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, October 31, 2016

Final Revisions Submitted

It's been about a month since Dana, my publisher at KRP wanted my John Dunn manuscript for editing to begin. Sure I sent it, but that didn't mean I was going to stop improving it. I learned long ago...revise, revise, revise...until it is actually published. Keep improving the ms while you can. And until edits begin, that's just what I aimed to do.

And it's a good thing. I corrected the whiskey vs whisky thing. I also learned Dunn was full Scottish not just half Scottish. I found a few typos, and spelling errors. And this past weekend I learned that the son of Henry Francis Fynn was not an adult when he accompanied his father to see King Mpande. (He saw Cetshwayo instead.) But the son, whose name is the same as the father's was only ten at the time. So I changed that part of my manuscript from his "adult" son to his "young" son. I suppose I could say his "adolescent" son, which would be more accurate than just his young son, but it's still accurate to say young son.

And the way I made this correction was by going over the ms again. There's a part where Captain Walmsley is toasting Fynn, and he pours two glasses of brandy. But I thought maybe he should pour three glasses, which is what prompted me to go on the Internet to see how old the son was. I searched for his birthdate, which was November of 1846. So that meant in January of 1857, which was when this scene took place, he was only ten years old. So no brandy for him

I also found out just where the Mangeni River is and put that and Isipezi Hill on the map I illustrated for the book. My map, so far as I know, is the only map of the region that has this river labeled. It's also the only map that has Cetshwayo's Mangweni kraal on it, and his original Ondini kraal. No other maps or books that I know of even make the distinction between the two separate Ondini kraals. (One of which is also called Ulundi.)

Things like this are important. Especially when it's real life people. There's going to be a lot of readers out there who will expect the writer to get this stuff right. And you've got to get it right the first time. I've learned that over and over again. So the truck keeps rolling.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Long Road to Publication (and Perfection)

It's been about ten years now, since I began writing novels. I started with Killer of Killers. I was a good writer, but I wasn't "there" yet in regards to how novelists of the 21st Century are supposed to write novels. I wasn't hip to the POV requirements of today's writers, and although I was a good linguist in regards to vocabulary and word usage, I did have some flaws in regards to transitive verbs and dialogue tags. But that was ten years ago.

I followed Killer of Killers with The Vase, which was a totally different story, and then I wrote Killer Eyes, which was the follow up to Killer of Killers. I didn't focus on publication yet. I had always wanted to write the John Dunn story, so I went ahead with that.

Then came publication. And with the editing that followed, I learned the right way to use POV, especially third person limited. I learned the omniscient version of third person is taboo these days. So I rewrote all four of my books and made them third person limited. I also learned the correct way to use dialogue tags and transitive verbs. Those were my weaknesses, and now, well, I don't think I have any weaknesses. It's all been corrected.

It doesn't mean a typo or two, or a continuity flaw won't escape the notice of an editor. Any writer might miss mistakes, too. I've heard of how even the best writers miss errors, and these days, the editing process is more streamlined, which means errors might go unnoticed even until after publication. So you grin and bear it.

I learned that my recently published book Second Chance has a couple errors in it. My brother, also a writer caught them. But it's too late now. It's published. If  anyone buys it, don't worry. The errors won't ruin the story. It's still a great story. If you like football, that is. There are no errors in the writing of any of the football action, at least.

At this time, it's my John Dunn book on tap. It's due to be released in November, and as you know, November is imminent. That's why I've been working extra hard making sure there are no errors in that book. I've made many corrections lately, too, so that hard work is paying off. I already mentioned the one about "whiskey vs. whisky." And just as recently as yesterday I corrected another error. There's a dude on a horse, and later I say he leaps back on his horse. But the part where he had dismounted had been left out. So I fixed it. I put in there that he had dismounted. Now when I write that he remounted, it makes sense.

That would have been a minor error, but to be a great artist, or a great writer, or a great anything when it comes to creating art, you've got to be a perfectionist. That's what separates the great artists from the mediocre ones. That's not to say I'm a great artist. But if one doesn't try to be a great artist, then for sure one will never be a great artist or writer or whatever. So you try. And being a perfectionist is how you start.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Walking Dead - Dead to Me

Walking Dead is dead. Too much is too much. It's not pleasant. It never was. But it used to be fun to watch. Well, it's not fun to watch anymore. Of course, it's been a gory show. Bashing in skulls of zombies is one thing. But bashing in skulls of living, breathing, fan-favorite characters is another.

Okay, so for six months, the fan base had been warned that one of the main characters was going to get his/her brains bashed in. So the fan-base had time to prepare. But then the villain, Negan, played by Jeffery Dean Morgan, whose best role remains The Comedian from The Watchmen movie, bashes in not just one skull, but two. Abraham and Glenn. Both characters were well-liked characters, good characters, characters you would not want to see get killed.

Abraham was in the midst of forming a relationship with Sasha. A black woman. Abraham was a white man with red hair and had just left a relationship with a Hispanic woman. He chose the black woman. But before the relationship could get going, he's dead. Hmmnnn...

And Glenn. He's Asian and is also involved in a biracial relationship. His wife, Maggie is white and she is pregnant. So more than Abraham, Glenn had a lot to look forward to, meaning he's going to be a dad. But now he's dead. But these guys are more than just dead. The audience had to look on as both characters get their brains bashed in. Yeah, I know it's just acting. They're not really dead. It's all special effects and make up and whatever. But we're talking story here. In this story, they are brutally killed, mutilated, even. And even worse, the audience had to watch as Negan goes the extra mile to break Rick's spirit. How? Well, by having him chop off his son's arm. This was too much.

I guess the writers realized it, too, because at the last minute, Negan relents, apparently satisfied that Rick's spirit was broken. So no arm gets chopped off. But the whole build up was nasty, gross, unpleasant, and too much. Way too much. Many people are done with this show for that reason. I may be too. We'll see. Look. Too much is too much. I know I have killing and blood in my books, particularly my two Killer books. But rest assured potential readers. It's not too much.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Whisky not Whiskey - if you're British

So in my John Dunn book, John drinks whiskey with Captain Walmsley, almost like a nightly ritual when the rest of the family had retired for the evening. Except in my research I discovered it's not whiskey. It's whisky. And that's because they're British. At least Captain Walmsley is British. John of course was born and raised in Africa and had never been to Britain. But he is Scottish descent, and the South African colonies in the story are British colonies, so that means the whiskey they're drinking is whisky. And more to the point, it's Scotch Whisky.


Yes, whiskey is made in America. So if this were a story taking place in America or about Americans then, maybe they would be drinking whiskey. But it's not in America, and they're not Americans. Again, it's all taking place in British South African colonies and Zululand, so the whiskey they are drinking is whisky. Scotch whisky.


So I am glad I made that distinction before my John Dunn book was published. I'm no whiskey connoisseur. I'm not much of a drinker at all, actually, so I didn't know about the difference between whiskey and whisky. Fortunately, I continued my research, and when I researched the "whiskey" that British people drank, I learned it was "whisky" made in England or Scotland.



I also learned that bourbon is an American whiskey, and for that very reason it was probably not served in South Africa where the British had established their colonies. So I changed all scenes that had bourbon or "whiskey" to scenes with Scotch whisky. And I made these corrections in time, thank goodness, so that my story, John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu will be more authentic.


Btw, brandy is okay. The British did drink Brandy. Brandy and Scotch whisky. So I sent the new file last night, and hopefully, I won't be finding any more errors. But if I do, I'll fix them. Just want to make sure I fix them in time. Stay tuned. John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu is coming soon!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Edits Haven't Started

Edits for my John Dunn book haven't started yet, but that doesn't mean I haven't been taking every opportunity to make the writing better. I blogged about a couple things I've made better already, and twice now I've sent an improved version for editing.

I decided rather than sending every version at the time of improvement, I will send the revised version every Monday. That way I won't inundate my publisher with a new manuscript every day. I figure once a week is not too often. And besides, everyday would be too much work for me, too.

But weekly improvements until the editing begins sounds reasonable. At least it does to me. I don't know why anyone would have a problem with that. I've already learned to make the manuscript better while you can. You do it before it's published. And for my John Dunn book that means now. I have less than a month before John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu is due to be released. So that's enough time if I use the time well. It's so close to being ready, I believe it's going to be a great book.

And even at the point of editing, I'll still get another chance to make it better. That's what editing is all about. Dana let me know when she was getting ready to start the editing for Second Chance. I'm counting on her doing the same for John Dunn. Hopefully, it will be on a Tuesday, the day after I send the next improved version. We'll see.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nineteenth Century Muskets and the John Dunn Story

During the 1800s in South Africa, there were a lot of muskets used by the Natal colonists, the British military, and even the African natives. During my research for my John Dunn historical novel, I did not pinpoint the exact brands and makes of the majority of those muskets. But I did find a lot of information about guns and muskets of the time. For example, the Enfield 53 was a state of the art musket being used at the time. The Enfield 53, (named that because it came out in 1853) was one of the first  "rifled" barrel muskets. That was a revolutionary improvement. In addition to that, it used the "Minie Ball" but that name is misleading. You see, the Minie Ball wasn't a ball-shaped projectile, like the lead balls which muskets usually used.

The Minie ball projectile was called a Minie ball for its inventor, a dude named Minie. It was cone shaped, somewhat like a modern day bullet. And because of the cone shape and the grooves in it, along with the rifled barrel, the Enfield 53 could shoot farther and with more accuracy than the muskets used prior to that. Of course, shortly thereafter, the breech-loading guns came out, and one of the first of those types was the Holland & Holland double-barreled rifle, which John Dunn had written about in his autobiography, John Dunn, Cetywayo, and the Three Generals. That was, of course, one of my main sources for my book. Dunn also wrote about his Snider, which was another breech-loading rifle he used and wrote about.

So in my book, John Dunn; Heart of a Zulu, which is due to be released next month, I made note of the Holland & Holland rifle Dunn used, and I made note of the Snider. But beyond those two rifles, Dunn didn't name the guns he used. Sure all the historians wrote about the Martini-Henrys, which was the British military gun issued to British regulars. It was the rifle the British used during the Anglo-Zulu War and a state of the art gun at that point.

So the book is good for now as far as editing is concerned. I sent my latest revisions yesterday, and I'm just waiting for the edits to start. And when they do, I'll be sure to let you know. All in all, I'm thinking my John Dunn book will be my best. It's the longest, the most involved, and it's based on a true story. Yes, I added some fiction. I gave Catherine Pierce a larger role in my story. No other writer or historian had much to say about her. Not even John Dunn in his autobiography had much to say about her or any of his other 48 wives. Still, I wanted a strong female character in the story, and I figured she was the right person for the part.

It was noted by several historians that Catherine Pierce was not happy about Dunn taking those additional wives. So there's some true life conflict right there for the story. Not that a story that spans the years between the Zulu Civil War and the Anglo-Zulu War is in need of any more conflict. It's already overflowing with conflict. But hey, there were no women involved in those conflicts, other than the 20,000 women and children Prince Cetshwayo and his army slaughtered in the Battle of enDondakusuka. Nevertheless it all makes for a very rounded and intriguing story. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

John Dunn was 100% Scottish Descent

Paying extra attention to improving the John Dunn manuscript has paid off.  I had referred to Dunn as being half Scottish and half English, which was wrong. He is 100% Scottish descent. I had read during my research that Dunn's father immigrated to South Africa from Scotland. But I found no reference to his mother's origins. Until yesterday. I read on some Internet website that both of Dunn's parents were Scottish immigrants.

At first I thought the writer of that article had made a mistake. Dunn's mother's name was Anne Harold Biggar, so to make sure I Googled the national origin of the surname "Biggar" and sure enough, it's a Scottish name. With further research I learned Dunn's mother was born in Scotland and immigrated to South Africa with her parents in the year 1820. So there you have it. Both of John Dunn's parents were born in Scotland.

I've made all the necessary corrections in the manuscript now. There were only two references in there regarding Dunn's parent's ethnicity. The first reference is when I introduce the main character, John Dunn early in the story, I had referred to him as the son of a Scottish immigrant. I've changed that to the son of Scottish immigrants. And later on, when Dunn meets with Lord Chelmsford, (he had two meetings with Chelmsford in real life, and they are both in the story,) Chelmsford inquires to Dunn's British ancestry, after which Dunn now says, "My parents were born in Scotland." Before I had Dunn say that his mother was English, his father a Scot. But it's all corrected now and good to go, at least insofar as that particular point.

I will still improve the manuscript daily and send the improved version every Monday until Dana advises me that edits are underway. Until then, I'll use the time wisely. While I can.