've blogged about why I'm seeking a third publisher for John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu. It's been just over a month now since that search has begun. That is relatively a short period of time. The publishing world is a slow world. Just to give you an idea how slow the publishing world is, I would say that a month to a publisher is like a minute to a person during the course of his or her life.

So when do I give up the search and settle for the publishers I have? That's a tough call. Maybe after six months. Why six months? Well, some publishers say it takes them that long. And if I had a decision to make, I'd say I could make a decision within six minutes. Sometimes I can make a decision in fewer minutes than that. Of course it depends on the decision. I suppose there might be some decisions that can take six months. In the meantime, you keep working. You keep improving the story, the prose, the writing, etc. The better your manuscript, the better your chances. But that goes without saying.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Shot at the Big Six

Getting published by the Big Six is a lofty goal. It's almost as lofty as becoming a movie star, or a rock star. But it happens. People become movies stars and rock stars. I would love to achieve that goal, (the Big Six, not a movie star,) or at least reach the level adjacent to it. I'm submitting to every publisher who fits that description. Some are tricky though. For instance, I submitted to a publisher who I thought fit that description. But then after doing some additional research I learned they were another small POD publisher, and I already have two of those under my belt. Just have to take more time researching these publishers, that's all. Usually they say if they're POD. If they don't you just can't assume they aren't. Maybe they keep that info hidden. Not sure why, though. There's nothing disreputable about being a POD publisher. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Russian Scientist in Killer Eyes

I just read an article about Russian scientists and their amazing advances in medical treatment. Here's the link. And I'm feeling now more than ever that the story in Killer Eyes is validated. Because in Killer Eyes, the prominent scientist working on the wonder drug Eternity is a Russian scientist. But he's not working with stem cells, like this article is about. He's a nuclear physicist and a specialist in nuclear medicine. Still, the fact that he's Russian gives my story in Killer Eyes even more authenticity than I already believed it had.

The first scientist introduced as early as the prologue in Killer of Killers was Samuel Bernstein. By the name one might conclude he was a Jewish scientist of, say, Eastern European, or perhaps even German descent. (Not unlike an Albert Einstein.) The next scientist who took over after Bernstein's demise in Killer of Killers was a nerdy WASP scientist named Jason Benson. Imagine the large spectacles, small framed body, and baggy clothes. But in Killer Eyes it's the Russian nuclear physicist named Vladimir Blitzkin who runs the show.

But Blitzkin is no weak looking nerd like Benson, nor is he an older type dude like Bernstein. He's a big, burly guy. Oh, there is another scientist in Killer Eyes who has a prominent role. That would be William Mann, who Trent seeks out because Dr. Mann was a former associate of Bernstein's.

And in case any readers of Killer of Killers are wondering, the two Chinese scientists, Doctors Wong and Lee are back, too. They were introduced in Killer of Killers and they appear in Killer Eyes as well. But it's kudos to the research and advances made by Russian scientists is why I made the latest and perhaps greatest scientist in my Killer Series a Russian. Hope you agree.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Killer Eyes, the Sequel to Killer of Killers

Yes, Killer Eyes, the sequel to Killer of Killers, will be released this summer. And that's big news for anyone who's read Killer of Killers.

Almost all of the reviewers who've read and reviewed Killer of Killers had mentioned that a sequel or "Book Two" was necessary. They said they hoped a Book Two was in the works. They had said that there were some things that still needed to be resolved and they wanted to see them resolved.

Well, Killer Eyes is it. It's Book Two in what I'm calling the Killer Series. Killer Eyes, a Trent Smith Martial Arts Thriller, Book Two in the Killer Series, to be exact is how I've headed this next book.

So, yeah, I would like this to be a series of books. And these first two books, really is the same continuing story. It's like Killer Eyes picks up where Killer of Killers left off. Even though Killer of Killers is a stand alone story, as is Killer Eyes, they are very much chronologically written. And therefore should be chronologically read.

As for a book three? Yes, I'd like to write book three this summer. My WIPs are finished. Or at least will be by this summer. Those WIPs included Killer Eyes, which has only the publishing edits to go, John Dunn, which also has the publishing edits to go, and the completion of the first draft of Second Chance is imminent. It should be wrapped up by the time my school is out for the summer.

And that means my "writing time" during this summer will be used for a brand new start for a brand new book, and that book is going to be Book Three in the Killer Series. Tentatively called The Killers Guild. So yeah, my Killer Series should have the word "killer" in every title. Thus, the "Killer Series" of course. How many books will that include? Well, at least three. After that? We'll see.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Second Chance over 81,000 words...

...and counting. I'm at the climax of the story right now--and then there's the denouement to go. Not sure, really how it's all going to be resolved. I have a vague idea how it ends, but getting there will be the challenge. But for sure I'm on the home stretch of the story.

One thing I know is that I'm not worried about the length of the novel. There was a point I was worried  the total word count would be lacking, but now that it's over 81,000 that worry is put to rest. Still, it will be my shortest novel. But it's not going to be too short. I'm guessing now that it will be about 85,000 words. The Vase checked in at 88,000, Killer of Killers 89,000, Killer Eyes 96,000, and John Dunn 123,000. So those are the numbers.

Can't wait to finish the first draft of Second Chance. Because it's writing the revisions which is the phase of book writing that, for me at least, is the most fun. Almost there.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

To Register or Not - John Dunn

I'm going to wait before I register John Dunn for a copyright. For one thing, I didn't invent John Dunn. He was a real person who lived in a real world, and experienced real historical events. None of it was from my imagination. All of it was true. I invented no characters, no setting, and no events.

Well, I did throw in a couple invented events, actually, but that was only because I wanted to give Catherine Pierce, his first wife, a subplot. I wanted to give some kind of focus onto a woman in the story. But I had to invent something. And that's because in all of the books I read about Dunn, none of them featured or described any of the women in his life. Even Catherine was only mentioned as little more than a side note. None of his other 49 wives were given any coverage at all.

Surprisingly, none of his 117 children were described either. Even in Dunn's autobiography he mentions only his oldest son, and that was only about the incident when his oldest son fell ill. It happened when Cetshwayo was supposed be crowned the Zulu king. (And even then Dunn never mentioned his son by name!) In Dunn's autobiography, which is titled John Dunn, Cetywayo, and the Three Generals, Dunn wrote that he had to stay by his son's side because he thought he was going to die. And Cetshwayo refused to be crowned king unless John Dunn was present. What made this particular part of the story even more interesting was that none of the white doctors could cure his son. It was a Zulu witch doctor who did.

So it's in my book. But the point is, because it's all true, anyone can write about it. Even if I copyright this book, the story's not mine. It's anyone's. I guess the prose is mine. But the story is not. The same is true about other historical figures. How many Abraham Lincoln stories have been made? How many about George Washington? King Henry VIII? Jesus Christ?

So I'll wait until it's published. Who knows? The publisher might want to change the title of the book or ask me to add something or delete something. So it's already copyrighted automatically, but once the final version is published then I'll register it. Or not.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Killer Eyes finally registered

I wasn't in a hurry to register Killer Eyes with the Library of Congress, because I had already registered Killer of Killers way back when I finished writing that one. Since my character, Trent Smith, and the original story were already copyrighted, I didn't have an urgency to get it done with Killer Eyes.

But Killer Eyes is due to be published this summer, so I went ahead and registered it with the Library of Congress last night. It cost 35 dollars, which is affordable, so I figured to go ahead.

Of course, in America, all original work is automatically copyrighted, and you don't have to do it officially with the copyright office at the Library of Congress. But it's better protected that way. For instance, if someone else were to write about Trent Smith, or use any of my ideas from KOK or Killer Eyes, the only way I could sue them is if I had a copyright registered already.

My other novel, The Vase, is also registered with the Library of Congress. So that's three of my books copyrighted, or registered now. Like I pointed out, all work is "copyrighted" but only when it's "registered" will it count in any courts.

I should do the same for my songs. I remember once, many years ago, I had composed a song on the piano. I was only fourteen years old, but it was a pretty good song, or at least I thought so. I never did anything with it. And I pretty much forgot about it. But a year or two later, that same tune that I had composed, or one very similar to it, became a hit on the radio. It was the song The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, by Traffic. I'm certainly not saying Traffic copied it from me. I was a nobody. They most certainly came up with the tune on their own, and since they were already a famous band, they had the means to record it, perform it, etc., and it became a hit.

So, similarly, my stories are such that if anyone were to come up with the same ideas, say, in KOK, Killer Eyes, or The Vase, I've got proof, now, that I had the ideas first. That's all.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Levels of Publishers

I've said I wanted to take a step up for my John Dunn historical novel. By that I mean a step up in publishers. Unofficially, I see publishers as being in five different levels.

Level 1 are The Big Six: These are the long standing traditional publishers who pretty much dominate the publishing world. They're run like big corporations and have tons of imprints, each one a significant publisher on its own. They publish pretty much every category, every kind of format, and represent the vast majority of books in any bookstore. They include Simon and Schuster, Penguin, Random House, Harper Collins, Hatchette, and MacMillan.

Level 2 are the large independent publishers who emulate the big six in many ways, meaning they too are run like corporations, publish pretty much every category, every kind of format, and represent the balance of books not published by the big six in the bookstores. These include Kensington, Knox Robinson, Prometheus, and Samhain, among others.

Level 3 are small independent publishers, and they are not run like corporations. They're more like family businesses with small staffs. These are the POD publishers, meaning they publish only eBooks and trade paperbacks, which are printed "on demand." The setback with these publishers is that buyers can't find their books in bookstores. Purchases have to be online, whether in the digital format or the printed book. Melange and Penumbra would fit into this category, but there are many more. In fact, I think most publishers nowadays would fit into this category.

Level 4 are the even smaller independent publishers, called ePublishers. ePublishers only publish eBooks, meaning they'll only publish and release digital copies of their entire book line. They are hoping for the future of publishing to be exclusively digital, as in PDF files, HTML, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and all the other digital formats.

Level 5 are the ever-growing line of self-publishers, aka vanity publishers, aka subsidy publishers. These publishers are like predators. That's what Preditors and Editors would say. Thus the name Preditors and Editors. They prey on those authors who cannot get accepted by any of the above publishers. They offer a road to publication no matter how bad the writing might be. And since they offer no means of editing, the writing might be very bad indeed. These publishers include any publisher who charges the author, and those charges can be as much as several thousand dollars to publish a single book! They include PublishAmerica, Tate Publishing, and hundreds more.

So for John Dunn I'm hoping to go from Level 3 to Level 2. And who knows? Maybe one day I can reach level one. You just keep on trying. That's all. You only fail if you quit.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Revisions to Continue? Or Not?

I have made all the necessary revisions to the John Dunn book, but of course that doesn't mean revisions should stop. But maybe they should for now. I mean I won't send any more improved versions to Knox Robinson, that's for sure. If they were to accept it, edits will ensue anyway. What's important is that the manuscript is intact in the sense that there are no inconsistencies or major typos that will impact the flow of the story.

But that doesn't mean there aren't parts that can be written better. Last night for instance during a glance, I found a word here that could be changed to a better word, and a word there that should be deleted altogether. I can do that indefinitely if I put my mind to it. But at what point does it become nitpicking? Still, imo, if it makes the manuscript better, you do it.

Who knows? Another publisher might come calling any time. And if I keep making the manuscript better, then it would improve my chances of being accepted by the publisher. And that's the bottom line. At least for me right now. Which is taking the next step up. Finding a publisher at the next level. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate Melange and Penumbra. But they're POD publishers. The next step up for me is getting my books into hard bound copies and into bookstores. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Vikings Show Pretty Good

About two years ago when the show Vikings began on the History Channel, I started watching it, but stopped. Now that the third season has just finished, I've begun watching it again, and I'm liking it better than the first time I gave it a chance.

One of the reasons I stopped watching it the first time was that I just didn't agree with the writing. There's this Viking guy, and he has ideas that the top Viking guy, called an "earl", doesn't agree with. And for that reason, the "earl" is mean to the guy and treats him with contempt. But I just didn't buy that. Here we had the leader of this Viking community who has a top warrior on his side, a top explorer with vision, and because that warrior has "ideas" he treats him with gross disrespect.

Again, I didn't buy that, and quit watching the show. But after resuming watching, it's growing on me. So the good Viking guy eventually kills the bad "earl" and he becomes the "earl." Okay. I just finished with season two and it ended well. Now the good Viking guy who became the "earl" has just become the king of the Vikings. No need to spoil the how and why it happened, but I ended up agreeing with how it was written. It turned out to be a good show worth watching.

And I'm glad I waited to watch it after the fact. By using the "on demand" feature of my cable service, I'm able to watch these shows without having to bear with the commercials. Nor do I have to wait week to week to see the next episodes. Nor do I have to wait a year to see the next season's continuing story line. Well, I will after I'm done watching season three.

In the meantime, then, I'll find another series to watch. There seems to be no end of these Premium channel shows, or Cable channel shows. And most of them have been quite good--complete with top notch acting, great directing, and production values on the level of feature films. Beats Network TV hands down.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Sent Improved John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu

Well, I improved the John Dunn manuscript in the week since I first sent it to Knox Robinson, and I sent it last night. I added "Improved Version" to the title so as to differentiate between this one and the first one I sent, and I also said that if they haven't reviewed it yet to review THIS version.

And if they do, I'm confident they will like it. Most of the improvements came in the prose. But I did find a few typos, and there were a couple of paragraphs in chapter 12 that really needed revising. It was a place I had revised before, but I hadn't finished it, and it seems like I forgot to finish it. It was still sensible in how it read, but it reads a lot better now. In fact, the entire manuscript reads a lot better now. So I hope they read that one instead of the other one.

This happens a lot to authors. I know I've made the mistake before. Meaning I've sent manuscripts that weren't quite ready to send, and then after I sent them I improved them, and sent them again. However, this time I expected to have time to do that. My plan was to query Knox Robinson with the usual query letter, synopsis, and first three chapters. Then reread and improve the manuscript while waiting for them to respond. Their website said it could take six to eight weeks to respond, and it's what most publishers say, although some publishers say it could take up to six months.

So in that period of waiting for them to respond, my plan was to go ahead and reread the manuscript and improve it as needed. But lo and behold. They answered the very next day, asking for the full manuscript. That was unexpected. So I hurriedly skimmed over it in one night, after work, and sent it as improved as I could get it in one night. Which left a lot undone. It takes a full read through to do that. I mean a full read through where you read every word on every page, as if you're reading it like a reader, so you can catch every word that might need to be improved and then improve it.

So I did that anyway, and now that I finished last night, I went ahead and sent it again. I don't suppose they read the manuscript yet anyway, so it should be on time. They're a big publisher, so they probably have a lot of manuscripts in queue. Hopefully this didn't put it further back in queue. But even if it did, I'm confident I did the right thing. It's a beautiful manuscript now. It's good to go. Fingers crossed.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Still Improving John Dunn Book

I spent a good part of last night improving my John Dunn manuscript even though it's already been submitted. Chapter 12 was particularly a mess. It's not now, but the publisher has the version which is. I suppose I'll finish this latest read-through and then send the newer version.

You never know. They might not have had time to read it yet. So they may as well read the one that's better. A lot rides on it. Still, even if they did read the one I sent, they will certainly understand that changes of some kind will result from the editing process, so it's not a disaster if that's the case.

And everyone in publishing knows that the more you read and revise the better a manuscript becomes. I'm not the only one who does that. All writers and editors do that. All. Par for the course. So you keep at it, and your writing keeps getting better. Like anything you do.