AUTISM, PRODIGY, GENIUS THOMAS BETHUNE, 12-year-old boy physicist

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Autistic Savant’s became a part of America’s popular consciousness with the movie “Rain Man” starring Dustin Hoffman as an autistic math genius and his greedy younger brother, played by Tom Cruise.   A recent story of a 12-year-old physicist in college made headlines.  But more than a hundred and fifty years ago,  THE “EIGHTH WONDER” OF THE WORLDThomas Bethune was invited to perform at the White House at age eleven by President James Buchanan.  He became the first black to ever perform at the mansion.

INDIANAPOLIS, March 20 (UPI) — A 12-year-old autistic boy functioning at genius levels in mathematics is studying doctorate-level astrophysics at an Indiana university, his parents say.

Jacob Barnett was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of borderline autism when he was about three when his parents noticed it was difficult for him to make eye contact with them, show emotion and interact with other people, The Indianapolis Star reported.

What he did do was work with numbers either on paper, a dry erase board or in his head working pi out to 200 digits for fun.

Jacob’s parents noticed when they took him to the planetarium he loved looking at the stars and planets, but as his interest in cosmology grew so did his boredom in school.

The Barnetts had a number of clinical evaluations done on “Jake” as he was known and decided to heed the last one made by clinical neurophysiologist Carl S. Hale.

“He needs work at an instructional level, which currently is a post college graduate level in mathematics, i.e., a post master’s degree. In essence, his math skills are at the level found in someone who is working on a doctorate in math, physics, astronomy and astrophysics.”

So, off Jake went to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis driven to class by his mom or dad.

His professor sees great things for Jake.

“We have told him that after this semester — enough of the book work. You are here to do some science,” said IUPUI physics Professor John Ross, who vows to help find some grant funding to support Jake and his work.

Mom Kristine, who says she is still not sure if this is work or play on his part, sent a video of Jake proposing a “new expanded theory of relativity” to astrophysics Professor Scott Tremaine at Princeton University.

“The theory that he’s working on involves several of the toughest problems in astrophysics and theoretical physics, Tremaine said.

“Anyone who solves these will be in line for a Nobel Prize.”

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THANK YOU, Seattle!

The turnout at the newly remodeled Renton Holiday Inn was absolutely incredible at the premier of “I Will Never Breath The Same As Yesterday,” the self-published novel of first-time author Stacey Willis, where I was invited as the celebrity guest speaker.  I shared my writing experiences as a former L.A. Times journalist, my experiences in Hollywood, getting my start by Producing B-movies to writing for Showtime Inc., Tyler Perry’s House of Payne  and “Meet the Browns,” as well as my upcoming t.v. shows “A Different Kind of Family” and the one hour drama “Boyz N Blue.”  In addition, I explained how I came to discover the genius slave prodigy and classical pianist Thomas Bethune while researching prodigies for my thesis in graduate school.

I signed stacks upon stacks of excerpts of EIGHTH WONDER.  The hotel room was packed to capacity!  The photo below was taken before the start.

Daria, sissy, Cal set up and manned the table.

The greatest part was seeing a room filled with many familiar faces from as far back as elementary school! More Pictures and video from the event will be forthcoming!

I want to thank you Stacy Willis for inviting me out to speak.  Thank you to Eugene Sarigumba, the cinematographer for the event.  Thank you to the WONDERFUL musicians, led by Eldgridge.  It was an extremely classy and wonderful affair.

A great launching pad for the novel EIGHTH WONDER. I will be attending additional excerpt signings in the Seattle area, at bookstores, the Fairmont hotel downtown, and a few coffee shops over the next few months. I am grateful to my birth city for all your support!

A.M. Cal

Here’s a couple of trailers for one of the multimillion dollar movies I Produced, 7eventy-5ive (Sci Fi Channel), starring Rutger Hauer (Batman, Blade Runner)

My first and last scary movie.

My credit comes at 1:14

Oprah’s book club, Oprah Winfrey Loves “Eighth Wonder” the novel

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That’s my dream.  I wake up and my big time book agent tells me that the world’s biggest book fan and biggest celebrity loves my novel.  On that day, I wake up, I have a cup of coffee and I check my phone, which has a hundred text messages and voicemails from my agent.  I had the phone on vibrate, so I didn’t hear any of the calls or messages that came in early that morning.  From the amount of “call me, it’s urgent,” messages, I know something big,  something important has happened with my book.  “O, Oprah loves it,” my agent says.  I drop the cell phone and I scream at the top of my lungs.  I jump up and down and I FALL ON MY KNEES (an Oprah book)  and thank the Lord above. Tears are streaming down my face as I call my mother and tell her.  She tells my father.  She tells me to call my sisters and brother’s, while my dad will inform the entire city.

According to Oprah’s website, SIXTY books have been anointed, I mean, chosen by O.  I have GREAT EXPECTIONS (one of Oprah’s picks by the way)  believing, hoping, and praying that one day I’ll SAY I’M ONE OF THEM (another Oprah pick) and EIGHTH WONDER is number 61, giving me FREEDOM (a third Oprah pick).  I know when she meets Thomas, the blind, feeble slave boy with the gifts of a classical musician, she will fall in love with him.  

Aw yes, to dream the impossible dream.  But you never know.  With God, all things are possible!

A.M. Cal


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LET’S FACE IT.  ARTISTS, MYSELF INCLUDED, CAN BE A LITTLE DRAMATIC AND VERY VERY SENSITIVE WHEN IT COMES TO OUR ART.  But one unknown author, Jacqueline Howett, apparently lost it back in March 2011 when an unknown blogger Big Al, gave her a MODEST review for “The Greek Seaman”.  I thought it was a seemingly honest and fair review, having read it and still maintained a positive interest in the work.  This is what Big Al wrote:

“If you read The Greek Seaman from the start until you click next page for the last time I think you’ll find the story compelling and interesting. The culture shock felt by the newlywed bride, Katy, who finds herself far from her native England, living on a cargo ship with her seaman husband Don is a good story in itself. Katy adapting to this all male environment with a crew of mixed nationality, most non-English speaking, is compelling. Whether Katy and Don will survive the criminal conspiracies the ship owner and captain have planned is yet another conflict that should keep a reader in suspense to the end.

However, odds of making that final click are slim. One reason is the spelling and grammar errors, which come so quickly that, especially in the first several chapters, it’s difficult to get into the book without being jarred back to reality as you attempt unraveling what the author meant. At times, you’ll be engrossed in the story when you’ll run across a flowery description of the emotions Katy is feeling about her situation or her husband. These are numerous and sometimes very good. Chances are one of these sections originally pulled you so deeply into Katy’s world. Then you’ll run into one that doesn’t work and get derailed again. Reading shouldn’t be that hard.”

He didn’t even blast her book in my opinion, but simply noted what he thought were moment-breaking flaws – awkward sentence construction and typos.  That’s when Jacqueline pulled a KANYE WEST-sized tantrum and grabbed the mic.  There was no Taylor Swift or Beyonce or even MTV crowd, just millions of internet users who heard about the F-bomb tantrum as it went viral.  I reposted some of the comments.  For the full shabang, visit Bil Al’s site:…(Note:  all the expletive comments were apparently pulled by Howett.

Jacqueline Howett said…
You obviously didn’t read the second clean copy I requested you download that was also reformatted, so this is a very unfair review. My Amazon readers/reviewers give it 5 stars and 4 stars and they say they really enjoyed The Greek Seaman and thought it was well written. Maybe its just my style and being English is what you don’t get. Sorry it wasn’t your cup of tea, but I think I will stick to my five star and four star reviews thanks.
March 18, 2011 5:32 AM
Jacqueline Howett said…
5 stars from amazon UK.
I really enjoyed this read. It is light and easy to read but not lacking in entertainment and interest. I paricularly enjoyed being made a part of the story (or the feeling that I was) and also how discriptively it is written so that you can see the places and feel like you have visited them, which I find very important in a book. A good all round read! Very well written.
March 19, 2011 5:22 AM
Jacqueline Howett said…
4 star review from Amazon USA.
I enjoyed reading the book, The Greek Seaman. The story is about a seaman with his younger wife that use to be a ballet dancer. The seaman takes on a job on an old ship and brings his young wife along, and the adventure on the high seas begin. The story is told very well and has vivid descriptions within every page.
March 19, 2011 6:52 AM
Jacqueline Howett said…
5 stars
Another review just came in from Amazon- USA for The Greek Seaman novel.Very much enjoyed reading the book. The experiences that the author encountered while on the ship with her husband were very well written. You couldn’t help find yourself in her place as you were reading. Whether it be when she was steering the ship, seeing dolphins for the first time or experiencing a hurricane at sea, just to name a few. The descriptions of each new daily adventure she encountered seemed to effortlessly find themselves on each page for the reader to enjoy.

WOW.  Just goes to show, not only A-list artists have their tightly-wound, humongous EGOS, but apparently striving, up-and-coming authors from England, do not want anything remotely bad uttered about their blood-sweat and tears.

In contrast, let’s see how a famous artist with blockbuster movie success handled poor reviews of one of his movies:


According to, when New York’s Vulture had a phone interview regarding  unfavorable reviews of “The Last Airbender,” in 2010, Shyamalan was gracious in his response:

“I "Learn from me Jacqueline"don’t know what to say to that stuff. I bring as much integrity to the table as humanly possible. It must be a language thing, in terms of a particular accent, a storytelling accent. I can only see it this certain way and I don’t know how to think in another language. I think these are exactly the visions that are in my head, so I don’t know how to adjust it without being me. It would be like asking a painter to change to a completely different style. I don’t know.”

Perhaps he has a point about the language barrier, as I didn’t understand a word of what he said, but what matters is, he was GRACIOUS, even when informed that film critic Roger Ebert called the film “an agonizing experience.”


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Etiquette Week: How to Respond to Bad Reviews from

May 25th, 2009 · 8 Comments · Market My Novel, Uncategorized

I’ve seen some amazing faux pas from authors in recent weeks. Some are annoying, but harmless; others are a marketing and branding catastrophe just waiting to happen. This week, I will share with you some etiquette tips to help you navigate the sometimes tricky waters of bad book reviews, approaching media and making friends with strangers online. If you have an etiquette question you want answered, submit it.

Etiquette Some authors just cannot take a bad review.

I cringe at some of the comments authors leave for reviewers and readers on sites like Amazon or Pop Syndicate for people who don’t give them a five-star review.

These authors are rude, obnoxious and insulted that anyone dare say they just weren’t that into them. It seems they expect everyone who reads their work to get down and praise the Lord for such wonderful prose – and stroke their “tender” egos like Mommy would.

As a book reviewer, I’ve experienced the bad when it comes to snarky authors wanting rave reviews for what I consider subpar work.

One author pitched me HARD to review her book – several times. It was self-published nonfiction about a murder near the author’s hometown. I like true crime, so I thought I’d give it a try – even though I typically do not accept self-pubbed submissions.

A few weeks later, the author contacted me to find out if I’d gotten the book. The hard sell was still there, which made me a bit uncomfortable. I’d already said I would review it. Then, the author sent me another e-mail, stating flatly that if I didn’t like the book, “I’d better not see a bad review of it online.”

I was absolutely furious. This author wanted so badly to be reviewed before, but did not want to accept any negative consquences of a review. I had not started the book, but I knew after these multiple e-mail exchanges that no way would I be objective. I sent the book on to another reviewer.

On Amazon, I’ve seen several authors post horrid responses to readers who didn’t like their work. Several of these authors had five-star reviews, but could only focus on the one or two people who didn’t like them. One author was incensed that one of the readers didn’t finish the book (the reader said they just couldn’t trudge through it any longer).

Someone doesn’t like your work, who cares? There could be a variety of reasons for it. The reader/reviewer could be:

  • tired of the genre.
  • tired of your recurring characters.
  • having a bad day.
  • too overwhelmed to care what you write.
  • just not that into your book.

Not everyone is going to like you. Don’t worry about it.

Build relationships with the readers and reviewers who DO like your work.

Allow your fans to stick up for you. That has more weight than you jumping into the fray intent on defending your publishing honor. Also remember that fans and reviewers may like some of your books, but not all of them. I certainly don’t have any one author who produces work that are keepers all the time. Even my FAVs let me down a time or two. It happens. Don’t ax a book reviewer from your ARC list for one bad review. Wait and see if there is a trend before you start chopping.

HOT TIP: There may be times when you need to stick up for yourself. If someone leaves comments that are untrue and damage your character or brand, go to the Web site to find out if you can have those comments removed. Before you pursue, ask other writers what they think of the comments first, or consult your publicist.


Click here to find out more!

When To Respond To Negative Reviews (and not) from www.

Internet Marketing March 17, 2010 By

We talk a lot about taking the time to manage customer reviews and it makes sense to do so. Online reviews grow legs: The search engines are aggregating them, Google’s putting them on Google Place pages and many users are even starting searches on review sites. You want to make sure that you’re encouraging your customers to leave reviews, that you know what’s being said about you and that you’re active about managing them. That said, not all reviews are created equal. And not every bad review warrants a response or even an acknowledgment. How do you know the difference?

Here’s a quick list of the types of negative reviews worth responding to. And then some that aren’t.

When To Respond

You really did screw up: Ideally, you’d like to be able to identify and make amends with angry customers before they leave your store/office, however, that doesn’t always happen. If someone leaves a review with a legitimate gripe or complaint, you should absolutely take steps to respond and try to correct the situation. Apologize for the misstep, explain why it won’t happen again and then offer an incentive to get them to give you a second go. You’ll not only mend the fence with that particular customer, but you’ll get the added benefit of allowing future customers to see how you address situations and how confident you are in your product.

Someone is misstating the facts: If someone is on your business page leaving a nasty review about a doctor that doesn’t work in your clinic or about an offer they didn’t receive because it never actually existed, you should politely step in to correct them. They probably don’t realize they’ve made an error and correcting the bad information will help to add context to new visitors who stumble across the page.

The review/reviewer is getting louder: There are Bad Reviews and then there are Bad Reviews With Legs because they were left by people with a large social network. If a person with considerable “social wealth” says something bad about you and it begins to gain traction, you need to step in and do what you can to remedy the situation fast. Even if you think the complaint is petty or you wouldn’t respond to it if it was left by an “average person”. Minor issues become reputation disasters when they’re poked by the right person. Learn to identify them.

When you can salvage it: Whether you goofed or the customer made an error, if you think that you can salvage the bad experience or convince the customer to give you another shot, you should respond and make a good attempt to right the perceived wrong. It probably won’t take too much of your time and effort to reach out to that person and the benefit it could have will be considerable. You’ll not only win back that customer but you show everyone else who stumbles across that review that you care about your customers. Remember, reviews are no longer tied to the sites they came from.

When Not To Respond

When the person is mad at the world, not you: Some users are known for leaving irate reviews about every establishment they visit. If you go through someone’s profile and see that bad reviews are ALL that’s there, don’t waste your time trying to change that person’s opinion. You may step in if they’re providing completely nonfactual information about what you offer/charge/etc, however, this isn’t a fight you’re going to win. Invest your time in something you can. Or go encourage someone to leave a positive review to help balance this one out.

When it will do more harm than good: My mom always told me not to engage crazy people and there’s no place this statement is truer than on the Internet. If you have a feeling that calmly addressing an angry review may give them more fire to throw at you or a reason to keep the nastiness going, it may be best just to let the review sit. Hopefully there are lots of other positive reviews that will balance it out.

When your hands are still shaking: If you just read something about your business that has your hands absolutely shaking in anger and you just HAVE to correct that angry know-it-all don’t. Either let another member of your staff handle it or let the review sit altogether. It’s far better to have one negative review on your profile than to have a permanent reminder of that one time you went off the handle. Have you read about the SMB owner who was booked for battery and had to undergo a mental health evaluation? Yeah. It happened.

The best way to combat negative reviews is to be proactive about encouraging users to leave reviews in the first place. The only way a bad review can really hurt you is if it’s the only review on the page. The same way you work to get testimonials for your business, you should be working to encourage users to leave reviews. Sometimes the best offense is a great defense.

About the Author

Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer at Outspoken Media, Inc., an SEO consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with online reputation management, social media services, and other Internet services.

Stephanie Meyer or JK Rowling

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WHO WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE TO DINNER?  Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) or “Harry Potter” scribe “JK Rowling?


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That’s a common question I receive when it comes to EIGHTH WONDER and admittedly it’s an exciting one, as the wildly popular book and equally popular movie are present in everyone’s consciousness.  It’s flattering to even have the comparison made. But the answer is, yes in small ways, but mostly no.

BOTH Katheryn Stockett’s “The Help,” and A.M. Cal’s EIGHTH WONDER are books set in the old south that deal with the complex and volatile subject of black-white relations, but that’s where their similarities end. Here’s a book review by Janet Maslin from the New York Times in regards to “The Help.”:


“In “The Help,” Kathryn Stockett’s button-pushing, soon to be wildly popular novel about black domestic servants working in white Southern households in the early 1960s, one woman works especially tirelessly. She labors long into the night. She is exhausted. Her eyes are stinging, her fingers bloody and sore…”  The Help aims to highlight and exploit the social ills and obstacles the black maids experienced in Mississippi.  On the other hand, “Eighth Wonder,” centers around the remarkable true life of Thomas Bethune, who was blind and left for dead, only to for his master to discover he is an astounding musical genius, capable of rendering the most heavenly melodies on the piano.

Unlike “The Help,” which takes place during one space and time of the 1960s Mississippi, EIGHTH WONDER is an epic tale that spans the globe. A historical novel based on the amazing true story of Thomas Bethune, a slave virtuoso born bline who became an American treasure known throughout the world as “Blind Tom.”  It is told through the eyes of Thomas’s master Colonel James Bethune, a man of privilege, of the planters’ aristocracy, a descendant of French noblemen.

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