MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

Saturday, April 26, 2014

How Many Copies Does It Take To Be an Amazon Bestseller?

Not So Much

By Gabe Habash |
 

 Amazon, the biggest bookseller in America, is also famously one of the most tight-lipped. Sales rankings are available on the Web site and are updated hourly, but the company doesn’t provide information on how many unit sales it takes to make a title an Amazon bestseller.

Like everyone else, PW couldn’t get sales numbers from Amazon, but by studying the print bestseller list for a two-week period, we were able to determine that a title in Amazon’s top five averages 1,094 print copies sold across all channels, including other retailers, on a typical day. And because the general industry thinking is that Amazon accounts for about 30% of print sales, that means it likely takes around 300 copies per day to reach Amazon’s top five, depending on the day of the week and the time of year.

How was PW able to get this number? We looked at Dark Horse’s The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, a 300-page collection of historical information, concept art, and chronology of the famous Nintendo video game series. We charted the book’s ranking on Amazon, and during the weeks ended February 24 and March 3, it sold 8,573 copies and 6,128 copies, respectively, at outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan. During that two-week span, Hyrule Historia never fell out of the top five on Amazon’s print ranking. For the week ended March 3, the book sold 6,128 copies at outlets that report to BookScan (which covers about 80% of print units). To account for the units not reported to BookScan, we added 20% to its total of 6,128, which equals 7,660. Based on that total, the book sold, on average, 1,094 copies per day, which means that Amazon sold no more than that number of units on any given day. But because Hyrule Historia is available through other retailers like Barnes & Noble, Target, and even video game chain Gamestop—the book is also sold out on Walmart.com—the realistic estimate is that Amazon sold roughly 30% of the 1,094 copies, or 328 copies per day, on average.

It should be noted that print sales vary week to week on Amazon, and just because a calculated estimate for Hyrule Historia yielded a daily sales number of 328 for the week ended March 3, it doesn’t mean it takes 328 copies sold on any given day to have a top-five Amazon bestseller. For the week ended February 24, for instance, Hyrule Historia sold 8,573 print copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which means it sold about 1,530 copies per day across all outlets. If we apply our 30% estimate based on how much of print sales are accounted for by Amazon, that means Hyrule Historia sold about 459 copies per day on Amazon to maintain its top-five ranking. During the holiday season and other brisk sales periods, the number to hit the bestseller list is certainly higher, but for large parts of the year it only takes a few hundred copies a day, not a few thousand, to get to the top of Amazon’s daily charts.

'Zelda' Print Sales and Amazon Ranking



                                                Nielsen BookScan Sales     Average Amazon Sales Rank
Week Ended Feb. 24, 2013            8,573                                              2.4
Week Ended March 3, 2013            6,128                                             3.1

 

CORRECTION: We incorrectly calculated the total of books sold per week (including outlets not tracked by Amazon) as 7,353; its per day total average as 1,050 and its Amazon estimate as 315 per day.


Reposted From Publishers Weekly

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Congratulations! Royce Buckingham wins Sasquatch Award for The Dead Boys!


Bellingham author Royce Buckingham won the 2014 Sasquatch Award for his spooky book "The Dead Boys."

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/04/21/3159386/bellingham-author-royce-buckingham.html?sp=/99/296/359/#storylink=cpy


BELLINGHAM - The kids of Washington state have voted and Bellingham author Royce Buckingham has won top honors for his spooky book "The Dead Boys."

His book competed against 11 other books from authors throughout the country to take home the 2014 Sasquatch Award.

Librarians throughout the state nominate books for the award each year, and children in grades four through six who have read at least two of the books can vote for their favorite. Buckingham said he was humbled by the win.

"When you write monster stories, you're not expecting to get awards for writing a good book," he said. "I tried to make it literary even though it's about a monster."

"The Dead Boys" was a personal one for Buckingham, set in his home town of Richland, which provides an eerie backdrop as the main character tries to figure out why the boys he meets keep disappearing and why the tree in his yard seems to be increasingly threatening. The book managed to be literary enough to get librarians on board and fun enough to entertain young readers.

"It's really the best of both worlds," Buckingham said.

This year, two of the 12 books nominated for the award were from Bellingham authors. Buckingham's friend, fellow Bellingham resident Clete Smith, took sixth place for his book "Aliens on Vacation," set at a bed-and-breakfast near Mount Baker that hosts interstellar travelers.


Reposted From The News Tribune


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Story Merchant Books Launches Art Johnson’s The Devil’s Violin

A special FBI investigator and a neurotic sneak-thief cross paths when the world’s most prized violin becomes the centerpiece of intrigue.



purchase on Amazon.com




Prologue
When there is no hope for the future and the present is constant pain, then the past will absorb the soul searching for good things. (Ancient Hindu proverb)
A faint smile formed around the hollow cheeks of the bedridden man. Rain continued to slash the windows. This sound was transformed into melodies. Showers of ascending and descending notes flooded his consciousness. Crisp images embedded in memory arrived in rapid succession. The hundreds of concerts and the cities they were held in: women and the rooms he made love to them in. The money—oh yes, the millions he earned and lost in four decades.
He had jumped off the edge of the universe and changed the way the world would listen to music: the artist as prophet. With his singular imagination, he was shaping the future. The flow of sounds and textures would follow in his wake.
In his possession was a well guarded ritual passed down through the centuries by a chosen few: the artists, philosophers, writers, mathematicians, musicians and speculative scientists. The power of this manuscript, properly interpreted, had increased his musical vision. This document and scores similar to it were at the foundation of cultural, political and social change throughout the ages. Secret brotherhoods with one credo: to know, to dare, to be silent.
After re-inventing violin technique and performing with a personal passion beyond belief, audiences became suspicious. He appeared to be from another world. Many people were convinced that he was in league with the Devil. More than a few believed him to be the Devil. The image he had created for himself always caused him regret. It was impossible for anyone to understand the turmoil experienced in the process of making the invisible, audible.
Today his mind was at war with his body. He knew he was dying. In the darkness of his Mediterranean apartment a vampire was sucking the blood from his veins. Long, pointed finger nails scraping the marrow of his bones. Surely, God must be laughing.
Crawling out of bed with only the strength of his arms to aid him, he grabbed the knife from the table and crouched on the floor. His breathing was labored, but for the sake of his son he must finish what he’d begun three days ago. When Achilles returned with the doctor he would tell him the secret.
He removed the final plank of the flooring and inserted the violin case with the real 1742 Guarneri into the hiding spot, the instrument fashioned by the erratic genius of Cremona which had been his life-long companion: the voice which soared among the clouds.
Tucked behind the lining inside the case was the document he valued most dearly, translated from the original Latin into Italian and English: the magic formula of his success.
The ailing legend replaced the planks, making sure they looked untouched.
The copy of the Devil’s violin he purchased in Paris a decade ago was on the bed. Last week, he had promised the real Guarneri to the mayor of Genoa, the city of his birth, for their museum. They would always believe the copy to be the original. His smile returned. The prophet knew that as time passed, the value of the original violin would increase a thousand fold. This unique instrument must be kept in the family.
Niccolo Paganini welcomed the new healer with little enthusiasm. He told his son that they would need to talk after the examination. There was no time for last words. One of the most mysterious personalities that ever lived died within minutes of the doctor’s arrival.
The next day, Achilles emptied his father’s apartment and removed the body unaware of the treasure buried beneath the floor.
1
Emily Parker loved the older neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Tonight she was in one of her favorite 1920’s mansions. She held up her half-empty martini studying the image of two inverted triangles formed by the glass and its contents; an ancient alchemical symbol for the earth. The people around her enjoying Hollywood film producer Max Pendleton’s party seemed to disappear. Her mind was elsewhere. The alcohol made her memory fuzzy around the edges yet the drug also allowed her to focus on the past. Not the decades that most people would review, but the deep past. Lifetimes of awareness experienced over centuries. Where would she be without Jonathan? He had rescued her during a time of political unrest when the Church and the populace were at war.
A voice came from over her shoulder. “Mrs. Parker?” Emily turned to discover a young man smiling at her. “I just had to meet the wife of Jonathan Parker.”
She shifted slightly. “How do you know my husband?”
He pulled up a chair. “I’ve just started to work for Max. I’ve seen Mr. Parker before but only met him tonight. Wow, he’s something else.”
Emily stared into his face. “What’s your name?”
He finished a sip of his Dewar’s. “Roscoe, Roscoe Barnes.”
”Well Roscoe, I agree with you, but why do you think so?”
Roscoe straightened his back. “We had a meeting a few minutes ago upstairs with our new Saudi clients. Your husband spoke Arabic. That blew my mind. We’re working on a new investment deal. The sheiks want a piece of Hollywood.“
Emily grabbed another martini off a passing tray. “Well young man, there are a lot of bilingual people floating around this village. It’s not that big a deal.”
Roscoe grinned. “Granted, but not many of them are investment geniuses who speak Arabic and play the violin like a god.”
“Where did a violin come from?” Emily spilled a few drops of her drink.
Roscoe pretended not to notice. “You don’t know about Max’s collection? I didn’t either until tonight, but upstairs behind a sliding panel are half a dozen old fiddles. Evidently they’re worth a small fortune. Max was selling one and Jonathan played it. Incredible.”
Emily asked Roscoe for a cigarette. He didn’t smoke but said he would find her one. The martinis were taking effect. She began to laugh thinking about ‘fat’ Max with a violin. When Roscoe returned with a pack and a gold trimmed ash tray, he lit one for Emily and sat back down.
“There’s one thing I just don’t understand,” Roscoe said with an exaggerated smile, “How in the hell does one man learn so much in one lifetime?”
Emily took a long drag of her cigarette. “Indeed, that is a curious thought worth examining.”
She stared off into space and Roscoe, realizing she was finished with their conversation, stood up and moved back into the crowd of party makers.
2
The boyish thief threw on his Ray-Bans as he stepped out into the summer sun along Santa Monica Boulevard. His meeting with Max was a tough one. The heists were getting more complex.
“People want what they want and don’t give a shit how they get it.” Gustav Edward Happy lit up a Camel and headed for his car. “Yep, and that’s why I have a job.”
Max paid well and Gus knew he’d be earning every penny on this new assignment. The job was in Europe and he’d never been farther than Las Vegas. “What the hell,” he thought, “the Dodgers are on a losing streak—no reason to hang around.”
The flight from LAX landed in Milan Monday morning. The sixty kilometers to Parma was travelled by train. Gus had experienced motion sickness since he was a kid. As the tundra of the Tuscan country side flew by two beers soothed his parched throat and kept him from puking.
It was the middle of August and Parma was empty. The sun beat down on the ancient cobblestones. There were no hordes of tourists.
His first day in Italy found Gus Happy alone in a small café waiting for his contact, someone named Mario. They were late. He fondled his espresso cup nervously while staring at the blue glow of his cell phone. A dry wind was blowing along the street reminding him of the Santa Anna’s in L. A.
What the fuck had he gotten himself into this time? The feeling that someone had followed him from the train to his hotel yesterday was making him nervous. Two months ago he celebrated his fortieth birthday in Vegas. That night he’d felt on top of the world. Now it seemed that he was staring up from a dark ravine.
He ate but felt empty inside. Sitting on the terrace of the bistro with his back against the wall, he chain smoked. He checked his watch. He’d give it another fifteen minutes and then head back to the hotel. It was time to be cool. He knew his imagination could play tricks on him.
He was born into a family of thieves. The night he began his career, Uncle Eddy stopped by to take him for a drive. They drove around in a 1983 Lincoln town car. It was black, inside and out. The seats smelled like perfume. After a while Eddy veered down an alleyway in Tarzana and brought the car to a halt. He turned to Gus. “You know son, you’ve always been my favorite nephew. You’ve got brains.” Between glances at his nephew, Eddy’s eyes were darting around nervously. “Tell me, did you ever ask yourself what your father and I and your other uncle in Seattle do for a living?”
Before Gus could answer Eddy jerked open the driver’s door and ran down the alleyway like an athlete. Gus stared at his uncle and another man as they disappeared around the corner. Total silence. His heart pounded like a drum. Was he imagining all of this…was it a dream? Would he wake up soon?
Gus jumped as he heard the sound of two gun shots crack in the air. Within a few seconds Uncle Eddy ambled back to the car sporting his big-toothed smile. Settling back in his seat he started the engine and handed Gus a Franklin. “Thanks for keeping me company. If you’re interested there’s more where this came from.”
That had been the beginning. The past twenty three years rolled by in a blur. Nothing was distinguishable. His mind had wandered but he knew it was time to concentrate.
Thieves and poets have one quality in common: the trained faculty of observation. Gus could sense someone bearing down on him. His eyes scanned the street. To his left, two older women were walking, arm in arm, their heads bent in close to hear one another. On his right a beautiful woman was staring at him, smiling as if she were coming to greet a lover. She stopped in front of Gus and extended her right hand.
“You must be Gus,” she said with an Italian accent. “I’m Maria, sorry to be a little late.” Gus stumbled to his feet. He recognized her as the person who followed him from the train station. He moved around to offer her a chair. “Sorry, I was waiting for someone called Mario.” He held out the note that the desk clerk had given him that morning.
“Oh Signor, in Italian the letter ‘a’ sometimes looks like an ‘o’. Maria patted his cheek. “It is my fault. I should have been on time.” She sat down crossing her olive colored legs. Her dress was simple, low cut, fitting her slender body without clinging to it. A crowned straw hat and huge oval sunglasses completed her statement. Gus thought of Sofia Loren.
He began to mentally size up his options before speaking. Maria ordered two more espressos. Due to his fatigue and anxiety Gus was spaced out. The last thing he had expected from Max was to hook him up with a female. “Well Maria, what’s our next move?”
“You don’t know?” Maria giggled as she spoke. Gus’s cell phone went off. The sound was deafening in the empty plaza. Maria smiled at Gus. “You’d better answer it, it’s probably Max.”
3
After a brief update with Gus, Max confirmed a few details with Maria and then locked away his untraceable cell phone. The tension in Gus’s voice made him chuckle. Max felt confident about the casting of this odd couple. A man and a woman would be less conspicuous in the process of acquiring such a treasure. The screenplay was flawless. The actors were perfect for the roles.
Max swiveled in his chair to look at the Hollywood hills. Soon, he would be the owner of one of the rarest works of art on the planet and no one would know until it was too late to do anything about it. The most important violin in existence would soon be his. He would need to tell Jonathan about his latest escapade. Max needed to keep his right-hand man up to date. If something did go wrong, Jonathan was the ideal problem solver whose insights were invaluable.
He lit a cigar. Producer Max Pendleton arrived in Los Angeles from Chicago thirty two years ago with sixty six bucks in his pocket and an ailing 1977 Oldsmobile ‘88’. He came with one idea in mind: to take over the film industry. He had absolutely no knowledge of the cinema other than he liked to go to the movies. Max was twenty four years old and completely full of himself.
Within days of being in Hollywood, he had bluffed his way onto the Paramount lot, convincing the security guard that he’d been mugged on Sunset Boulevard on his way to a meeting with the producers of “Happy Days”. Max was a born schmoozer.
When he was eighteen years old he lied about his age to get a job as the manager of a small branch of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus. The troop would be touring the mid west. Even in his teens, his burly appearance and pock-marked complexion got him into the meanest bars on the south side of Chicago. In his six months as a circus boss, there wasn’t any trick in the book that he hadn’t dealt with or dealt out. Max could sell Eskimos sun tan lotion.
He rotated his chair to face the small Pissarro landscape on the wall behind his desk. Standing, he moved in for a finer view of the details. If it hadn’t been for Jonathan Parker’s contact in Europe, he wouldn’t be enjoying this up close and personal relationship with a masterpiece from the Impressionist era. It hadn’t come from an auction house or been purchased from a private collection. It just arrived one day at the garden gate in a perfectly ordinary box hand-delivered by the postman.
Max tidied up his desktop then went downstairs to prepare for his wife’s birthday party. He hoped that none of the staff had revealed the big surprise for the evening. It had taken a lot of pull to get Sting to pass by and serenade her with a few of her favorite songs. The Cartier necklace flown in from the shop at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco should also put a smile on her face.
4
Maria talked to Max with her hand cupped over the mouthpiece. Gus watched the sun fading around the piazza. A shadow fell across the terrace. Their waiter was lighting candles at each table. Maria snapped the phone shut and the sound brought Gus back to earth. “It’s time for a walk.” She gathered up her purse and signaled for the check.
In the few minutes he’d known her, Gus realized she was used to calling the shots. He wasn’t sure why Max had put them together. He decided to let it play itself out and see where it went.
Maria headed toward the basilica. Gus tagged along. After a few quick glimpses at Gus she spoke. “Tell me Mr. Gus, what do you know about the world of violins and their history?”
Gus lit a cigarette. “My grandfather had one, but I never heard him play it.”
“Oh, you come from a musical family?” Maria responded enthusiastically. Gus snapped. He grabbed Maria by the arm and guided here into a dark alley. “Look,” he said with his eyes on fire, “I’m a con man, a pretty damn good thief and I’m here in the middle of Italy with someone I know nothing about getting ready to knock over a museum for a violin… a violin for Christ’s sake? I don’t fucking believe it. I’ve got half a mind the chuck the whole thing and get the hell out of here pronto.”
Maria made no attempt to release her arm from his grip. She stood smiling at his tirade. “My goodness, you have more of a temper than the Italians…yes?” Gus removed his hand. “I tell you Signor Gus Happy, it is as if you were going to steal a new Porsche but had never seen one. This job could set us both up for life but without the proper background on the object in question we will fail. It’s as simple as that. Max hired me to be with you, to fill in the blanks but I am not working with little boys who can’t take the pressure. So right now, you decide, in or out?”
Gus felt a monster headache coming on. “Okay, okay,” holding his forehead, “go ahead, educate me. But I warn you, I’m not here to waste time. Max hired me to do a job, nothing more. He flicked his cigarette into a fountain. “Where do we start?”
Maria let out a maniacal giggle. “We start at my apartment where I fix us dinner. You are tired and will need much strength for our adventure.”
“Our adventure” Gus thought, “What the hell is this, Harry Potter?” Right now he needed to eat and sleep. Maybe the morning would bring the picture into focus. Besides, he was too tired to argue with Sofia Loren’s little sister.
Winding through the narrow streets on the other side of Strada Della Reppublica in the heart of Parma, Gus barely noticed the trendy boutiques and coffee houses dimly lit with amber or yellow lamps. Everything just swirled above and below him as if he were trying to claw his way home after an all night bender.
Maria jostled her purse for a set of keys and turned into a small courtyard overgrown with beds of flowers and guarded by an ancient olive tree.
She sprinted into the darkness to switch on the lights. Gus looked around. It felt like a smaller version of Max’s mansion in Hollywood. Educated taste permeated every nook and cranny reeking of an indefatigable check book.
Maria threw together a pasta salad accompanied by a bottle of Chianti. Gus settled himself down on an over-sized puffy divan which begged him to fall asleep. Before he knew it they’d gone through the entire bottle of wine. Maria sat at his side with her legs in lotus position. Her empty wine glass dangled between thumb and first finger. She observed Gus for a few moments then got up and returned with a blanket and pillow. “You are too tired to work tonight. Take what I say with you to your dreams.” Maria bent down to whisper in his ear. “The piece of history we are about to steal is like no other on this planet. Although there are others like it, this one is the most coveted of them all because it belonged to the Devil.”
Gus heard her last words as if he were at the bottom of a well. He felt the cold pillow under his head as he sprawled out. Soon he was off the radar.
5
Gus awoke to the sound of birds singing. He had no idea where he was. He willed his eyes to open one at a time. His left eye winced at the sudden profusion of sunlight. When he opened his right lid both eyes focused on a pair of sheer draperies fluttering in the breeze. A chill ran over him. He pulled the comforter up around his neck. A slow exaggerated yawn escaped as he pulled himself up. Through the curtains he could see Maria seated at a small table in an overgrown garden. Things looked different after a full night of sleep. Maria appeared like a goddess in her white robe, the sunlight dancing upon her face. She was calmly reading a magazine and sipping her coffee. Caffeine. Gus needed to ward off the numbness.
“Good morning!” He yelled out through a smoker’s cough. With a quick snap of her head, Maria smiled and waved.
“Buon giorno” she returned, gracefully stepping in from the garden. She smiled as she scurried past him. “Stay where you are. I will bring coffee and pastries.” Gus fumbled for his cigarettes, trying to shake off the coma. Maria reappeared with a tray. “You look a mess.” She poured him a cup.
Gus took it and grabbed at the pastries. “What the hell time is it?”
She could barely understand him with his mouth full. “It is almost noon. I let you sleep in.”
Gus drained his second cup.
Maria was in motion. “Listen, I have to dress and go shopping. We have much to do today and will not be tourists. You will find everything you need upstairs in the bathroom, first door on your right. I’ll be back within the hour and we’ll have a light lunch and begin your education.” She let out another maniacal giggle as she went upstairs to change. Gus thought her to be the happiest woman on the face of the planet or nuts; probably both.
After she left, he decided to stroll through the apartment room by room, investigating his new partner.
On the dresser in her bedroom were various framed photos of what were probably family and friends. The antique bureau was full of carefully folded lingerie and underclothes. Sexy designs which were classy but not over the top. The clothes in her closet were organized from left to right by function and color. Gus searched through all the boxes on the shelves but didn’t find a weapon or any other life-threatening device. There was a spare bedroom, sparsely furnished, which didn’t seem lived in.
After taking his shower he examined the medicine cabinet. It contained cold remedies and vitamins but no prescription drugs. The door was secured on a large closet in the hallway between the two rooms. He thought about picking the lock but left it alone.
Moving downstairs he headed for the kitchen. It was very modern compared to the rest of her living space. Marble counter tops, Italian appliances along with polished copper skillets which hung over the stove. The area was too neat, too perfect to be used very much. Inside the refrigerator were a tray of butter and a carton of past-use milk. She didn’t appear to be a home-body.
Returning to the front room where he spent the night, he crossed over to a small office. Inside was a huge table mounted with a computer and tower. An orange plastic box full of hard-drive discs sat next to the monitor which were numbered but not labeled. Behind the desk was a book case with subjects about art history, antiques, biographies and travel. On the top shelf rested seven books bound in black leather, untitled. Gus took one down. Scattered throughout the pages were plates of angels playing music surrounded by strange symbols and Zodiac signs. Gus returned the book carefully and stared off into space. “What makes this woman tick? Is she some kind of heavy intellectual or just out of her mind?”

Monday, April 7, 2014

Russian Transport’ swoops into Steppenwolf, delivering dark cargo of corruption and terror

Review: “Russian Transport” by Erika Sheffer, at Steppenwolf Theatre through May 11. ★★★★

By Lawrence B. Johnson
Aaron Himelstein plays the driver, Melanie Neilan the passanger in 'Russian Transport.' (Michael Brosilow)

The young playwright Erika Sheffer’s stark and chilling tragedy-as-morality play “Russian Transport,” just opened in a hard-edged production at Steppenwolf Theatre, offers an unvarnished look at the immigrant experience recalling Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge.”

Diana (Mariann Mayberry) is the tough-as-nails matriarch in 'Russian Transport.' (Michael Brosilow)


Like Miller’s “View,” Sheffer’s 2012 drama – her first play — is set in the Brooklyn underbelly where life is hardscrabble, you do whatever it takes to get by and you extend a hand to family coming behind you. But where “View” centers on the obsessive and destructive impulses of one troubled soul, “Russian Transport” serves up an overtly corrupt and dangerous man prepared to exploit, even subjugate his own kin in pursuit of his horrific business.

Sheffer’s taut, concise play begins as family comedy, broad and earthy, in a Russian-American household ramrodded by the willful Diana (Mariann Mayberry in a performance as outrageously brassy as her mop of red hair). She gets little more than humorous pushback from husband Misha (Alan Wilder), who runs a taxi service out of a back room. Wilder lends Misha has a distinct aspect of anonymity.

Boris (Tim Hopper) settles in with his sister's family in 'Russian Transport.' (Michael Brosilow)It is a spunky tribe, rounded out by two teenage children — Alex (Aaron Himelstein), who somehow makes more money than his job selling cell phones actually pays, and Mira (Melanie Neilan), who’s constantly at war with her mother and desperate to visit Italy. The parents are from Russia and often speak the mother tongue; the kids, thoroughly Americanized, understand the old language but stick to the parlance of their time and place.

Into this happily combative scene comes Diana’s brother Boris, a tall, strong, imposing man in his late thirties just arrived from the homeland. Diana, who hasn’t seen him in 20 years, says Boris always exuded virility. Even when he was young, she says, he could make a girl pregnant just by looking at her.

At first the new family addition is quiet and retiring, all gratitude and deference. But the truth is that Boris is into some serious – what’s the word? – stuff. You could call him the title character: the Russian transporter. And very soon he loops nephew Alex into his insidious game.
 
Tim Hopper is downright frightening as Boris. No one, not even his accommodating sister, is safe Misha (Alan Wilder) is the father, if not head of the household. (Michael Brosilow)around him. No one dares cross him or fail him. When young Alex loses his stomach for the job and leaves Boris in the lurch, the importuned uncle recounts an anecdote about a relative of Alex’s, back in the motherland, who once made a similar judgment error. In graphic detail, Boris spells out the amending lesson that poor fellow got.

It is Alex who stands at the moral wall of this very dark tale, and in Aaron Himelstein’s nuanced portrait of a potential criminal as a young man, he seems the unlikeliest such bulwark. He gets sucked in, overwhelmed, sickened. But in Boris’ world, there is no door marked Exit. You’re in for the long haul. And yet, when you look in the rear-view mirror and see your own humanity looking back at you — what then?

Moving on a parallel plane is the play’s most intriguing character and Erika Sheffer’s most imaginative structural component – daughter Mira. Young, beautiful and restive, she wants so much to travel, see the world beyond Brooklyn. Nyet, her mother replies, singularly and just as loudly as Mira pleads.

Mira (Melanie Neilan) and Boris (Tim Hopper) get to know each other. (Michael Brosilow)


Melanie Neilan’s Mira is a girl of many faces, headstrong and narcissistic and naïve. But also determined to prevail, as eventually she appears to do. There’s mother Diana, in half light, helping the girl into a warm jacket and sending her off. When a bright-eyed kid wants something that badly, how long can a mom say no?

Director Yasen Peyankov paces the play with an impeccable sense of flow and rest, urgency and tension. The reunion of sister and brother at the family’s welcoming dinner is expansive in its cheer, disturbing in its edge. Boris’ transformation from mellow uncle to terrifying criminal progresses by deftly measured steps.

Set designer Joey Wade has provided a homey environment that brings the viewer directly into Sheffer’s harrowing narrative. And costumer Ana Kuzmanic hits the peak of cool with a suit for Boris that says crime pays, and well.

Reposted From Chicago on the Aisle


Friday, April 4, 2014

Robert Dembik's Rise Above It All Now FREE giveaway April 6 - 10



purchase on Amazon.com



First, this book isn't just about the image on the front cover. Taken from a photograph I took at Niagara Falls, the image is a symbol of the hope and faith it takes to maintain a belief in one's abilities here on earth. It also delivers the message that "this too shall come to pass." This book is about perception, refusing to pass judgments, and releasing the God-given spirit that's in each of us. I believe that the image depicts Angelic mist rising above Niagara Falls—a divine inspiration.

Second, although this is my story, there's a deeper message contained within these pages: a message of profound peace and wonderment. The photo is a part of that story. I took it in December of 1997 with—believe it nor not—a Kodak throwaway camera! My "journalistic" mission when I went to the Falls was to complete the first draft of what you hold in your hands. The complete explanation of this true story is in the epilogue; therefore, you may want to read that portion first. The image is a part of my life story. Not only is it a great little picture, but the photo is also part of a series of photographs that tells a simple and honest story of its own. The angelic mist was discovered because of this book and the completion of this book was inspired by the angelic mist. Therefore, I believe that a profound message from the photo is that "someone or something will always have your back."

The image is separate yet attached to this work. And I think that's how we go through life sometimes—separate from God because of our physical nature in the "now moment" called reality. This higher power, or God, is our inner energy and source of spirit, and we're attached to this force all the time—every moment! The image is a symbol for this message: when all seems to be lost, when it looks like all else has failed, remember, you'll still be able to "rise above it all now." The message was clear to me—I have and will continue to rise above it all!

The last chapter, Hope, conveys this idea—don't give up hope. And as a student of faith and belief, who knows that the challenges before me shall all come to pass, I can attest that hope led me to cope with and conquer the obstacles in my life.
We all must strive to be in the moment. I was in the moment when I captured that image above Niagara Falls. The full discovery of that image can be yours at www.niagarafallsangel.com. There's always a part of us connected to God, and we serve Him by playing a role in this world. The act of serving God is the art of expressing joy in his might; it is embracing his wisdom and reaching out to grasp the comfort of his grace. By doing so, we will have peace—the peace of the knowing that we can rise above it all!
I welcome you, the reader, to this work of passion and compassion. I applaud you for taking the time to put yourself closer to a personal victory by opening your mind to the thoughts and concepts contained within these pages. With that said, I hope you enjoy my book!