18 10 2015


by Nora Jamieson

drA perfect little book about three imperfect women and their life stories, Deranged is a literary gift from a talented author Nora Jamieson to us readers and more so to us women. Each one of us women comes to a point in life when something happens that triggers a transformation, spiritual, mental, physical. Whichever it is and whatever is the reason for it, it does seem like a natural process that we women go through when it is our time to reconnect with the Universe and claim our presence, our contribution and – in the end – our nothingness. The infinity of it all is, in my opinion, what unites all three stories in Nora’s book. The sadness and the determination, the strong spirit of womanhood, and the need to complete the journey before starting a new one. Ashes to ashes, so it is. But Deranged is all about life, learning from the past, carrying something valuable into the future, celebrating the moment. Deranged is also about strength of character. None of the heroines would be where we found them when we read the book if not for their ancestral inherited and practiced often manifestation of character, the vein of steel that we women must have to endure what we have to in the world before us and in the world after us. Ultimately, Deranged is about survival and the cost women pay for it.
Nora Jamieson praises strong women. She also leads her readers towards self-discovery. Her heroines share intimate thoughts and feelings, and in that are tangible, real – and relatable. Also much of the writing is so good and quotable, you almost feel like it’s meant to teach, meant to guide. “…the past lives in the tissues and empty spaces, in the longing and despair, in the stories told and not told, in the shape of a nose or the calling of a soul.” What would you do in their place? Are you going through the same right now? What did you find out about yourself? What does it mean to you? All these questions and more were popping in my head as I kept on reading. Albeit with difficulty and slowly, because I often had to pause and reflect on what I’d just read. And because so much in what I was reading was describing my own inner state at the moment. I felt like I was looking in the mirror and seeing generations of women before me and after me. It is a surreal, totally out of this world experience – more so because the author connects everything into a living breathing organism, the Earth that sustains all forms of life – human, animal… The Earth speaks to us and we all need to listen.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2015. All rights reserved.

After the Rain | 雨あがる

13 04 2015



Winner of the Japanese Academy Award, After the Rain is a 1999 film based on the last script by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, filmed and produced after the director’s passing while the film was still in preproduction.

The entire action takes place during the Samurai era, in the countryside when a group of people gets stranded in an inn during a heavy rain. Roads are washed off, travel becomes off-limits and so the world slows down while the unwilling participants get to pass the time together in a small and now crowded space at this outpost of civilization. Nothing is the word.

But things do happen.

The protagonist gets to grow over the sequel of unexpected events, the supporting characters get to create a meaningful canvas at the backdrop of which the entire plot gets to come to its resolution. And the audience gets to watch the ever unique exploration of human nature, Akira Kurosawa’s signature in cinematography.

There’s something intangible about the director’s spirit being so carefully preserved throughout the entire film. Each scene as if breathes Kurosawa, his vision being laid out in front of millions of human eyes who get to witness the  magic one more time. Kurosawa always aims at the unseen, the ephemeral, that ultimate fabric that connects humanity – in a variety of very telling situations in which actions speak louder than words.

After the Rain does not contain too many dialogues – but it does however contain many scenes where words become  obsolete. Through showing – not telling – the storyteller’s original idea comes to life when entrusted with the masters of Japanese cinema. And in that, Kurosawa’s ideal lives on.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2015. All rights reserved.

BACKSTAGE with Bethany Orr

1 08 2014

Today on CSReview, Camilla Stein is talking to actress and film director Bethany Orr about her new film campaign  ICELAND OR BUST .


CS: Welcome to CSReview, Bethany. What is it about Iceland that inspired your decision to film a heavily psychological drama there?

bethany_orrBethany Orr: Psychosexual drama, is what we’re calling it, just because people want to call it something. Agorable has been termed a suicide comedy. That’s not a thing either. Genre is a mental construct created in an attempt to identify potential consumers. People want to know what they’re in for. Personally I don’t have a whole lot of use for it. As Gertrude Stein said, “There is a great deal of nonsense talked about the subject of anything.” So you know, I’m very aware that this film won’t be for everybody, but it deals with experiences most of us can relate to. Particularly, the consequences surrounding human loss.

I find the Icelandic landscape incredibly honest – very sad, very beautiful, and surreal. It’s devastating. This is very important to the externalization of what’s going on in these characters.

CS: After seeing your Agorable and with your background in psychology I am not surprised to see you working on exposing another rather complicated element of human condition. So, why grief?

Bethany Orr: Grief is the greatest adventure there is. There’s a complete loss of control that happens when a person is in mourning. You enter this kind of fugue state where everything is more real than it’s ever been, and none of it is important at all. And it seems to have you in its clutches until it doesn’t anymore, or until you learn how to function and move forward with it living inside you. I don’t know that we ever really move on from profound losses like these.

So much to me is compelling about this. But what I’m most interested in exploring is the intimate relationship between loss and freedom. A person is truly free when they’ve lost everything, or that one person who’s been most important to their daily reality, or identity… whether they know it or not when that happens they’ve entered a space of infinite possibility. I see it as primordial, really. The source of all creation. Emptiness.

I’m speaking very sweepingly here, but a great deal of the imagery in this film has to do with these things. How grief is tied to relief, and the guilt associated with that.


CS: I can’t help but feel that this is going to be a very surgical production, very edge cutting. Are you nervous? Are you setting the bar too high?

Bethany Orr: Ha! No. The idea for this film came to me during the time I spent with Werner Herzog in 2012. When you hear him talk about Fitzcarraldo… no bar is too high. At the end of his Rogue Film School he handed me a credential, this certificate like I had passed or something. I decided right then that I wouldn’t frame it or post it in any way until after the Iceland movie wrapped, once that piece of paper is stained with the production’s blood, sweat and tears. So I folded it up and put it in my pocket, and there it stays. The only kind of credentials I have use for are experiences and creations. My time with Herzog means nothing unless I put it into practice. I have an obligation to this story, to back it with everything I’ve got, and we will see what happens.

CS: I understand you’re creating a controversial – what you call ‘borderline disturbing’ – imagery in this film. How do you justify the means? Where do you draw the line between conventionalism and absurdism?

Bethany Orr: There’s no borderline about it. Point blank, I’m a lover of the disturbed. I think disturbance is absolutely necessary, especially in cinema. Without it we can’t be moved. So there’s zero justification, it’s just what I’m drawn to.

And life – life is completely absurd. There’s nothing I could do in this film that would make it weirder than it already is. But I’ll probably try.

CS:  Are we going to see paranormal elements in this film?

Bethany Orr: Like, ghosts, goblins, alla that? Not in that sense, no. One of the characters has an extra ability, he moonlights as a psychic phone sex operator (a very good one). But that has less to do with the supernatural than it has to do with being close to the edge. Of death. Living in that fugue state we talked about.

CS: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Bethany Orr: Translating. Extricating this story from my bones out onto paper, then attempting to communicate that with interested parties. [laughs] So thank you, you’re doing me a favor here.

CS: I have to ask this. Now that you’ve successfully explored directing and acting, which is dearer to you? How do you negotiate the divide between these two professions?

Bethany Orr: You know I can’t answer that! Truthfully, I’m lucky in that acting and directing are complementary sports. Performing is my first love and always will be, and I will continue to explore directing as long as I’m able. Directing feeds a different side of me. It’s a different responsibility and requires a massive amount of energy. I’ve been successful so far being both a performer in and director of my own projects, but Iceland is on another scale. Which is why I’m so excited to have Patrick [Kennelly] on board as a shepherd for this story. Being under his direction on Excess Flesh was the most extraordinary experience I’ve ever had as a performer and I’m eager to top it. We’ve talked about it quite a bit and will continue to explore what that means as far as roles are concerned on this movie. Neither of us has attempted any kind of co-directing relationship before, and I don’t know at this point what that would look like. But I’m very open to the idea of giving some of the reins over to him on this if that’s what’s best for the project.

CS: Thank you for stepping by, Bethany, it’s always a wonderful experience talking to you about the art of filmmaking. We’d love to hear how your new adventure in Iceland turns out. Go break a leg!

IMG_1420 (2)

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2014. All rights reserved. Images courtesy Bethany Orr.

BACKSTAGE with Author Eric Thomasma

6 02 2014

Today on CSReview, author Eric Thomasma is sharing his love for science fiction, and being part of a wonderful world called children’s literature.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Eric. Let’s start with something I ask every author of the genre – why do you write sci-fi?

fw-profile-imageEric Thomasma: As a young boy I was captivated by those now iconic words, “Space, the final frontier…” I was fascinated by the concept of faster-than-light space travel and the possibilities of life on other planets and the contrast/comparison with our own societies. I remember watching the moon landings and the early development of NASA and looked forward to the days of being able to be a passenger on a flight to Alpha Centauri or other seemingly unreachable destinations. In time I came to realize that the reality of our world politics would keep us from achieving such goals within my lifetime, so I turned to the world of fiction to keep the dream alive. When I decided to write a story, Sci-Fi just seemed the most natural genre for me to write in.

CS:  Alpha Centauri fascinates me too. Ok, here’s one question I think we all want to know – why do you write children’s books?

Eric Thomasma: Because they are stories that demand to be told. I wrote the basic story for my first children’s book years ago when my kids were little (they’re in their thirties now) and set it aside without any plans to publish it or to ever even write again. After putting out my second novel, I came across that old story on my computer and liked what I read, so I decided it was worth publishing. At our annual family reunion I talked to my brother Lanin (a cartoonist, amongst other talents) about it and he liked the idea, even suggested a name for the dragon. He readily agreed to do the illustrations and that set the framework for publishing what I thought was going to be a one-off. Then one day shortly before the next reunion, while working on my third novel, the story for my second children’s book invaded my mind and wouldn’t let me continue with the novel. I wrote the story, sent it off to my brother for illustrations, and went back to work on the novel. The third story was similar, in that it interrupted the flow of my fourth novel and wouldn’t let me continue until it was written and off to my brother. The fourth children’s book came as a request from my niece. She asked for a book about a yeti in the freezer because she had just told her kids that it was a yeti making the noise when the icemaker dumped a load of ice. This was so similar to the inspiration for my first (my wife told our boys that a dragon lived in our furnace to keep our house warm), that I couldn’t let go of the idea until it was written. Much the same with my fifth (coming soon). I was inspired with a phrase, that turned into a short poem, that kept me from getting to sleep that night. I got up twice to get additional lines into the computer so I wouldn’t forget them by morning. Over the next couple of days, I could think of little else and eventually came up with enough lines to become a book. I don’t really try to write children’s stories, I just don’t seem to have a choice.

CS: What is your message to the young generation?

BEGINS_Cover240x330Eric Thomasma: Reading is fun. It opens doors, takes you to impossible places, and stretches your view of the world around you. Reading allows you to see beyond the what-is and encourages you to look for the what-if. Reading allows you to learn about things that existed yesterday, events and developments of today, and dreams for tomorrow. Reading is the stimulant that awakens the imagination.

CS: In your opinion, what do adults need to learn from children?

Eric Thomasma: How to find adventure in an empty cardboard box.

CS: Perfect! Tell me, where do you find your inspiration?

Eric Thomasma: That’s an interesting way to phrase the question. It implies that I go looking for it. My experience has been more like having inspiration sneak up from behind, render me immobile, torture me until I understand what it is I have to do, and only then releasing me enough to follow its will. I never know where or when it will strike, but when it does, it’s impossible to ignore. On the other hand, there are certain themes that I’d like to write stories for, (Halloween and Christmas come to mind), but for some reason, when it’s something I’d like to do, inspiration remains annoyingly quiet.

CS: I suspect this to be true of many fellow writers, so all I can say is hang in there! What are you currently working on?

Eric Thomasma: My fourth novel in the SEAMS16 series, as yet untitled. I’ve been working on this novel longer than any that came before. More than once I thought I was nearly finished, and then a character would do or say something that took the story in another direction. This is one of the dangers of being a “pantser”, or someone who “writes by the seat of their pants”. I outlined my first novel before writing it, but by the end of the first chapter, the story no longer bore any resemblance to the outline. Since then I’ve just chronicled each story as it presented itself. It’s fun being able to enjoy the story as it’s being written in much the same way the reader will later, but it can take an unpredictable amount of time to complete and often requires a lot of editing. This book returns us to the station and picks up about a month after book two left off. (Book three was designed as a stand-alone story that took a leap back to the beginning of the society the others come from.) It includes family dynamics, religion, politics, espionage, kidnapping, intrigue, action, and more.

I’m also in the process of preparing a new children’s book, entitled Everyday Wonders. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but as I mentioned above, it’s a poem. It’s the first time I’ve used a poem for a story and I came up with a different concept for the illustrations, so I’ve been far more involved in that part of the process than I was for my earlier books. It’s been a fun challenge preparing the source material for Lanin to work with, but it’s taking longer than I’d hoped. I was hoping to release it yet this year, but that seems unlikely now. But watch for it soon.

CS: We will! Thank you for sharing your story, Eric. Good luck on your journey creating new books!

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2014. All rights reserved.

BACKSTAGE with Author Michael Brachman

5 02 2014

Today on CSReview, Michael Brachman is talking about his novels and his love for the genre of science fiction, and the craft of writing.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Michael. Why do you write sci-fi?

profileMichael Brachman: For me writing is almost a cross between reading and writing. While I have a general idea of how the story is supposed to go, I cannot tell you how many times the characters surprise me with plot twists or observations that come out of nowhere. I am not a big fan of fantasy because of my scientific background. That leaves science fiction as the only genre where there are literally no limits. So, the simple answer is I love science fiction and writing it is just an extension of that love.

CS: I see we have this one in common. Who would you say is your ideal reader?

Michael Brachman: My ideal reader is one who is looking for some science in their science fiction. I have put in countless hours of meticulous research to make sure that every fact that can be checked will check out. I once spent several hours using an astronomy program which showed the alignment of stars in the future to find the exact right date (January 24th, 2067 AD)  just so I could one character point to the Moon and a particular star was just off to its right.

CS: I can tell you did your homework, your novels are written with a spectacular attention to every detail. Back to your readers, do you have a special message you want to share?

Michael Brachman: I write hard science fiction. No zombie apocalypse or YA vampires for me. If you are looking for action, adventure, romance and even a hint of humor within the confines of hard science fiction, these books are for you.

CS: Hear, hear… Are aliens creepy?

Michael Brachman: Certainly some of the ones I have met in real life are, sure. In my books, I don’t have any little green men yet.  That is coming in the next book. So far my aliens are titanic Dyson spheres which eat stars, “falling blankets” which can suffocate you, Piranha rats and so on. No really intelligent ones, yet. I think when the aliens come (and they will come), the people that encounter will be emotionally ready to handle their differences in form, function and motivation. Not Alien or Predator type creatures, just different from us.

CS: If aliens were to land on Earth today, would they want to stay and why?

Michael Brachman: Sure. If they came all this way, they’d have a reason. Whether it is to meet us or conquer us or eat us or just to study our world, the distance between stars is just so vast that if they went through the effort of coming here, they’d stick around for while. I’m kind of hoping that when it happens, it isn’t the eating or conquering thing.

CS: I have to ask this one – how do you come up with science stuff in your novels?

TAL_CoverMichael Brachman: As I mentioned before, because of my scientific background, I research every bit of speculation until I am satisfied that nobody could prove they weren’t true. I researched and invented two forms of interstellar travel. I quantified “legal” time travel. I invented a lens-less camera. My first novel, Rome’s Revolution, takes place 14 centuries in the future so I wrote computer software to generate a brand new language. I also wrote a computer simulation of two moons orbiting a distant planet just so the characters could look up in the sky and the phases would be right. The stories build themselves and I just make sure the science behind them is sound.

CS: Is there any hope for the human race or are we doomed?

Michael Brachman: There is always hope.

CS: What’s next in store, what are you currently working on?

Michael Brachman: My next novel entitled The Milk Run is already underway.  In a strange way, even though it is science fiction, it sort of has a religious framework.  I also write a Goodreads blog entitled Tales of the Vuduri which is only 14 entries away from a full year, 365 entry, sequence. I must admit I did miss posting one day. As soon as that is done, I am going to package it up as a single volume and sell it for free.  It will be called Tales of the Vuduri: Year One and I should have it ready in about three weeks. Right after that will be The Vuduri Companion which will be a collection of short stories, deleted scenes, some prequel-type stuff and so on that don’t fit in anywhere else. Beyond that, I have two more novels planned.

Oh yeah, the book trailer for my second novel The Ark Lords should being going up on YouTube this week as well.

CS: As a matter of fact, here it is! Michael, thank you for stepping by. Know that we’re enjoying your work and want to see more.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2014. All rights reserved.

CSR Special: Curiosity Quills Gives Back

10 10 2013


Today on CSReview, Curiosity Quills’ first ever special project – two anthologies with seriously intriguing titles Primetime and After Dark, celebrate CQ’s literary trademark and the publisher’s devotion to giving back to the community. Dozens of writers put their pens to work to create “a spine-tingling, mind-blowing, quirky collection of short stories”, as CQ puts it, with the aim to donate to animal charities. CQ’s publisher Lisa Gus talks to Camilla Stein about the project.

76865_1466071499131_2113168_nCS: Lisa, welcome to CSReview. I remember some time ago how you were gearing up for this special project. Now that it’s completed, let’s talk about the journey. First off, what makes working on an anthology different from any other book project?

Lisa Gus: It is like herding cats. Very talented and kindhearted cats, but still… A job and a half. The order of placement. Interior covers for each story. Different writing voices. Content. Blurb wrangling. Author accreditation (did you know you can only list 10 people as authors on Amazon, 5 for Barnes and Noble, and 3 for Kobo?) This is something every anthology publisher ends up having to deal with and until one does, this one, at least, didn’t have any idea of the complications involved!

CS: I am glad to hear the hassle of having to deal with technicalities didn’t slow you down. After all, such a great cause. What inspired you to do this for charity, an animal charity in particular?

Lisa Gus: Animals are people, too! Enforced – and avoidable! – euthanasia for healthy animals just goes against our collective grain, so, when the time came to start giving back, this was a natural choice for us. Any shelters need funds, especially in today’s economy, and we feel the strictly No-Kill ones are the best recipients we can possibly name.

CS: I applaud you for doing this. Are there any favorites, editor’s picks to look out for in both books?

Lisa Gus: I know a lot of readers will be delighted in seeing JR Rain’s updated Fridge with the exclusive new ending, and I can see why. JR is an enormously talented author with an equally enormous following. But for myself… I like all of our stories equally. We picked them from the submissions by our already signed authors only, and they reflect the quality and variety we hope will be the trademark of Curiosity Quills (and it’s new erotica counterpart, Curiosity Thrills) for years to come!

CS: Thank you, Lisa, sounds like you cooked up a treat for many literary tastes. I asked Curiosity Quills authors why they are in this. Here’s what they had to say.

A.W. Exley: As a writer, it is often difficult to find ways to give back to the community, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to use my story telling to benefit a charity, and in particular “no kill” shelters. Animal welfare is close to my heart, living on a small holding with an assortment of weird and wonderful critters. I wish all creatures could have the same opportunity find a loving home.

A.E. Propher: Animals are no less human than humans. And humans are no less animal than other animals. Why should enforced euthanasia be permissible for one and not the other? If my humble writing helps to right the imbalance, I am glad to do my part.

Eliza Tilton: When it comes to helping our furry friends, I couldn’t think of a better charity to support. No kill shelters gives animals a chance to find a good home. There are plenty of charities to write for, but considering the first friend I ever had was a big fat cat, my heart’s with this one.

James Wymore: I have a day job.  I love writing, but there is never enough time to do everything.  Writing for charity is great because it gives me a chance to use my art to give something back.  I wish I had more opportunities to do it.

Matthew Graybosch: To be honest, I wrote “The Milgram Battery” a few years ago as a worldbuilding exercise. I polished it up a bit last year and sent it to CQ, but was told it needed more polish. Since I was busy with Without Bloodshed, I put Battery aside and almost forgot about it until Lisa asked me about it for use in Prime Time. I would have accepted regardless, but an opportunity to help support no-kill animal shelters made contributing to Prime Time especially attractive.

Nathan L. Yocum: Writing for a charity anthology is the ultimate in win-win practices. For many authors, myself included, writing is a compulsive activity. It is a switch that cannot be turned off, an energy that cannot be suppressed, a voice that cannot be muted. To have that voice speak on behalf of animals, to have that gift work for the benefit of no-kill shelters…that certainly is a beautiful use borderline disordered behavior.

Randy Attwood: More than a year ago, I started donated $1 of each sale (ebook or paperback) of Crazy About You, to Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence, KS because those great folks work the Suicide Prevention Hotline for my part of the country. I actually grew up on the grounds of a mental hospital in Kansas because my father was the institution’s dentist, and the state provided housing on the grounds. My first job was working in the dish washing room in the cafeteria, which fed its 1,500 patients. Some patients worked there, too. That old adage: write about what you know led me to create a novel set at the mental hospital and it’s nearby town from the first person point of view of the dentist’s son. One week in his life that grows him up faster than he could have ever wanted. I have a deep sympathy for people suffering from mental illness, so wanted any revenues made from Crazy About You to be shared with people combating the illness.cover1000

Sharon Bayliss: I’m honored to be part of an anthology that will be benefitting select no-kill animal shelters. I’ve seen first hand how hard shelters like these work to care for and protect animals who would otherwise suffer abuse, neglect, and probable death. It’s humbling and wonderful to know that I’ll be able to do a small part to help simply by doing what I love.

Jose Prendes: Writing means the world to me, and if it can help a worthy cause then the struggle is all the more worth it!

Rand Lee: I would not be alive and writing today were it not for the work of several therapeutic charities in my home state of New Mexico. Participating in this charity e-book anthology is my very tiny way of saying, “Thank you.”

Micheal Shean: Charity is nothing less than the duty we owe each other as people in this world.  We eternally seek connection, and helping one another without expectation of reward is an important part of establishing that connection with one another.  The universe is unthinkably enormous, and we are so very small; we do nothing but make ourselves even smaller if we do not seek to better each others’ lives.  In this way do we make ourselves greater than we were before.

Gerilyn Marin: Writing for charity . . . I don’t think I gave that a lot of thought, actually. I knew I was doing something I enjoy and that my efforts were in support of a good cause and that’s all that really mattered. It’s a unique thing to be able to do what you love and be rewarded in a way that has nothing to do with money or material things. My entire youth, I was that kid stuffing all her pocket change into the charity collection cans (I’d regret it a little bit afterward when I didn’t have money for things I needed or wanted, but I never questioned at the time that I’d done the right thing). I think giving to charity, doing for charitable causes, is that same way – you don’t think about it at the moment, ’cause you simply know it’s the right thing for you to do.

William Vitka: I’ve spent many years working with charities. From my brother’s own, Blue Redefined, where we worked to better the lives of those with disabilities, to the Kindle All-Stars, where all of the proceeds are donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. When CQ approached me with the idea, I jumped at it. Not necessarily because it means something to me, but because I hope it means something to those we help. Including our furry friends. What I’m trying to say is, the retired racing Greyhound we adopted here at the house forced me to.

“10% of every purchase will go straight to animals in need. The CQ team has selected
humane societies on both the East and West coast that spend well and do not
stray from their “no-kill” policies.” – Curiosity Quills

Check out now: PRIMETIME | After Dark

‘This CSReview feature is published in loving memory of Ty, the cat from an animal asylum who was taken off the streets when he was about one year old, treated for flea, worms and malnourishment, and released first to one caring family, and then to us.’
– Camilla Stein.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.


3 10 2013

The Hilarious Adventures of the Home Handyman

by Jerry Hibbs


This book is for folks who’ve been there, seen it, smelled it, felt it on their own skin, washed it off their hair, sat for hours without electricity – try making coffee when the entire house is unplugged! – or worse, counting goosebumps on a chilly day – because Mr. Fix-It decided to install new heaters in the middle of a winter and dragged the entire household into a messy spinoff that lasts, and lasts, and lasts. For those courageous citizens who had holes in their walls and dust falling off their ceilings, and wind singing a penetrating ode as it passed through their unpatched windows waiting for their turn to be fixed… For those brave men and women who kept standing in the middle of the room that looked like a desecrated Cold War bunker with shreds of wall paper hanging off its walls covered in smudges of mismatched paint. For those astute individuals who did not even blink when the stairs suddenly began missing a couple steps, and kept their cool when the roof went down. For those daring hearts who got lost in Home Depot but managed to find their way to salvation at the check out – and did not utter a word of disapproval at discovering numerous tools and their derivatives that Mr. Fix-It had acquired in their absence.

This book is for everyone who knows what it’s like to live a life of fear that the house with its thin walls will one day succumb to the ever inventive Mr. Fix-It and his ambitions, and who find the only solace in the sense of humor that gets them through the day.

If you are in the situation equal or resembling the described above instances, this book is for you – to get you through the day, unharmed.

Enjoy The Hilarious Adventures Of The Home Handyman and may neither a hammer nor a nail land on your finger.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

BACKSTAGE with Jon D’Amore

30 09 2013

Today on CSReview, author and screenwriter Jon D’Amore is making a come-back talking about a year of an incredible spin-off that followed the release of his book THE BOSS ALWAYS  SITS IN THE BACK.

CS: When we spoke last year, prior to your book THE BOSS ALWAYS SITS IN THE BACK was to be released, did you know you’d quickly get your own fan base with thousands of copies sold?

Jon D'AmoreJon D’Amore: Because the story of THE BOSS centers around a group of mob guys from Hudson County, New Jersey (the county directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan, quickly accessible via the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels),it was only logical that a good percentage of my “fan base” would come from that area. Much of the book’s initial success was due to two Union City, New Jersey, Facebook pages.

Union City was where I was born and spent the first 12 years of my life. When the book was released, and after living in Los Angeles for nearly 15 years, I went back to New Jersey to promote it…and the people came out en masse. It was amazing. Very heartwarming and humbling. The night I returned to Union City for a reading of THE BOSS at the William V. Musto Cultural Center, I was speechless when Mayor and State Senator Brian Stack, Police Chief Brian Barrett and Commissioner Lucio Fernandez came up to the podium and honored me with a proclamation naming May 24th “Jon D’Amore Day” in the city of my birth.

It didn’t take long for things to explode from there. Using the accumulated radio and TV segments, promotional materials and articles, THE BOSS snowballed. It also helps that my readings and responses to questions are entertaining, informative and humorous.


The car in this picture was used in the infamous Godfather.

I recently returned from a four week tour of Florida, and I’m already being asked to return by the bookstores where I appeared. But what’s most rewarding are the emails I get every week…every single week…from people I don’t know telling me how much they’ve enjoyed THE BOSS and that it made them laugh while keeping them on the edge of their seats, or simply because it brought back memories of people and places they knew. Readers appreciate the respect, honor and love I showed for the characters…compelling characters who also had terribly violent and criminal sides to them.

CS: Jon, I think getting a day named after you is a total blast! The recent news of you securing a major NYC literary agency – what can you tell me?

Jon D’Amore: A major literary agency was something I’d been waiting, working and striving for. Early on I could have signed with a number of agencies, but I felt they weren’t high enough on the literary food-chain. I knew THE BOSS needed to be promoted and distributed in a big way…on a large scale. In order to do that, I needed an agent who shared my vision…and an agency with the power to make it happen.

the boss official coverI wanted an agent who can walk into any of the best publishing houses and put THE BOSS in the hands of the person who’s going to get it, the person who has true belief in the product, the person who knows the genre and the target audiences, not just one target audience, but the many this book appeals to. That is paramount. Anything less means THE BOSS would simply languish in the mediocrity of so many other poorly marketed books. So I had to wait until the right agency came along. It took longer than I had hoped…but doesn’t everything that’s truly worth doing successfully?

When I lecture at colleges and schools about writing, marketing, sales and self-publishing, I tell the story of when my literary attorney and I sent copies of THE BOSS to agencies to get it represented and shopped to publishing companies…and how the rejection letters, interestingly enough, contradicted each other. The responses were everything from, “There are too many mob titles in an already glutted market,” to, “There is no longer any commercial interest in Mafia stories,” and each one was signed by someone who allegedly knew what was happening in the marketplace.

It became apparent that no one really knew exactly what was happening out there. The publishing industry was changing faster than “the decision makers” were able to make decisions. After enough of those letters came in, I decided it was time to do it myself and create a market for THE BOSS.

And that’s exactly what I did.

Once I self-published the book in every marketable medium (e-books for Nooks, Kindles, iPads and Kobo readers, an audio book for, and the hard cover and paperback versions), I put myself out there so the public could hear a slice of THE BOSS and be entertained at the readings. I also went on every radio and TV show that would have me. That’s when several agencies started to take notice.

My friend, Pamela Des Barres, along with being a best-selling author and a big fan of THE BOSS, mentioned it to her agent. He liked what he saw on THE BOSS website (, so we spoke for a bit on the phone and I sent him a copy. He read it within two days, liked it a lot, and we spoke again. A few days later I went to Manhattan and put everything in front of him.

Conversely, I also made it a point to interview the agent and the agency. I asked as many questions of them as they did of me. I made sure they weren’t taking on my book strictly to fill a niche in a sliver of the marketplace. The agent got it. He loved the story. The arcs. The characters. The respect of the culture and the love between the primary characters.

The agency wants to make the book a best-seller…not just on a national level, but internationally. A few days later the agent, the agency and my attorney were working out the terms for our contract. It was signed within a couple of weeks.

CS: You gotta give it to those guys, they know what they are doing and what then need to do to get you where you belong. So, Jon, what does standing at the top of the mountain feel like?

Jon D’Amore: I don’t know…yet, but I’ll certainly let you know when I get there. Right now, you can say I’ve left the base camp and I’m climbing. Fortunately, I have a great support team in my agent, my attorney, the investors and the countless people who’ve enjoyed reading THE BOSS.

I really believe the apex will be when the book is published by a quality company, it’s selling well and the screenplay has been sold to a studio. Until then…it’s an uphill climb no matter how well it appears THE BOSS and I are doing.

CS: Can you put a dollar-amount on what it cost to independently publish, print and promote your book? You’ve done national tours, interviews, radio, television, lectured, released the audiobook…is it all worth it?

Jon D’Amore: That’s easy to answer. From the day I decided to publish THE BOSS until I recently returned from Florida, between the principal amount put up by the investors, plus the interest on their investment, not counting what I owe my attorney, it’s a little over twenty-five thousand dollars.

Is it all worth it? From my point of view, I can’t let it become not worth it.

J3THE BOSS ALWAYS SITS IN THE BACK has never been a vanity project like some self-published books are. I didn’t borrow that kind of money or put my credibility on the line for it to fail. I believe in THE BOSS. The people who invested in it believe in it. My attorney and agent believe in it. The masses that purchased and read the first edition love it. Even people who planned or expected to find fault with it…loved it. So I’m working very hard to make sure it’s worth it. Besides, I have investors, and for their loyalty in this project alone I need to make sure they get paid back.

CS: While speaking to the media and telling the story of your book, did you re-live the events you wrote about? Were there moments when “The Kid” (one of three mob-aliases given to you in the story) spoke in your place?

Jon D’Amore: My hanging out with da guys ended a long time ago, but the great times we had and the life lessons we all learned (well, at least the ones who are still alive)…those stories had to be told. The audience certainly sees my pleasure as I read to them, so most certainly I re-live it as I’m reading it…no matter how many readings I do.

My early years as a musician gave me the ability to comfortably perform in front of large audiences, followed by a few years as a studio musician which honed my confidence level. Of course, the things that went on in Vegas with my Godfather also had a great effect on the way I lived my life during and after those years. Later, my life in the corporate world enabled me to take those talents and skills and use them in what the suits call “the real world.”

As for “The Kid” showing up at any readings…From the beginning of the book to the last page I describe how several great eras ended. The era of The Kid is the last of them. As much as I love talking about that slice of my life when I was called “The Kid” and the great days and nights of the mid-to-late 1970s, The Kid went away a long time ago.

CS: Who is your ideal reader?

Jon D’ Amore: Anyone who enjoys a great mob story that tells about the history of the New Jersey and New York crime families, how a boy grew up in a family involved in Organized Crime, a very slick Las Vegas scam that eventually goes bad and people turn up dead, honor, respect and a deep love between a young man and his Godfather. Of course, there’s also the pure entertainment factor. I connect a lot of things in the story with memorable and historic events and locations. Things many people can relate to and recall where they were and what they were doing at that specific time.

Interestingly enough, I was able to monitor a large percentage of those who purchased the book based on sales through THE BOSS website and at live appearances, plus by the emails I receive from those who bought the e-book, the audio-book or the printed versions on-line (where I’d have no idea of the demographics)…and the majority of THE BOSS purchasers and readers are women between 35 and 65. And to make the numbers even better, women buy additional books for the men in their lives to read.

CS: Curious stats, Jon. If a publisher is acquired, do you expect them to have you re-write the book or change the cover?

Jon D’Amore: Coming from a thirteen year background in the Hollywood screenwriting community, it’s not uncommon for a producer to praise the writer to high heaven with accolades of how great their script is and that it can go right from the page to the screen because the producer is “…just the person who can get it done.” But once the deal is cut and the producer has the rights to the script, the first thing they do is change about twenty-to-forty percent of the original script. I’ve seen it and have heard writers joke(or cry) about it all the time. It’s usually the reason some great scripts become some bad films. Though, once in a while it does work the other way around.

That being said, I’m sure the chosen publishing company will want to exert some power. Will they? Who knows? Let’s see what they come up with. If it makes THE BOSS a better book, I’d be a fool not to follow their advice. If I don’t think some things make sense…that’s why we have agents and lawyers.

Personally, I think the cover is right on the money and has become a brand for the title and story. If they want something else, it had better be great!

CS: It seems you’ve done it all – and all that you could to promote THE BOSS nationally. What can you tell your fellow authors out there considering whether to self-publish (which in today’s world is just a click away), or knock on the doors of publishing companies which can, let’s face it, take forever and a contract may or may not ever happen?

Jon D’Amore: As far as knocking on doors or mailing your cover letter and chapters to a publishing company, I’ll say this…Unless you have a blood relative in a very decent position in a quality publishing company and who also owes your parents money or a favor, do not try to walk into one or mail in your manuscript and expect any kind of positive response. Yes, there are the exceptions to the rule…but the odds say it probably won’t be you. It wasn’t for me! You must get an agent. Trust me, I thought it could be done without one…and I was wrong.

As to self-publishing…If you sincerely believe in your project to where you’ll put your bank account along with your personal and professional credibility on the line; If peoplenot closest to you (that’s right, I said not closest to you) are supporters and hard-core believers; If people who’ve achieved a notable level of success in the field of your project praise, promote, support and believe in what you’ve done; If you have the ability to put yourself in the marketplace and spotlight to speak about your project with the highest professionalism, humor and ability; If you have it within you to accept praise with humility, and criticism with appreciation and respect…DO IT!

If not, whichever one of those things you’re lacking in…learn to do it…and learn to do it very well.


CS: Excellent tips! Now, is the future looking bright for Jon D’Amore?

Jon D’Amore: The future’s so bright…I gotta wear shades.

CS: That’s a good one! Nice talking to you, Jon. Come back with more success stories of THE BOSS.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

BACKSTAGE with Kenneth Kemp

14 09 2013

Today on CSReview, Hollywood actor and director Kenneth Kemp is sharing a behind-the-scenes story of an exciting upcoming TV series Attaché.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Kenneth. Let’s start with a quick look at your career in entertainment. What achievements are you most proud of?

KEMPKenneth Kemp: I ran Kenneth Kemp Productions for over 20 years, worked with numerous Fortune 500 clients, and produced over 100 projects. I won two Best Director Cindy Awards (Cinema In Industry). I was a producer at the Olympics Games in Salt Lake City and Greece. But the thing that I’m most excited about is this International TV series, Attaché.

CS: Attaché is your first network series – how does it feel embarking on a new adventure in a new, and a very different and serious role?

Kenneth Kemp: I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge. In fact, I thrive on it.  Creating and writing a series is certainly serious work, as you put it, but serious fun bringing it to fruition. Attaché is an international crime drama about a branch of law enforcement that’s never been seen on television,  and I’m thrilled that we’ll be featuring cultures, countries, and actors from around the globe.

CS: I am curious, what’s the story behind Attaché? How did the idea come about?

Kenneth Kemp: I was working the Olympics when I first encountered a Legal Attaché. I had no idea the FBI maintained a presence in foreign countries. My curiosity got the better of me and the more I dug, the more I thought, “This is a great premise for a television series”.

Astonishingly, Legal Attachés have limited authority, no jurisdiction, usually aren’t allowed to carry a gun, yet their job is to solve or prevent crimes against Americans abroad. Having no jurisdiction, they must work with a local law enforcement liaison, who’s in charge of the case. Despite these impediments, they still manage to save Americans every day.

For the series I raised the stakes even further.  A typical Legal Attaché stays in a specific country for about three years and develops these liaison relationships to help investigations run smoothly. In Attaché, our protagonist John Roemer is a specialist, sent to a different country in each episode. Beyond cultural differences he must work with someone he’s never met before and lead from the back seat. To make matters worse, limited resources seem to doom his missions to failure.

At home things aren’t any easier. Roemer is unwilling to move on from his estranged wife and he’s challenging custody of their son, who means everything to him.


CS: Sounds like an awesome plot. What’s the hardest thing you had to do so far on the project? What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you on this project?

Kenneth Kemp: I’ve worked diligently over the past two years to develop my relationship with the FBI. I wanted to make sure the series was couched in reality – even though I take creative liberties to make it more dramatic. The great thing that’s come out of this relationship is that the Bureau is excited about the series and has agreed to open their Legat (Legal Attaché) files to us to mine for future episodes.  That’s something networks want to see.  Not only are our episodes based on real cases; there’s virtually an endless pool of stories.

The funniest things were some of the stories I heard while interviewing current and former Legats. I can’t tell you the stories now, but you can be sure they’ll be featured in the series.

CS: Now I am intrigued! Let’s talk about the money. Isn’t producing an international series expensive?

Kenneth Kemp: It depends on how much we actually shoot in the foreign country.  Covert Affairs, (USA Network) for example, take their lead talent to several countries over a few weeks, with a skeleton crew, and shoot the recognizable exteriors they need from several scripts in order to mitigate costs. Everything else is shot on a sound stage or in local locations that double for foreign ones.

CS: Oh, Covert Affairs has been really awesome, very dynamic and real. Do you plan on having FBI consultants on the set to ensure authenticity?

Kenneth Kemp: The Bureau’s been on board with this project since the beginning. The Public Affairs office is used to working with Hollywood. They’ve been a tremendous help to me as a writer, ensuring my pilot script’s realism permeates descriptions, scenarios and even dialogue. Once we’re in production, we will want a consultant on set, however that will be a retired agent who’s no longer working for the FBI.

CS: That makes sense. Now, since this is international, what countries are involved in the story?

Kenneth Kemp: We start off in Greece. I have the rest of season one outlined and we’re already in talks with film commissions from countries around the globe that are not only excited about the series, they’ve expressed interest in possible joint ventures. You’ll have to watch and find out where Roemer goes next.

CS: Looks like you got it all covered. What’s next for Attaché?

Kenneth Kemp:  We’re attaching above-the-line talent, aligning with producing partners, and meeting with networks.

CS: On that note let me wish you to break a leg doing the leg work for this incredible upcoming series, and we here certainly will welcome news of Attaché‘s release. Thanks for being on CSReview, Kenneth.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.


BACKSTAGE with Jade Valour

23 06 2013

IMG_5849Today on CSReview, is Jade Valour, a native New Yorker, a professional actor and classically trained singer who has worked in theatre and music for several decades, both on stage and behind the scenes. Jade’s new book Salomé is an exploration of a myth, a religious belief and a cultural fascination with a female character.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Jade! You are a public person, active and very busy. What prompted you to become a writer?
Jade Valour: Strangely, my desire to write developed out of my fascination as a young music student with Richard Strauss’ opera Salome with its exotic music and its evocative text from Oscar Wilde’s drama of the same title. I have always loved mythology, and Salomé captivated me as only a myth can. But the Salomé we know is usually depicted as a femme fatale: wanton, depraved, lusting after a prophet who rejects her and whose head she finally demands on a silver platter. Although I adored both opera and drama, I found these images deeply disturbing – an interpretation of this mythical figure that I felt compelled to rectify. It was then more than thirty years before I could define how I wanted to do this. ‘My/Our’ Salomé was envisioned as a film, and I began writing the screenplay with my co-author Sharlie Pryce in 2001. Two years later, during my first visit to New Zealand, I spoke to a publisher about the screenplay, and he suggested we write the novel. In January 2004 we began to do just that – and now it’s published!
CS: Publishers, they love keeping their authors occupied. So, in all this, how would you describe your journey so far?
Jade Valour: It’s been an amazing adventure. Sharlie and I have had some fantastic and even hilarious times, just in the actual writing of Salomé. We’ve been to the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Berlin Film Festival together. As a result of the film festival, I ended up going down to Cologne (Germany) for the premiere of the film Klimt, where I actually met its totally charming star, John Malkovich, and gave him our script (we originally pictured him as our villain)! Salomé took me to Wellington, New Zealand in 2003 for the world premiere of The Return of the King, a journey on which I not only met Elijah Wood, the young actor who inspired our male protagonist, but also two people from the production who have been incredibly kind and supportive of the project over the past nine years – Sir Richard Taylor, director of Weta Workshop and producer Barrie M. Osborne (The Lord of the Rings, The Great Gatsby). Their encouragement has often kept us going through hard times.
I was privileged to be in contact with Prof. Helmut Ziegert, professor of archaeology at the University of Hamburg whose excavations of the palace of the Queen of Sheba in Aksum-Dungur in 2008, to my astonishment and delight, mirrored an important ‘historical’ element of our story. It was incredible hearing about the excavations – literally like talking to Indiana Jones!
I’ve been living in Wellington for five years now and I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to meet people in the film industry, to hone my skills in screenwriting workshops with a Hollywood script consultant. The Emerging Artists Trust here has provided me with a wonderful mentor: a producer who has been advising me with regard to putting the project together. I’ve directed two film shoots for a promo-film we’ll be putting together to pitch the screenplay version of Salomé (something I never anticipated doing!) and worked with a very talented artist, Matt Donnici, who did the beautiful illustrations for the novel cover and promo-film.
Now the novel is available to the general public – a milestone in an ongoing and inspiring journey.
Salome - Novel cover e-book
CS: Fascinating. Hard work pays off, and I bet you’re feeling very proud of yourself. Do you have a special message to your readers?
Jade Valour: If I have a message for my readers, it is connected to what set me to writing in the first place: to be able to give young people different role models. Salomé and Elijah are not your conventional protagonists. Particularly Salomé, whose name means ‘the Peaceable One’ (from the Hebrew and Arabic root of ‘Shalom’ and ‘Salaam’). She is not your typical heroine. She never uses her power to destroy only to defend and protect. That she must watch as the consequences of some of her well-intended actions result in death – this is part of the tragic element of her character. Without having to be an aggressor, Salomé is still incredibly proactive, driving the action of the story all the way. And although she comes from the upper castes, she has a deep-seated and all-encompassing social conscience – she cares. She is willing to risk everything for what she believes in. Angelina Jolie speaking at the recent G-8 on behalf of women in war zones comes to mind. These are the kind of women our society needs.
CS: I can see where you’re coming from with this. Indeed, positive role models are much needed at all times. We’re all connected, we breathe the same air, walk the same earth. Where do you see yourself in the cosmic mosaic? Do you know your purpose?
Jade Valour: I prefer to see this simply as where my passions have taken me. Perhaps the following story will answer this in part: in 1977-78, when I was singing at a theater in Germany, two things crossed my path that were to have a major influence on my life and interconnect years later in an unexpected way: 1) I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time and, 2) a new recording of the opera Salome was released. I was immediately swept away by both and they have remained my great loves – literary and operatic – over the past several decades. The recording drove/inspired me to want to write Salomé in the first place. In 2001, when we began to write the screenplay, the first of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films, The Fellowship of the Ring, came into the cinemas. My love for these films would eventually take me to New Zealand in 2003 with an early draft of our screenplay – a journey that was to change my life and influence the development of Salomé profoundly. Thus, two events that happened in 1978 formed a single thread that brought me to New Zealand – where our Salomé was completed some 35 years later.
Joseph Campbell – who is certainly one of my own heroes – called it ‘following your bliss”. I believe this is no seldom occurrence. It is, in the end, our passions that guide our lives, transform them and make us grow.
CS: 35 years… Very impressive. Now to geography – New Zealand vs New York… That’s quite a change of setting. What is special about New Zealand? Do you miss New York? Do you have a favorite place on the planet that you’d love to be in the most?
Jade Valour: It’s actually New York > Germany > New Zealand. Germany, mainly Hamburg, was a huge chunk of my life. I went to Germany to be an opera singer and came to New Zealand 35 years later because I wanted to be involved in the film industry. Easier said than done. I don’t miss New York, but it does feel like ‘home base’ when I visit. Germany was cultural bliss and most of my close friends are there. New Zealand is my love of nature – mainly the proximity to the ocean. A favorite place? As long as it has empty beaches to take long walks and decent weather to take them in, I’m in heaven!
CS: Jade, this was a lovely walk on the beach, quite refreshing and what a wonderful, deep story that you’ve shared. I wish you and Salomé the sucess that you two deserve. Thank you for being on CSReview tonight.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.

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