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.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tentative Title for Book Three in Killer Series

Last night I was mentally brainstorming titles for Book Three in my Killer Series which I'm outlining at this time. Actually, I went ahead and wrote the prologue. Only for my Killer books do I write prologues. Neither The Vase nor John Dunn have prologues.

It came out pretty well, but I had no grip on a title, and I think I came up with a possible title now. Killer on the Payroll. Sounds different than Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes, doesn't it? It's supposed to. I was thinking Killer in a Box, because the story is about a kind of martial arts tournament that takes place in an arena on an unnamed island in the South China Sea. But after considering that title, it sounded too much like Jack in the Box. So forget it.

The tournament is being held by the Triads, which is a Chinese gang and one of the most powerful syndicates in the world, right up there with the Yakuza of Japan and the Mexican and Columbian gangs in the Americas. Well, really if you include the Russian and Italian gangs, and so many more, which I do include up to thirty, all of them are pretty powerful.

Anyway, all the gangs of the world are coming to participate, with their deadliest killers or fighters competing in the tournament to determine who is the world's deadliest killer. Trent Smith, being the world's greatest martial artist eventually finds himself participating in that tournament, even though he had made it a point to never work for anyone, particularly a gang. But it happens, for the Yakuza of all gangs, and for him to qualify to participate, he has to be on the Yakuza payroll, thus the title of the book. It has a ring to it, I think, at least more so than Killer in a Box.

So, for now, I'll call it the working title. Usually, my working titles end up as the title but not always. For instance for Killer of Killers, the working title was The V Shaped Man. But that changed to Killer of Killers which is way better. For The Vase, the working title was Lord I Am Not Worthy, but that changed to The Vase which is way better. But Killer Eyes stayed, and so did John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu, at least so far. We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Least Favorite Part of Writing

Starting out a new novel, which I'm doing at the moment, is my least favorite part of writing a novel. You have to make sure there's a decent plot. Got that. You have to make sure there's a decent subplot. Still working on that. You have to make sure you have the characters you need, and the characters all need a significant role in the plot. Still working on that too. And you have to make sure you have a great climax to the story. I'm working on that, too.

But that's the problem. It's work. Meaning, you have to work hard to make sure it all works. It has to fit together like a puzzle. Like when you compose a song. You have to make sure the different parts of the song flow together seamlessly. You don't want your song to sound choppy, or disconnected, nor do you want your story to be ill-fitting from scene to scene.

And that's the hard part of writing. But once you've got all that done, the revising and editing is the easy part. For me, the revising is the most fun. But the problem is for my five prior novels, that stage is over, and now I'm back to square one for the start of my sixth novel.

Interestingly, for my fifth novel, Second Chance, I didn't have to undergo that beginning stage. It had all come to me in a dream. I know it sounds unbelievable, but maybe it's because, like the main character in Second Chance, I too was robbed of my senior year of high school football. Don't need to get into the details, but as a result of that, I had recurring dreams about it. Almost like a what if scenario in dreams that recurred for forty years.

And it was that last dream, well, the dream from about a year ago now, it was pretty much an entire story that took place in the dream, and I wrote out the outline the next day. And I finished that outline in that same day. Compare that to now, where I'm on my third day trying to pound together an outline for Book Three of the Killer Series, and I'm still not finished. It has to be perfect. Like the first two books are. But the only way you get it done is to do it. So back to work.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Outlining Book Three in the Killer Series

Spent the bulk of the weekend outlining the latest adventures of Trent Smith, the world's greatest martial artist. And what better story to include in an adventure like that than a tournament to proclaim the world's greatest martial artist? Actually it's being held by the world's most powerful mobs. I did some research on the matter, and learned who the gangs are and where they are based. Ultimately, I'm thinking it will include a representation of 30 gangs from 20 countries. That should be a good accounting. And, of course, each fighter will be a deadly killer in his own right.

But the question to a storyline like that is how could Trent Smith get involved in something like that, since he works for no one, particularly no gang or mob. Well, there are ways. And I've solved that question. Now I have to flesh out the plot, the subplots, and figure out what role each character will play, and figure out just what new characters I want to include.

Yes, the bottom line is that Trent Smith is my favorite character. He's up there with James Bond, Captain Kirk and Conan. Trent Smith, the world's greatest martial artist, who believes that guns and knives are the weapons of cowards. Let the action continue in Book Three of the Killer Series. I'm working on it. And just in case you've forgotten, Book Two in the Killer Series, called Killer Eyes, will be released as soon as next month! Can't wait for that one. So get your copy of Book One today, and then you'll be ready for Book Two next month, and Book Three sometime in 2016.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Killer Eyes Copy Proof Sent-Still no Final Cover

I received the copy proof of Killer Eyes, and it was mostly commas here and there that needed to be inserted. I revised a sentence or two, but for the most part it was a very quick process. I didn't read it in its entirety, but for the first time I don't think I had to. It was COPY proofed after all, so it should be ready for publication now.

Which brings me to the unfortunate fact that the cover design is still not finalized. When my new cover design artist was assigned and came up with the radically different design, I liked it and even was excited about it. The silhouette of the martial artist was a welcome sight, and although I believed it needed tweaking, I thought it could be done with little effort and in no more than a day.

But that was near three weeks ago. After some initial tweaks that did improve the design, I thought we were headed in the right direction, and all would be final quickly enough. Here we are three weeks later, and still neither Killer Eyes nor the new design for Killer of Killers is completed.

It all seemed to hit a snag when I wanted the silhouetted figure on the KOK cover to be more like what the main character, Trent Smith looked like. Eager to see it, I went ahead and did it myself, as I have chronicled here on the blog. But it seems that the artist can't make it happen. She told me they are not allowed to use the author's design, (my improved design) for whatever reason, and as a result the design is still not finished.

I brought this up to Nancy, the Melange publisher, when I sent the final copy proof, and she deferred to the person in charge of the Cover Design department, but still no word back to me. I'm left in Limbo it seems about that. My contract does give Melange until August to release the book, but August is a week away. So we'll see what happens.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

John Dunn to be released in 2016

My publisher, Dana Robinson at KRP told me that they are going to publish John Dunn in 2016, and that Second Chance would be released in 2017. That's one book a year, not two in one year like I was thinking the other day. With Killer Eyes coming out in 2015, it'll be one a year for three years in a row. If I can get Book Three in the killer series finished sometime in 2016, that might be published in 2017, then that will be the year I have two books published in one year.

That's not my goal, really, it's just something to note. This coming year I do figure to write two books in one year. Book Three in the Killer Series and that MG/YA book I've mentioned from time to time called Inside the Outhouse. If they can be finished by next summer, then that might wrap up my book writing career. Unless I go ahead with that ultimate historical fiction book, I've considered for a while. That will be quite an undertaking, needing an lot of research and a lot of time to write. But with all my other projects completed...well, we'll see.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Second Chance Submitted to Knox Robinson

I just sent the Second Chance manuscript to Dana Robinson, the publisher of Knox Robinson Publishing, and hopefully she will agree to publishing it in 2016 along with John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu, but about two or three months apart.

I requested a July or August release for Second Chance because that's when football season starts. And since Second Chance is a football story, it would be a good time to release it. I asked for the John Dunn book to be released in March or April. If it happens, it will be the first time I had two books published in the same year.

That totals five books, including Killer Eyes, which has just been edited. That means there's going to be no more revisions for any other books until the editing begins for John Dunn and Second Chance. Now what? Well, I have three other books on the back burner. They are:

1-Book Three of the Killer Series

2-An MG/YA story

3-Another historical fiction story.

So which one do I start writing next? Hhmmnn...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Second Chance Revisions Underway

Trying to make the most of the Knox Robinson offer of publication for Second Chance, a Football Story. I need the manuscript and a book description submitted by this Wednesday. I'm almost there. I'll finish the revisions by today. That doesn't mean the revisions will be completed. I'll probably keep at it until Wednesday, just to polish it up as best as I can.

Fortunately, the revisions are not as extensive as they had to be in the past. Being my fifth novel, I've learned how to write novels by now. And the errors I made in the first four I didn't repeat in this one. That's why the revisions will be so much easier and faster, too. So it's all good.

Second Chance a Football story. I suppose it could be YA. Not MG, but YA would be appropriate. They cuss a lot in the book. I'm just going from real experience. And the bed scenes are tame. I've never been too graphic when it comes to sex in my novels. But there is a bed scene or two in Second Chance. But they're so tame, I think the cussing is actually worse. We'll see.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cover Designs Not Satisfactory

The latest word on the cover designs for Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes is this: they are not satisfactory. Not to me. And I sure hope that matters to Melange.

It turned out that for some reasons that I really don't understand, they cannot use my doctored image, the one I posted with the caption "KOK Final Cover 2." I don't want to get into the reasons why they said that. But whatever, they said they can't.

So I got the artist's latest effort, and it was not satisfactory. I told her as much and explained in great detail what it was that I didn't like, what it was that I wanted, and what it was she needed to do. I even gave her some options.

For one, if she can't fix that skull nose hole as well as I did, then get another skull image to use. And for two, if she can't make that martial artist silhouette look the way I made it look in KOK Final Cover 2, then find another martial artist image to use, but this time not a guy who's so skinny.

I explained that Trent Smith, the main character in Killer of Killers is a muscular guy. Like I made him look in KOK Final Cover 2. He looks like a football player, as he's described in the book. The design I got from the Melange artist looks like a middle school boy, like he's only twelve or thirteen years old. That just won't do. Even the final design for Killer Eyes turned out to be subpar. It didn't have the same background fire that the original one had, and that was a shame. It turned out to be something I could not approve.

So right now, I'm not too optimistic. Don't know exactly what I'm going to do about it. Maybe see what the next effort looks like, and then, if I'm still not satisfied, just tell them to forget that design altogether and start over from scratch. Meaning come up with something completely different.

I think the artists were under the impression that Trent Smith was a skinny martial artist, like, say, Bruce Lee, or Jet Li, or those kind of guys. Apparently, they never read the book. But I've explained it to them now, so hopefully it will be more like he's supposed to look. Like in KOK Final Design 2. I said to copy it. Exactly. Or find a new image. We'll see.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Second Chance Accepted for Publication

Well, good news. I sent the Killer Eyes Edits yesterday, and my latest novel, Second Chance, has just been accepted for publication by Knox Robinson. Which is a relief. First, I was very strict about how I wanted Killer Eyes to be and I believe I achieved what I wanted with it. Second, I don't have to worry about searching for a publisher for Second Chance. Knox Robinson will publish it.

And that means it will be in bookstores. Since Knox Robinson is not a POD publisher, it's something they can do. Which is what needs to happen if you want to sell a lot of books. POD publishers are good publishers, but they have their limits. They don't get their books in bookstores, and that's a shame, because the number of books that sell are limited to whomever buys books online.

These days that number can vary, but it is considered a disadvantage. Sales for Killer of Killers have fluctuated over the last three years. The Vase hasn't been as good of a seller, but it's still a ranking seller on Amazon at least. If either one were in a bookstore, I'm sure they'd do better in sales. But John Dunn and Second Chance will be in bookstores thanks to the Knox Robinson label.

Right now it's all about revising Second Chance, writing the book description, and finding some sample covers to send to KRP by next Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Final Cover to Killer of Killers is pretty much done

The Melange artists must be real busy, so I took care of things myself. I'm an artist, after all, so why not? No one knows my character in Killer of Killers better than I do, so I made the dude on the cover look more like him, and I fixed that nose hole in the skull, too. Didn't think I could do that, but I realized that the hole wasn't a "double" hole, it was a deformed one. So I used my computer's, "Paint" app and fixed it. The only thing I couldn't do was stretch that skyline across the bottom of the design. Here it is:
KOK Final Cover 2
So even if they can't make the city skyline cover the entire bottom, I'll be satisfied. But if they can, all the better. Now, just waiting for them to reply. I'll call the Killer of Killers cover done. Now just want to see what a face in the cover of Killer Eyes will look like. Hopefully that will happen soon, because I'm wrapping up the final edits today. I think.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Doctored the Cover Design Myself

I haven't heard from the Melange artist yet, so, being an artist myself, I took the liberty to doctor up that silhouetted figure in that Killer of  Killers design. And I must say, the figure looks a lot more heroic now. He's more muscular, and the facial profile is much more what I envisioned Trent Smith to look like. Here it is.
Design with more buffed image

You can tell the difference, by comparing  this one with the one I posted yesterday. Of course my computer tools are probably way inferior, and I couldn't get a clean edge on the silhouette, so hopefully the Melange artist can clean that up. Also extend that city skyline across the bottom. And that skull nose hole. We'll see. I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile I'm still wrapping up the final edits. I'm including some formal kendo moves with the sword fights that take place to make it authentic. One of the things people said about Killer of Killers was that my use of real Ju Jitsu moves made it authentic. So I'm trying to keep that going in Killer Eyes, and with all the swordfights int here, I figure to use at least some of the kendo moves. It should be wrapped up by tomorrow.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Old cover still available but not for Long

I finally received the touched up cover designs for Killer of Killer and Killer Eyes, but they did have some different changes that I didn't expect. The background fire is different, which affected Killer Eyes more than KOK, because for Killer Eyes, the fire background on the original simulated hair that complemented those eyes. Now that illusion is no longer present, and the design has been lessened as a result.

In addition to that, the eyes are more clear now. So I'm asking to have the rest of the face put in there, but faded like the eyes used to be on the prior design. I asked the artist last night if that could be done, but no word yet. Here it is as of now:



And for the new design for KOK, that doohickey below the figure is gone now, but I'm realizing that the figure is too skinny. The main character in KOK is way more muscular than that. The facial profile doesn't cut it, either. Also, I asked if that skyline can span the entire bottom of the design instead of ending where the martial artist is. I asked if the skull nose hole can be photo-shopped to get rid of what looks like a double nose hole, one below the other. I'm thinking those are easy fixes, but who knows? I'm an artist but my computer art experiences are limited. Still, I'm thinking it can be done and when they are, then they could be final. Here it is as of now:


I would think those last tweaks should be easy, and hopefully they'll be ready by tonight or tomorrow. We'll see. In the meantime, if you want the old cover, don't wait any longer. It might only be one more day, they're available. Better get them now.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Not Sending yet

Even though I finished the last draft of the final edits to Killer Eyes, I decided to read through it yet one more time. It's only going to get better, and if this is my last chance to make Killer Eyes as good as it can be, than I am going to do it.

So hopefully, I can get that done by Friday, as I'm about a quarter through it already. This has always been the most fun part of writing anyway. That's probably why I'm so easily convinced to do it. I remember my editor over at Penumbra was getting impatient to release The Vase. I wanted to keep on going over the edits again and again. I mean it was only getting better every time. Finally, he published it anyway, even though I did want to go through it one more time.

But then there might have been one more time after that, and one more time after that. It's probably what he was thinking. Hey, I'm an artist, and that means I'm a perfectionist. It's how your art gets great. If an artist wasn't a perfectionist who would want to buy his/her art? No one. So that's how it works for me. I'm a perfectionist and I want my work to be perfect. What's wrong with that?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Final Edits Finished

Wow, so the final edits to Killer Eyes, I just completed today. Still, I'll go over them again, and why not? I made tremendous improvements in the prose this last pass. I mean, whoa, the writing, I must say, on Killer Eyes is probably some of the best writing I've ever done. And I was so proud of Killer of Killers and The Vase. I dare say Killer Eyes surpasses them in pure quality of prose, storyline, plot, subplot, the whole deal. This is one great book if I don't say so myself.

It reminds me of the times I did a great piece of artwork. When I'm finally finished with it and step back and look at it, and then say, yeah, that's a great work of art. Or a great song I had composed. Just last night I listened to a song I wrote about ten years and dammit it was a great song.

So whether it's a drawing, painting, sculpture, or a song, when you finish a novel that you poured your heart and soul into, and the result is what you hoped for, then it's a great feeling that can't be matched by anything else. Unless you've had a child, I mean. Experiencing the births of my two sons does trump that. It trumps anything. But being an artist and making great art comes a close second.

Monday, July 6, 2015

If you like old cover, buy now!

I expect the new cover designs for Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes to be finalized this week, and Nancy, the Melange publisher has said she will use the new cover for Killer of Killers, which means if anyone out there prefers the old cover, then now is the time to buy it. I'm not sure exactly when the old cover will no longer be available, but it's probably only a matter of two or three days.

So again, if you prefer the old cover, or if you are a collector of things like books with original covers that are no longer available, (which makes them more valuable to other collectors,) then now is the time to buy it. I've already noticed a spike in sales. Nothing that compares to James Patterson, but there's been a spike nonetheless. Maybe collectors have already taken note. If so, that's good, because after this week, I suspect Killer of Killers' old cover will be history.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Final Cover Designs

Well, here are the final cover designs for Killer of Killers and Killer Eyes. Killer Eyes is nailed. For Killer of Killers I've asked for the top caption to be larger and a little lower, and for that doohickey thing that's hanging below the silhouetted figure's groin to be removed. Once that happens, I'll repost to show everyone. Then I'll have to replace all the old designs that are everywhere, including on this blog. But maybe that will kick in a new round of sales. Hope so. Here are the designs:

 
Not only do I love this new style, the figure in the martial arts pose makes it more of an instant recognition of genre, meaning right away the viewer can tell it's a book about martial arts action. As much as I loved the old design, it might have given the impression that the story was a horror story, despite the caption on the top. Again, I've asked for the top caption to be larger and lowered, and the doohickey hanging below the dude to be removed and it will be perfect.