Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Life in the New Jersey Mob with some Rock and Roll. A review of The Boss Always Sits in the Back

Move over Tony Soprano and Michael Corleone, the real Boss is in town. No, I don’t mean Bruce Springsteen, either. Last month I had the pleasure of meeting Jon D’Amore at the To Be Continued bookstore in Metuchen, NJ. He was there to do a reading from his novel, The Boss Always Sits in the Back.

Mr. D’Amore’s memoir recounts his early years as the cousin and godson of Gerald “Jerry” D’Amore, underboss to Rocco Casciano, then boss of Lucky Luciano Family. How even as the outside rock and roller in the family, he was drawn into life in the Mafia. A story that spans the decades and crosses the country from the unions and waterfronts of Hudson County, NJ to the glamour and decadence of Las Vegas to Hollywood, where Jon’s uncle was the famed owner of Patsy’s, the hangout of celebrities like Frank Sinatra.  Make no mistake, Mr. D’Amore does not gloss over the downside of the mob and the violent punishment meted out for breaking the rules of la familia. A violence that he was to witness personally.

Okay, disclaimer time: I am a Jersey girl, in fact I grew up in Hudson County where I lived until age 17. I still
reside in New Jersey. While I did not move in Mr. D’Amore’s circles, I have my own family lore about my grandfather and others in the days of Prohibition and Mayor Frank Hague (google him for a lesson in political machines). But it was part of the culture, if you grew up in Jersey City, Bayonne, Union City,Secaucus or the surrounding towns. So for me the personalities, the street savvy, the locales in New Jersey all resonate.

The Boss Always Sits in the Back is a great read. Mr. D’Amore’s style is such that you feel as if you are sitting around the kitchen table drinking homemade wine and listening to his story. It is an easy, intimate voice that makes you feel like an insider.  According to Mr. D’Amore, he had to wait this long until some were dead, incarcerated or had left New Jersey never to return. Even then, he sought permission from those who
mattered to the story. When you read the book, you’ll understand why.
In addition to his life in the Mob, he touches on his career as a successful session musician, which I’m sure would make an interesting book of its own.

This is well-written and edited book with enough sex, violence, family loyalty and humor to go around.  I have not read a mob story since The Godfather and am not a Real Housewives/Mob Wives fan, but I can safely assure fans of all that you will enjoy every page.

I rate The Boss Always Sits in the Back 5 triskeles:


It was the 1960s. The place was Hudson County, New Jersey...a tunnel ride away from midtown Manhattan. Jon was first published at 10. A story he'd written about the Civil War was transformed into a mimeographed book and distributed throughout the county school system. He went on to write for the school newspaper. Also at that time the pre-teenager began studying the guitar, leading him to hone his love and knowledge of music...and the art of composing.
In a logical progression, he graduated school, played in club bands, opened for touring acts and by his mid 20s was traveling cross-country as a session musician.

While touring during the 1970s, Jon was also a feature writer for New Jersey's 3rd largest newspaper, The Herald News, simultaneously allowing him to enjoy the best of his favorite worlds; Playing rock & roll...and writing.

In 1985, Jon found a different side of life. He said, "Goodbye and it's been a slice!" to the music business and got a job in the corporate world.  By 1999, another change was about to take place. For more than two decades Jon knew that within him there was the desire and ability to write...it's just that New Jersey wasn't the place to do it.

So he drove to Los Angeles...and stayed.
He started writing as soon as he arrived...and didn't stop until the manuscript and screenplay for "The Boss Always Sits In The Back" were completed.

Jon's writing has received rousingly enthusiastic industry response, and he is currently waiting for the check that's supposedly in the mail.

Jon continues to reside in California...and writes all the time.

The Boss Always Sits in the Back is available autographed in paperback or hardcover by clicking here. It can also be purchased at To Be Continued Bookstore and Boutique in Metuchen, NJ You can also follow Mr. D’Amore on Facebook or learn more about him on his website.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Panters, Plotter or culotter? How do you approach NaNoWriMo?

                For those who don't know this is National Novel Writing Month ...NaNoWriMo for short. The goal is to write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in 30 days.

               I have tried NaNoWriMo twice with no success.  Part of it was timing.  I worked full time and cooked Thanksgiving dinner with lots of from-scratch items.  Then, of course, there are the Christmas holiday preparations.  

               Another part was my inability to turn off my inner editor and organizer.  I am not a full blown plotter but I am not a pantser, either.   When I wrote Dark Dealings, I could not get momentum going until I had a vision (no, nothing requiring medication, I think) of a beginning middle and end and a very clear picture of my main characters and, at least, most of their goals, motivations and conflicts. But I also don't work with a full-blown outline.

                Ogham Court started as a NaNoWriMo project but didn't get finished in the month.   I did learn a few things about myself and my characters as a result. One of the things I am working on is the ability to turn down, if not turn off the editor.  I can’t do it completely which is a good thing.  In pushing myself to move Ogham Court forward I am discovering things about Nora, the main character and the course of the story.  Unfortunately it means some revisions.  One night I went to bed thinking that a seduction plot line felt wrong.  I had the antagonist romancing Nora.  In the meantime I had introduced her mother, a quirky divorcee.  A woke one morning with one of those writer’s light bulb moments and realized that the romancing had to be of the mother as a way to get to Nora.  It means rewriting some scenes, but I think it gives me the piece I needed to lead to the middle and the end.  At least that’s what I think today. Then again, I could be wrong. My characters will set me straight.

                So I am a half-pantser, or as I told a fellow writer, I am a culotter. No being a culotter does not involve rum, coconut and a blender. Okay maybe it does.  What it means is that I am somewhere in between a  plotter (full detailed outline) and a panster (seat of the pants) as a writer.  But most of all I am dedicated to writing the best damn story I can write.  That, in my mind, is the first and largest part of being a successful author –Write a damn good story that lots of people will want to read and share.

                And it all starts with the plot….tension, tension, tension. Even if your plot evolves like mine from just a beginning, a middle and an end.

                A few reminders as you work through NaNoWriMo:  Show don’t tell.  Dig deep into your characters to find out what makes them tick.  Then in NaNoEdMo (March) edit it and polish it until you can see your face in it.  When you think you’ve got it right,  give it to trusted betas readers with sharp red pens or pencils to have a go at it.  You may not accept everything they suggest but they will see things that you cannot because you have been too close for long to the words, the characters, and the story. They will help you be a better writer.

           Life sometimes gets in the way of things but I am working on a short story for an upcoming Breathless Press anthology and then I will attack Ogham Court.  The voices are back.

          But I have my first draft, the rest is just editing.... um JUST???

          By the way, I am also a Content Editor for Breathless Press, if you have that novel and it is looking for a home...message me. If you are just looking for some awesome reads, stop over and check out our selection. (Warning: Some are EXTREMELY steamy!)

        Are you a plotter, a pantser or a culotter?