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.



Monday, August 31, 2015

Kanye had a point

I am no Kanye West fan. I haven't heard a single one of his "songs." I can't even name one. I know nothing about him aside from the fact that he's some kind of rapper or something. But when my son played back the speech Kanye gave at last night's award show, I heard part of it. It seemed like a rambling rant of sorts, during which he even admitted to being stoned at the time.

But during that speech there was one point Kanye West made that resounded with me. And that point was that he couldn't understand awards shows because they turned artists into "losers." His point was this: an artist will dedicate his life to the production of an album of music into which he put his heart and soul, only to be labeled a "loser" to whomever it was that won the award for the year's "best" album. It makes these "awards" a negative thing.

I felt the rest of his "speech" was nothing more than a self-serving rant, but that one point, I felt was right on. In singling out one song, or one album, or one video, or for that matter, one movie, or one actor/actress, or whatever, the byproduct of that "award" is to infer all other artists are losers.

I believe as did Marlon Brando and George C. Scott, that awards of this type are bogus. It's all political, which is another subject I find abhorrent. Art is something that can be shared by all. Whether it's music, movies, acting, writing, novels, etc, art is a subjective thing.  And since tastes and opinions vary, you really can't label one a winner and all others the losers. One person's favorite song, movie, book, etc, could very well be another person's most hated song, movie, book, etc.

I say get rid of these award shows. But then, they'll lose out on a money making machine, so it will never happen. Plus it promotes their products, and for those reasons these shows will endure. But Kanye's point is valid, and I agree with it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Killer of Killers new cover now available


I believe the new cover is now available for Killer of Killers. But you'll have to buy it from the publisher, Melange, which you can access by clicking on the old cover image to the right of this post. Once the image is changed on Amazon, I will change it on this blog. For now, the old cover will remain here because of familiarity. I had given out some promo cards with the old design on it, so I'm just trying to maintain some continuity.

Still, it's inevitable, I must change the cover image, not only here on the blog, but on my Goodreads page, my Authors Den page and on my Mr. D website. That will be imminent, I suppose. I think if you want a copy with the original design you'll have to order through Amazon. If you want the new design, then order through the publisher.

Which do I prefer? Well, I was the one who came up with the idea for the original cover, but it was the Melange art director who finalized that design, and I've always liked it. But the new design was originally a concept for the sequel, Killer Eyes. I told the artist that if she were to redesign the cover to Killer of Killers, then her new idea should be the new design for Killer of Killers, and that the design for Killer Eyes should have a pair of eyes in there. And she made it happen.

I've already chronicled what happened during the course of that process, as it wasn't smooth sailing. But ultimately, a satisfactory compromise was reached, and both books are ready. All that's left is to get the print book proof for Killer Eyes, and then it will be released. I'll keep you posted.

Oh yeah, which design did I like better? The original design is more provocative, and the new design is more appropriate. So if I want a more provocative design, I like the old one better. But if I like a more appropriate design, then I like the new one better. Which one will foster more sales? We'll see.

How can I tell? Well, the best Lulu rating for Killer of Killer using the old design was something in the 1600 range, which is not bad. So if the version with the new design surpasses that, then we'll have an answer. If it doesn't, we'll have an answer, too. On Amazon, I think the best sales rating I've had for Killer of Killers was around 112,000. So again, if it reaches or surpasses that or if it doesn't, we'll have an answer. I'll let you know.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Jason Statham Quits Transporter Franchise

When I happened upon the movie The Transporter, as I was channel surfing one day, I was impressed with the actor Jason Statham. It was the first time I had ever seen or even heard of Jason Statham, and he became one of my favorite actors based on his performance in that movie.

And The Transporter became one of my all time favorite movies. I was thrilled that they turned it into a franchise, and I looked forward to the two additional sequels. Of course I wanted it to continue, and a fourth Transporter movie is coming out soon. But I was very disappointed to learn that Jason Statham is no longer the actor in the franchise. I learned that he turned down the role, due to insufficient payment and because the scripts of future films were not available at the time they wanted him to sign.

To me, it's equivalent to Sean Connery quitting the James Bond franchise. Jason Statham was the transporter. Just as Connery was Bond. And now I no longer care about seeing any more Transporter movies. I will pass on this fourth one coming up. Just think if Vin Diesel quit being Riddick! That's how I feel about Statham as Frank Martin in The Transporter.

Again we have an example of the owners of a movie franchise blowing their franchise by being cheap when it comes to paying the actor who made it work. This new guy, whose name I forget, is not Frank Martin, the transporter. He has no charisma and is not a convincing hero by his looks, actions, or personality. Hollywood disappoints. But it's not unusual.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Killer Eyes to be Released

I just approved the cover spreads for the new Killer of Killers cover design and the soon to be released Killer Eyes. The cover spread is the front, back, and spine of the book's cover. I just had to make sure there were no typos in the copy, and there weren't. It's a lot easier to check for typos on a book cover, front and back, than checking for typos in the entire manuscript. Often you can have three people or more check for typos in a manuscript, and still there will be typos that somehow manage to sneak through and make it to the final print.

I read an article a couple days ago that publishers these days don't do as much copy proofing as they used to do in the old days of publishing. Nowadays publishers, even the Big Six, rely more on the computer and the 'spell check' apps that are part of the word processing programs. Too often those programs are faulty, and relying on them as much as publishers and authors do these days is really not a good thing. The old fashioned human eye, imo, is superior to the computer programs or apps. Yet, both will miss typos, and they prevail.

The closest I've come to having no typos in a manuscript is my book Killer of Killers. And that's only because I had gone over it more times than I can count. I read the first three chapters just last night, and they were perfectly clean. No typos or errors of any kind. I believe the entire manuscript of KOK is perfectly clean. I know I found some typos in The Vase when I read through that one after publication. Right now, I'm thinking Killer Eyes has no more typos. I'll check it again when I get the first print book which should be imminent. That will be the moment of truth in a manner of speaking. So we'll see.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Three WIPs and Why I Don't like 1st Person POV

Now that Killer Eyes is done, I'm back to work on three WIPs. Second Chance is in the revision stage. I'm going through the third read through. Because it's such a clean ms, I don't think it will need nearly the same kind of attention I had to give my first four books.

I'm also in the process of writing two new books. The third Killer book, Killer on the Payroll, and the YA book, Inside the Outhouse. I'm not so sure I'm excited about Inside the Outhouse. It's more of an experimental book for me. I was never big on the YA genre. And I've always hated the first person POV narrative. But Inside the Outhouse is both. It's YA and it's first person POV.

One of the reasons I've always hated first person POV is that it means I have to become the story's main character. And if it's a girl, then I have to be a girl. And I'm not a girl. This is particularly disturbing when that girl character says something that only a girl would know.

I hate to use this following example, because it's a rather vulgar example, but I swear it's true. I forget the name of the book, but it was a first person POV, where the main character was a woman, and she was looking at some man for the first time. She clearly thought the man was handsome, and the narrative went something like this: "...looking at him made my pussy twitch..." or "...my pussy twitched..." one or the other.

Okay, now, not only am I a woman, I'm a woman with a "twitching pussy!" And I'm not making that up. I swear that the part "...my pussy twitch..." or "...my pussy twitched..." is word for word what that author, (a woman) wrote.

So I have a problem with that. Number one, I have no idea what it's like to have a "pussy." Number two, I have no idea what a "twitching" pussy does or feels like. And number three, I didn't even know pussies could twitch! And besides all of that, I just felt like the wordage was vulgar, and expressing the notion at all was in very poor taste.

Now I'm not a prude, really. But a woman telling the universe about her "pussy" and that it was "twitching" I just think is classless. I was turned off at that point, and since it was in the beginning of the book, I just stopped reading. I never reopened that book.

So, yeah, a lot of books are female first person narratives, and I just can't connect, or identify with a female main character. Does that make me a chauvinist? I don't think so. I don't want to know about a woman's private parts, nor do I want to know if their private parts are twitching. Really, I don't.

So, why is my YA WIP an experiment for me? Well aside from the fact that it's YA, I'm experimenting with writing it in first person POV. I've noticed that many, perhaps most YA are first person POV, and since none of my other books are first person POV, I thought I'd go ahead and make this one a first person POV. It's a fourteen year old boy, and since I was once fourteen, and a boy, I can identify with that character, and make the narrative realistic, as I might have experienced what he does in that book.

So we'll see how that goes. As for my third Killer book, it's back to third person limited, as is Second Chance, a Football Story. Those are really coming along well, and so back to work. That's all.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Killer Eyes Final Edits Print Ready

This is a big day for me because I finally turned in my Print Ready edits for Killer Eyes, which is the file from which Melange will print the first book. The PDF copy, which had already been sent to me, had too many errors, (12) and then, after correcting the errors, Nancy, the Melange publisher, was wise enough to resend the file in a word doc that I could edit to fix anything that we missed before. And sure enough, there were four more errors. I fixed them, of course, as well as fixed an inconsistency that might have been criticized by reviewers had I not fixed it.

But it's all good now. I sent it, finally satisfied that all errors were fixed, all inconsistencies were taken care of, and all imperfect paragraphs were now perfected. I am so impressed with Killer Eyes, that I'm considering submitting it to those places that award books as the best this or the best that. You know, the "winner of the best fiction of the year" type of thing. The first book, Killer of Killers, is pretty darn good, too. I still consider it my my favorite book of all time, but truth be told, Killer Eyes is even better.

So, I can't wait to get Killer Eyes as a printed book. I think the process is I'm supposed to read it, and then I'll have one more chance to see if there's anything wrong. I don't expect to find anything, but you never know. Once that's been taken care of, then Killer Eyes will be officially released. Can't wait.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Finally back to Inside the Outhouse

I had Inside the Outhouse on the back burner for long time, I'm glad now that I'm finally continuing work on it. Inside the Outhouse is an MG/YA book that I only thought to write because that genre seems to be the easiest to get published. But since then I did get published. Four times over. And because of that I really had no motive to get back to it. Now that I've started my sixth book, Killer on a Payroll, I'm starting to get back to work on Inside the Outhouse too. So we'll see how that goes. I never wrote the fist drafts of two books at the same time before. It should be fun. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Last Chance to buy Killer of Killers with Old Cover

I think my publisher will be replacing the original cover to Killer of Killers upon the release of the sequel, Killer Eyes. And that will be very soon. So if you want that original cover, now could be your last chance to get it. Don't wait. I'm finishing the final edits to Killer Eyes, probably by tonight, which means I''ll be sending it, and then it will be in print. I think I'll get to check it out one last time in print before it's released, but that won't take too long.

I love that original cover, but realistically, the style could not be matched for Book Two. I suppose the only answer was to redesign it so both books would match, and then when Book Three is ready, it can be designed to match books one and two.

Plus the martial arts guy on the cover to Book One does make it more genre identifiable. I'm satisfied that they finally allowed my touch ups. It was somewhat of a hassle getting everyone on board. I suppose readers and authors have different takes on the characters in books, but my point was that Trent Smith isn't your typical Asian Martial Artist. In fact, he's not Asian at all.

Look at it this way. Sure the greatest martial artist in real life was a skinny Asian guy. Bruce Lee. And other great martial artists are skinny Asian guys, like Jet Li and Ip Man. But Trent Smith is an American Caucasian martial artist like Chuck Norris or those muscular guys in the MMA fights. That's why I was so insistent that the figure represented that kind of fighter. It's the way he is. That's all. So we got there, and both books should be released by the end of the month. Can't wait.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Back to Work

Summer vacation is over. I'm back on the job. Being a teacher is fun and rewarding, and you get a lot done. Setting up the classroom, and preparing lesson plans, making the classrooms ready for hundreds of kids, who will be returning next week.

So what did I get done over the summer break? After all, my John Dunn book had already been revised and signed with a new publisher before the summer even began. I did find three reviewers for it at the start of the summer. Haven't received the reviews yet.

I did get through the second draft of Second Chance over the summer, and I have already started the third draft. I did get the edits done to Killer Eyes, and the first proof, too. I'm waiting on the next PDF of Killer Eyes, to be sure those twelve "errors" have been corrected, and then I expect Killer Eyes to be released. Strangely there's been no word since I sent the file back. It's been a somewhat bumpy road for Killer Eyes. Gives me pause to wonder about that.

I also started my latest WIP, which is book three in the Killer  Series. It's not a smooth thing either. I'm not sticking too closely to he outline, which I decided had some problems. I'm not sure how to tie in all the characters I want in the story. I might have to rethink that. And rethink the subplots, too. But at least I did get started. Got the prologue done and the first two chapters.

So now that I'm back in the classroom, I might start another book. Finally, my YA book called Inside the Outhouse. That should be fun.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Why So Many Different Genres?

I have been asked why I have written books that represent so many different genres. I started out with the martial arts thriller Killer of Killers, which by its very nature is the genre of Thriller. But I didn't stick to the Thriller genre. After I finished Killer of Killers I wrote The Vase, which is a very different genre than a Thriller. The Vase qualifies as Suspense. That's why I refer to it as a story of suspense in the Middle East. So I went from the Thriller genre to the genre of Suspense.

After writing The Vase, I did return to the Thriller genre, only to write the follow up to Killer of Killers. I had left an open story line in Killer of Killers, and it really did need to be wrapped up. So after writing The Vase I wrote Killer Eyes, which wraps up the story line from Killer of Killers. Still, there's enough material in Killer Eyes to follow up with a book three whenever I was ready.

But I didn't want to write book three. I hadn't gotten Killer of Killers published yet, and I didn't want to waste time writing three books that might never be published. So next I wrote the John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu book, which is solidly placed in the genre of Historical Fiction. I felt that if any of my books were to get published, the John Dunn  book would, because of the universal interest in the Anglo-Zulu War, in which John Dunn played a major role. And sure enough, that book found a publisher faster than my other two books. It only took me a couple weeks before a real print run publisher offered a contract.

And it was during this period that I wrote a YA book, the football story called Second Chance. It's not a Thriller, nor a Suspense, nor is it Historical Fiction. I guess the subcategory of the YA genres would be a Sports genre. So it's YA Sports genre. But the main reason I wrote it was because I dreamed it. I chronicled that on the blog. I dreamed practically the whole story, wrote the outline the next day and proceeded to write the novel during the course of the school year last year. It was one of the smoothest writing endeavors ever. Why wouldn't it be? I dreamed the story. It was as if I watched a movie on TV, and then proceeded to write that story afterward. It was that easy.

And my latest publisher will publish it. So now that all of that is done, and my Killer Series is indeed published I'm proceeding with Book Three in the Killer Series. It' s not so easy as Second Chance. It will take a lot of effort. But I've done it before, and I'm at it again. Here goes.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Finished PDF Proofing of Killer Eyes

Today I finished proofing the PDF of Killer Eyes, and there was a total of 12 errors. But they were minor errors that needed only minor fixes. Like changing a word to another word, changing a comma to a period, and things like that. It won't take more than five minutes. But hey, that's what I thought when I asked for tweaks in the cover design. Three weeks and a lot of angst later it finally happened.

So Nancy said she would send a new PDF in a few days, which I look forward to receiving. Because if she does fix those errors I'll send Killer Eyes to some reviewers. Particularly those reviewers who said they looked forward to reading Book Two in the Killer Series, which Killer Eyes is.

When I get the print copy, that's when I'll read it through again. I mean I will check to be sure those twelve errors are fixed in the PDF, and I can't imagine why they wouldn't be, since I explained very clearly why they were errors and how they needed to be fixed.

And if the print copy is good to go, then the book will be released. I won't have any release party like other authors have. I'm not really a party type kind of guy. I remember when my wife threw a surprise party for me. Didn't like it. Wished she didn't do it. Hope she never does it again. No, I'm not a part type kind of guy. Never was. Never will be. But I'll still be glad for the release of Killer Eyes.

Actually, the book I'm most looking forward to being published is the John Dunn book. That one's being published by a real print run publisher, and it's going to be in bookstores, and have hardbound copies and everything. But that's a year away. For now, it's all about Killer Eyes. POD publisher notwithstanding. So buy your copy of Killer of Killers today. Killer Eyes' release is imminent.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Proofing the PDF Copy of Killer Eyes

One of the final stages of proofing a book before its release is proofing the PDF copy, and I'm busy with that right now. More than half done, but found six errors. Not really surprised. I mean, I read my other two published books time and again, and still found errors. Not all the errors are typos. Some are inconsistencies. Like with Killer Eyes, there are thirteen total members of the Killers Guild. Yet in a reference to their number of members, I had written twelve. And in another reference, I had written that, other than Ming Sang, there were two Chinese members. But there are two Chinese members including Ming Sang.

There are some other examples, but I'm catching them and it just goes to show how important this stage of the publishing process is, because this is the last stage to catch those errors. So I'm glad I'm catching them. I hope to get this done by today or tomorrow, but you can't rush it. If you do, then you miss things like that. Back to work.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What Makes an Artist Great?

When it comes to art, be it writing, drawing, or music, what is it that makes an artist great? Besides training, natural talent, and experience? There's another word that would qualify. And that word is NITPICKY! Being NITPICKY is what separates a great artist from an average one.

Being NITPICKY means an artist won't settle for work that could be BETTER. Being NITPICKY means the artist strives for the absolute BEST work that is humanly possible! Being NITPICKY means an artist wants his or her work to be PERFECT.

If an artist didn't care about his or her work being as best as it could be, then he or she wouldn't be NITPICKY. That kind of an artist will settle for mediocrity. So yes, I'm nitpicky. At least when it comes to my art. Whether it's a drawing, a painting, a novel, or my book's cover designs, I'm NITPICKY. And I'm NITPICKY because I'm a perfectionist. Because I do want every piece of art I am associated with to be as good as it can possibly be.

Does that mean I succeed at being perfect in everything I do? Of course not. But I strive for it. At least in my art. And as a teacher I tell my students that, even though no person can be perfect, as the old saying goes, no one is perfect...it doesn't mean their art can't be perfect. Art is one of the few things in this world that CAN be perfect. But only if the artist is NITPICKY.

Okay. That's the lesson for today. The school year is ready to start. And my focus this year will be great artists are NITPICKY! I never used that word before. But it's a good one.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Publisher Steps Up

Melange stepped up, and I can be satisfied now with the new cover design for Killer of Killers. The Killer Eyes design went back to that first background fire, which I liked from the beginning, and both covers are finally good to go. Here they are:


Finally, the final Final Design for KOK
The image to the left is the new design for Killer of Killers. Not all the issues were resolved. The skull's nose hole still looks deformed, the city skyline could be better, and the title text should be bold-faced, but the bottom line is that the silhouetted figure, from the waist up, at least, is taken from my "doctored" image. It looks like Trent Smith would look, meaning the figure is muscular and heroic looking. Just as he's described in the book. So for that reason, I can be satisfied.

And the Final Design for Killer Eyes
As for the Killer Eyes cover design to the right, it's been good from the get go. Now I can get back to work on Book Three. Killer on the Payroll.