Category Archives: Books

Bella Czar Productions: The New Voice Talents of Audiobooks



Say It Again, New York, New York

I passed the Casablanca Hotel on West 43rd Street several times as I traversed the numerous streets of New York City. If not for an invitation I had received from the recording artists Bella Czar, I would never have entered the hotel’s doors. The Casablanca Hotel exuded an air of romance. The lobby and second floor lounge were classically exotic with a touch of mystique. Was it a coincidence that these were all qualities I also thought were the embodiment of Bella Czar?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It had been a year since I had met with my friends Bella Lamora and Czar Dain in their studio in Sacramento, California. Many changes had taken place for the recording group Bella Czar in that short length of time. My visit with Bella and Czar was to discuss the ensuing transformation within Bella Czar Productions. The reason Bella Lamora and Czar Dain were in New York City was rather interesting and the pair had not come to New York alone. I was also to meet the new voice talent of Bella Czar Productions, Destiny Landon and Lee James.

Tony di Napoli's Restaurant

Tony di Napoli’s Restaurant

After a few pleasantries, we decided to talk while having dinner. We didn’t go far. We dined at Tony’s Di Napoli Restaurant, which adjoined the hotel. We laughed and chatted over savory dishes of hot antipasto, chicken and shrimp Capri, chicken Scarpiello, salmon Oreganato and steak Pizzaiola. The wine and sparkling water flowed as freely as the conversation and laughter.  At one point before dinner arrived Destiny complained that she was starving.  She stared at Lee who was calmly eating his salad.  “Don’t look at me!”  He chuckled when he noticed Destiny’s blue gaze focused on him.  “Please,”  Destiny drawled, “I need to sink my teeth into some red meat, not a scrawny vegetable.”  For some reason I didn’t think she meant the salad.  Yep… that’s the way dinner went.

NWTW:  What have you been doing lately? What brings you to New York?

Czar Dain:  A book. He smiles but says nothing more.

NWTW:  Umm, Czar, can you be more specific? What kind of book? The Yellow Book, Blue Book, dictionary, an encyclopedia…  I throw an inquisitive look around the table hoping someone will help me out. Bella Lamora comes to my rescue.

Bella Lamora

Bella Lamora

Bella Lamora: Since you were last in our studio in Sacramento we started doing voice-overs for books and commercials. We’re here to do the audio version of two novels to be published later this year and a commercial.

NWTW:  Congratulations! What made you go into the field of voice-overs?

Bella Lamora:  Believe it or not, partly you. After we did the voice-over for your short story, Death Came To Call. We received a lot of good feedback and several offers from authors and producers for audio books and commercials. When we though about it, it just seemed like a natural progression.

NWTW: You said authors and publishers contact you quite often. Do you do all kinds of books and commercials? Do you have a limit of how many books per time period?  And are there certain materials or genres you choose not accept?

Czar Dain:  We don’t restrict our work but we are realistic about limitations. We really want to give each project our best and you can only take on just so much. We made the decision from the start that we would not accept works of graphic violence, SMBD, graphic or hard-core erotica.  There are so many great books out there we don’t feel the need to venture into those genres.

NWTW:  Do you enjoy doing voice-overs?  Which do you prefer more, writing lyrics and producing music or performing voice-overs?

Czar Dain:  Each venue has its challenges. Punching out exciting and engaging audio is easy, but editing 20 hours after recording is not. Voice-over work is already scripted. You just let the creative characters flow out.

However, creating original music in our studio, writing the lyrics and the melodies for both the instruments and the vocalists, all take a lot more time to conceive.

Bella Lamora:  It’s really apples and oranges. Bella Czar is a creative expression of our music. The voice-overs are an expression of someone else’s work; we are more or less a tool to be wielded, either by an author or a producer.

NWTW:  What exactly is “punching out”?

Czar Dain:  Punch out means to record something quickly. The act of recording your voice.

NWTW:  Can you tell me what books you have recorded?

Bella Lamora:  We did audio and background music and sound track for The Secrets of Paradise Bay by Devon Vaughn Archer; Killing With The Edge Of The Moon by A. A. Attanasio; Tears Of A Vampire and Born to Darkness by Lorraine Kennedy…

Czar Dain:  Dare the Devil by Elaine Raco Chase, and Inhibition by Valerie Bowen there are a few more I just can’t remember them all off the top of my head.

NWTW:  That’s an impressive list. How do you juggle the voice-over work and Bella Czar’s up-coming CD as well as videos?  They all laugh and start to speak at the same time.

Czar Dain:  Juggle is the right word. Right now production of our second CD is moving at a slower pace. The voice-overs have taken off like wildfire. Look at this.  Czar holds his arm out to me. It is tanned and firm but I don’t see anything unusual.

NWTW:  What am I missing?

Czar Dain:  This tan didn’t come from the sun; it came from putting out all those hot flames in our studios.  Bella, Destiny and Lee show me their tan and toned limbs as well. Must be a heck of a lot of fires!

NWTW:  Do you primarily use the studio I visited in Sacramento?

Bella Lamora:  No, we use both studios but we work more out of San Francisco these days.

NWTW:  You’ll have to invite me there one day. I’ve never been to San Francisco.  I turn to the two new artists of Bella Czar Productions. You two have been rather low-key this evening. I know for a fact that is not your nature. I have heard you two laughing and caring on in the background when I call Bella sometimes.

Destiny Landon

Destiny Landon

Destiny Landon and Lee James look at each other, then me. They both start to deny my assertions at the same time.

Destiny Landon:  Surely not me!

Lee James:  You must have called the wrong place…

NWTW:  Okay, okay. I get it. Tell me something about yourselves. How long have you been doing voice talent work?  I listened to the voice-over samples on both of your websites.  You two are excellent. I liked all the different tones and accents.

Lee James:  I started off in radio and comedy in Northern California.  Then moved to commercials and audio books and a few movie trailers. In all, I’d say around seven years give or take.

NWTW:  I’m very nosy Lee, so you’ll just have to excuse me for asking, you and Destiny seem to have a rather long history. Is there more to your relationship other than professional? I couldn’t help noticing how comfortable you are with each other. Destiny, who was in the process of drinking her wine, starts to cough. Lee pats her lightly on her back.

Czar Dain:  I know exactly where she’s going with this Lee, bail out while you can!  Bella and Czar groan loudly and call out a warning to Lee and Destiny.  They know the drill.  I grilled them on the same subject when I visited them in California.  I like a good romance.  You can’t blame a girl for trying!

Lee offers nothing on the subject.  He relaxes back in the booth, a big beautiful white smile stretches his lips.  His blue-gray eyes sparkle with mystery.  There’s something going on with him  I might not get it during this interview but trust me I WILL get the answer.

Destiny Landon:  We’re just really good friends and close associates.  Lee and I caught a few jobs together about five years ago and now when one of us gets a gig, we try to see if there is an opening for the other. We work well together and know how to play on each other’s nuances. A lot of our clients comment on our chemistry. They like it.

I had heard her voice several times but as I looked at Destiny it was hard to reconcile the rich dulce tones she emitted with her Goth appearance. It was almost as if someone threw Elvira and Pat Benatar into a blender and out came Destiny Landon. Whatever happened, it seems to works for her.

NWTW:  How long have you been in the business of voice-over?

Destiny Landon:  About ten years, this is going on my eleventh.

NWTW:  How did you get started?

Destiny Landon:  Believe it or not, I used to work for a California tour bus company. I was one of the guides that pointed out and explained all the sites. A guy with a voice talent agency happened to be on my bus one day and when the tour was finished he handed me his card and told me, “You’re better than this kid.” I know it sounds like a line out of some movie but that’s how I got my start. I’ve loved it ever since.

NWTW:  You’re really good. I’ve heard some of your work. Do you or Lee ever think about acting?

Lee, Destiny and Bella:  They laugh.  We are acting!

NWTW:  I’m sorry, let me clarify. Must be the wine… Do you ever think about acting on the big or small screen, you know, movies, shows, etc.?

Lee James

Lee James

Lee James:  Shrugs.  Sometimes.

NWTW:  You’re kidding right? Usually in a group you have one, maybe two, attractive people. You’re ALL very attractive, have mucho talent and you’re not interested in movies or television?

Bella Lamore:  We’re not saying that. What we’re saying is if the opportunity should arise we wouldn’t say no. No one has contacted us yet.

NWTW:  I’m sure someone will, probably sooner than later. How did Destiny and Lee find Bella Czar Productions?

Czar Dain:  After we started getting offers for voice-over work, Bella and I realized we needed to join forces with other voice talents so we could offer a broader range of talent. Destiny joined us first. She and Bella had crossed paths a time or two. Lucky for us, when Bella asked her to join Bella Czar Productions she didn’t hesitate. Destiny in turn, introduced us to Lee James as well as a few clients.

NWTW:  Even though you’re fairly new to the field, what do you think makes Bella Czar Productions unique in voice-over talent?

Czar Dain:  Many voice-over artists work alone, possibly because they want sole recognition. We found by offering both female and male narrators who work together to play out each gender, the voice-overs sound much more believable and realistic. The story becomes much more engaging and entertaining.

NWTW:  I agree. As I said to Destiny, I heard, The Secrets of Paradise Bay by Devon Vaughn Archer. It reminded my of when I was a child and my father and I sat by the radio and listened to “Mystery Theater” on Sunday nights while the rest of my family was watching television. I quite enjoyed the audio book. Whose idea was it to also add the music and sound effects?  Everyone points to Czar. Why am I not surprised?

NWTW:  To Destiny and Lee.  Do you find working with Bella Czar Productions to be the same, or different from when you where out on your own or with other agencies?

Destiny Landon:  I have worked with other groups and on my own in the past. The thing that drew me to Bella Czar Productions was their dedication. It doesn’t matter if the client is a new or an established best-selling author; they receive the same quality of work on their project. I also like the artist freedom I’m allowed. Bella Czar respects me and doesn’t have a problem deferring to my years of experience if need be.

Lee James:  I liked the idea of the sound effects, music and editing all being done in one studio. I had a lot of jobs previously where I was literally sent all over the planet just to complete one project. It was tiring and after running around all day, it drained a little of my creativity. I’ve never seen someone come up with some of the music and background Czar creates for our client’s audio books.

NWTW:  By the way, you never did give the titles and authors of the books you’re here in town to work on, nor did you mention the commercial.

Bella Lamora:  In due time. We’re still in negotiations, but you will be the first to know.

NWTW:  Anything to say in closing?

Czar Dain:  The next time we sit down with you, I hope we’ll be telling you about the list of movie trailers we have narrated. And that we are ready to release our second CD.

Lee James:  Stephanie Meyer, Dean Koontz, Mary Higgins Clark and Stephen King, where are you? Bella Czar Productions is waiting for you.



Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Books, Entertainment, Literary, Music


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Dreaded “S” Word

Great Beach Reads

Summer Is NOT My Friend

Bake, Flip, Repeat

Summer, the one out of four seasons when we get a little taste of hell on Earth.  I am not a fan of the overly warm, infinitely humid, incessantly stinky season.  And can someone tell me what is up with all the lying in the sun?  I equate sunbathing to baking a cake.  I consider myself to be a luscious double decadent chocolate.  When my decadent chocolate self popped out of the oven all moist, springing back to the touch and dry to the tooth pick test, it meant I was finished baking.  What logical reason would I have for jumping back in the oven?  As far as I know the same thing applies to angel food, vanilla, yellow, spice and red velvet cake.  There are more flavors but I don’t have all day. If I missed the kind of cake you see yourself as, tell me.  You take your cake out of the oven when it’s done and that’s the end of the story.  Can someone explain why so many people stick their already done cakes back in the oven repeatedly?   Is there a recipe called 10-50 times baked?  The sad part is when the cake is all dried up, cracked and flaky; then you hear, “What happened?  How do I get rid of these cracks?  Where did my nice springy cake go?”    All I can say is, deal with your road map partner.  You drew it!    Did I happen to mention I HATE summer?

man on beach

There are however, ten things I will grudgingly confess I enjoy about that confounded “S” word.  One, the days are longer.  And two through ten, the “beach reads“.  The beach reads are probably the only reason I survive those hellish months.  Those books that make you laugh, or have you sizzling and it’s not because of the outdoor heat.  I remember one…dare I say the nasty word?…summer, after a rather torturous breakup, I had checked out just about every murder mystery book from my local library.  I couldn’t kill the slimy slug for real, so I imagined him as the soon to be deceased in all the books I read.  Between those pages so much mayhem was inflected on my ex-boyfriend, when I did run into him upon occasion in town, I could easily smile and hold a civil conversation.  If only he had known that I had just finished burying him in the foundation of a neighbor’s new house or tying a weight around his neck and dropping him far out at sea only a few hours before!  Hey, it worked!  Call it my self-help therapy.

Buried In Buttercream by G.A. McKevett

This “S” word I recently discovered a writer named G. A. McKevett.  She has written a series called the Savannah Reid Mysteries.  Me being me, of course I started reading her series backward, which is Mckevett’s latest book,  Buried in Buttercream.  I found, Buried In Buttercream to be delightful and witty.  Her characters are unique and I love that McKevett isn’t afraid to make the hero and heroine of her novels a bit more like the Jane and Joe Average you pass on the streets everyday.  While her books are entertaining, there are a couple of items which I found a bit off-putting.  Mckevett might have done well to either refer back to her notes, if she took any, or reread her earlier novels before proceeding to write the next book in her series.    In the first few books her drunken mother raised nine children then in the middle of the series the grandmother raised Savannah and her siblings.  The time span of the friendship between Savannah and her ex-partner, Det. Dirk Coulter expands faster than Pinocchio’s nose.  Despite the errors here and there,  I do recommend you throw this series into your beach bag.   All in all, I give the Savannah Reid Mysteries by G.A. McKevett a solid 8 out of 10.

Here are some of the other books I’ve read this summer:

Stolen Prey by John Sandford  –  The book is the latest installment in the Prey Series.  Excellent!  I rated the book 10 out of 10.

The Last Confession and The Gravedigger’s Ball by Solomon Jones –  I liked The Last Confession more than I did the Gravedigger’s Ball.  Jones creates heart stopping villains and knows how to build tension and suspense but I found the basis of the plot to be weak.  The Gravedigger’s Ball picks up where The Last Confession ended.  The idea is original but honestly I thought Lenore rather useless.    The plot could have moved a little better without her as a supposed focal point.  I rate The Last Confession 8 out of 10 and The Gravedigger’s Ball 7 out of 10.

What are you reading this “S” word?


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bella Czar: A Never Ending Horizon

Bella Czar: A Never Ending Horizon

It seems like only yesterday that I interviewed Bella Lamora and Czar Dain of Bella Czar at their studio in Sacramento, California.  While there, I not only had an opportunity to gain great insight into the recording artists of Bella Czar; I also became good friends with two special people who have left an indelible impression on the way I now view my life and the people within it.

This past June, Bella, Czar and I had a chance to speak in person once again in Manhattan, NY.  The conversation from that meeting will be presented in a separate post later this week.  I was ecstatic to have two of my favorite people literally in my  backyard.  Bella and Czar informed me that Bella Czar Productions started doing professional voice-overs late last year.   I listened to The Secrets of Paradise Bay, written by Devon Vaughn Archer, which featured two new voice talents that have joined Bella Czar Productions, Destiny Landon and Lee James.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book which was well written and very juicy!  Destiny Landon and Lee James, along with Czar Dain, who provided all the background sounds and music, brought the novel to life in a way I had not heard an audio book presented before.  The Secrets of Paradise Bay had the polished robustness of an old radio drama.

Destiny Landon, Voice Talent for Bella Czar Productions

Destiny Landon

It was also a pleasure to meet Destiny Landon and Lee James.  While both are new faces…or should I say voices…at Bella Czar Productions, the two are no strangers to the world of voices overs.  Both have been veterans in the field for a decade or more and boast an impressive repertoire that includes audio books, commercials, videos, infomercials, music and more.

Lee James, Voice Talent for Bella Czar Productions

Lee James

When I met Bella and Czar in Manhattan, I also conversed in-depth with Destiny and Lee.  You’ll want to make sure you don’t miss the discussion.  Some of the topics and answers to my questions will surprise you about the group.

For now, I can say with certainty that Bella Czar or Bella Czar Productions has an uncanny ability to stand out as unique in a crowded field.  I highly recommend that you treat yourself or a friend to the audio book, The Secret of Paradise Bay.  My schedule has been so busy of late and I have been unable to listen to Killing With The Edge Of The Moon written by A. A. Attanasio and Tears Of A Vampire written by Lorraine Kennedy, which also features the voices of Bella Lamora, Destiny Landon and Lee James.  Maybe you can listen and tell me what you think?  As always I love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

To hear samples of some audio books featuring Destiny Landon and Lee James follow this link.

Below are other post I have written regarding Bella Czar:


Posted by on July 9, 2012 in Books, Entertainment, Literary, Music


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Just Another V On The A Train – Part II

Part II: Who Am I? What Am I?

Eye death

Image by doug88888 via Flickr

My hunger temporarily at bay, there was nothing to divert my attention from my unwanted hostess. She had not moved since surrendering her plate to me. Her narrow features pulled into an expression, which on a normal person, I would have called amusement.

“You find me funny?” Anger laced the words I spat at her. I loathed her smugness. My fist itched to clear the smirk from her ruby lips.

Her dark brow rose at my tone. A warning I was well acquainted with, but ignored. I wanted answers and was willing to court her ire to get them.

“I find everything amusing. When you’ve lived as long as I have, you learn to take very few things seriously.”

Her movements were languid as she rose to stand next to her chair. Her brilliant blue eyes lit on me expectantly. We went through the same routine every night. I was to rise and follow her into the adjoining room. There she did things to me I tried like hell to forget. Tonight, I decided to be more obstinate than usual. I planned to unravel the riddle that had become my life. Whether I cooperated or not, I was going to suffer.

“Are you really going to challenge me on a matter as trivial as this? One slender arm dropped over the back of her vacated chair. Her wisp of a figure fell into a relaxed pose. I braced myself for flight. By now I had seen how quickly she could strike. When she did move, a game of slap and tickle would not be her intent.

“Who am I?” I noticed a tremble in my voice. I detested myself for the show of weakness.

“Get up,” She ordered. Her full ruby lips curved into an inviting smile; but her electric blue eyes…they told a different story. A story you prayed you would never have the misfortune to read.

“Who am —, “ She leapt upon me! One second she lounged against her chair and the next she was hovering over me. She held my short hair in a vise-like grip and yanked until she exposed my throat. I pounded and scratched her offending hand, all to no avail. I screamed in stark terror as her head lowered. Her fangs punctured my neck with a brutality my mind refused to accept. My screams rent the air until I lost consciousness.

I came to slumped in my chair. My tormentor sat in front of me, perched on the edge of the dinning table. I watched in disgust as she licked flecks of my blood from her lips. My hand sought my wound and found a trail of wet stickiness down the side of my neck. As my fingers gingerly pressed the wound, I could feel it mending. In a few minutes, there would be no wound or pain. Not even a scar left as a reminder.

“Will I become like you?” I croaked, frightened all over again at the prospect.

“You humans,” she laughed. “You watch too many movies and read too many books.”

“Has it been so long you’ve lost any shred of humanity? At one time, even you were human.” I reminded her.

“Don’t speak on subjects of which you know nothing. I was never human.” She informed me. Her eyes locked on my bloody fingers.

I didn’t know what to make of her words. She had ravaged my throat on a regular basis since bringing me to this forsaken place. It had been hard to digest the fact that I was the captive of a vampire. If she wasn’t a vampire, what in hell was she? My mind reeled as I pieced together her actions. I mentally replayed every word we had exchanged. Actually that was all there was to review. My memory before being brought here was lost to me.

I noticed she had left my question unanswered. Was that deliberate? Would I eventually become a creature like her?


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Just Another V On The A Train – Part I

Part I: Who and What Am I?

Eye death

Image by doug88888 via Flickr

“You’re such a slob. I go through all the trouble of providing you with a nice dinner and you go at it as a pig would to a trough!”

I had devoured everything on my plate, cleared the serving dishes, and emptied the pots on the stove of their contents. My stomach clenched; a painful reminder of my still raging hunger. I needed more food. Across the table from me sat her plate, untouched and laden with the night’s fare.

Without saying a word, I reached across the table, grabbed the plate, and dragged it over the frilly tablecloth toward me. The dish was more than halfway on my side of the table when one of her talon-like hands latched on to the rim of the plate. I tugged, but the plate it did not budge. Her strength surprised me, given her small delicate demeanor. Then I remembered her outside shell was nothing but a facade. Meek and mild would never be two words used to describe her. Only days before, she’d thrown me more than fifteen feet. I wondered how far I would have traveled if I hadn’t slammed into a wall, which seemed to spring up out of no where.

My mouth watered as the aroma from the roast tantalized my nose. I needed more food! The red nails on her hand, which clutched the dish, reminded me of drops of blood against its whiteness. It should have made me nauseous but it only added to my burning appetite. Our gazes locked, suspended in a moment that felt as if it were hours. They say the eyes are the mirrors to the soul. In hers, I saw blue pools of nothingness. Did this mean she had no soul? I wondered as she stared into my eyes, could she see the contempt I held for her? The desire I had to bury my fork in her heart. Did she have a heart?

Her deceitful eyes fell away and with a flourish, she relinquished the plate. I brought it to me and greedily shoveled fistfuls of food into my mouth. I had lost patience with trying to gather morsels by fork a few minutes after I had sat down to dinner. Hence her snide, but not untrue comment.

What was I becoming? This unquenchable need for food was not the person I knew, but how did I know that when I could not remember my name, if I had family and friends, or where I lived?


Posted by on June 26, 2011 in Creative Writing, Horror, Literary


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I Killed A Secret Agent On Mother’s Day

It was my best Mother’s Day Gift ever!

Personalized Mystery

Personalized Mystery Novelette

I felt the tip of the cold steel barrel press against the back of my neck. Funny, after being terrified for days of this very moment, it was finally here and I felt nothing. I was an empty shell…hollow. One thought echoed through my mind, “Go ahead. Get it over.”

I stood up straight and slowly turned to face him. The barrel of the gun pressed deeper into my neck. The slightly roughened edge scraped along my skin as I moved. Finally, we faced each other. His soulless black eyes were roiling pits of anger. Still, he instilled no fear in me as his thin lips drew back cruelly and exposed his large white teeth.

I realized; he no longer had any power over me. It didn’t matter that he was three times bigger than me. It didn’t matter that he held a gun at my throat. We stood as equals.

I felt his hand tighten around the barrel of the gun. This was my last chance. My only chance. Having been so docile, so resigned, he was not expecting the quick movement of my hand as I rammed my open palm into his bulbous nose. I heard a quick crack and knew I had broken it. The gun relaxed against my throat as my would be assassin bent forward and emitted an angry growl laced with pain. Blood sprang from his nose and splashed the wooden planked floor.

He was still bent forward as I grasped the back of his head and with quick hard force, shoved his forehead down to meet my rapidly rising knee. The motion happened so fast; my adversary had no time to counteract. This agent, who had helped to kidnap my family; this bully, who had terrorized me for a week, dropped to his knees in front of me…helpless. His hand still clutched the gun but it no longer pointed at me. The barrel aimed toward the ceiling as both of his meaty paws clutched as his head. I moved back and slightly to the side of him. My action going unnoticed as he tried to collect himself. I raised my foot and kicked the lower right side of his jaw with all the force I could gather. The agent’s head snapped sideways. Another crack resounded through the room, loud and final, like a period at the end of a long heavy sentence.

The agent swayed slightly on his knees before his considerable bulk crumpled to the cabin floor. I felt no triumph at having killed my would-be killer. No satisfaction. Only more emptiness.

An hour after I had killed the agent, I sat down to enjoy a lovely dinner of medium rare lamb chops, crispy potatoes and asparagus. A delicious wine I had been given for Mother’s Day accompanied my dinner. I ate voraciously, savoring every morsel. I guess being the star of your very own personalized novelette works up a huge appetite. It was the best Mother’s Day gift I’d ever received.

I wonder which personalized novelette I’ll choose next? Honey, do we have any more cake left?  They make it personal, you make it unique.

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Books, Mystery, Videos


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: