Blood of the Prodigal by P. L. Gaus

blood of the prodigal

Blood of the Prodigal: An Amish-Country Mystery
P. L. Gaus


It has been ten years since Jon Mills was banished from his Amish Order in Holmes County, Ohio. Now he’s back to face Bishop Miller and reclaim the ten-year-old son he left behind. But something happens:  Mills turns up dead and the son goes missing.

In Book 1 of 7 of the Amish Country Mysteries, Gaus introduces part-time detective, college professor and Civil War expert Michael Branden. He’s helped by his sidekick wife Caroline, Sheriff Bruce Robertson and Deputy Ricky Niell. Gaus tells an engaging story about an Ohio Amish order that must rely on outsiders for help.

I was attracted to the book’s terrific cover and liked reading about the Amish, particularly Rumschpringe, the Amish adolescent rite of passage during which teenagers leave their communities before deciding to return to be baptized. Gaus’ descriptions of Holmes County, Ohio are also interesting, and the later scenes near Lakeside Marblehead are the strongest part of the story. The author ties up loose ends nicely, if not predictably and invites the reader to return for the next mystery.

This series that has received many positive reviews, including this one by Marilyn Stasio, of the New York Times:

For more than a decade, P. L. Gaus has been writing quietly spellbinding mysteries about… the conservative Old Order Amish of Holmes County, Ohio.

I recommend Blood of the Prodigal to readers who like light and fast-moving mysteries and enjoy seeing how characters develop in a series.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Robert DeAngelis


Author name:  Robert DeAngelis

Genre:  Fiction

BookAnno Domini

Bio:  I have worked in a variety of Social Services positions during my career. The last fifteen years I have worked in Student Services in a public school system. I am married with two children. Hobbies include old cars and fast motorcycles.

Favorite thing about being a writer: Expressing interesting thoughts in a way that may be relevant and compelling to your readers.

Biggest challenge as an indie author: It’s a rat race. Hurdles and challenges are never-ending. The process forces you to decide just how important to you, the delivery of your story really is.

Favorite books: The Human Comedy by William Saroyan, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, The Iliad by Homer, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. So many though…I listed the first titles that emerged into my awareness.

Contact Information:
Amazon author page:  Robert DeAngelis.
Facebook:  @A.D.ageofIa

Awards/special recognition: Anno Domini is my first release. I am still waiting for the accolades. LOL

Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

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Q&A with author and sports writer Jeff Pearlman

Sports writing isn’t just box scores and league standings. Jeff Pearlman knows the story behind the numbers is what makes things interesting. He’s a New York Times best-selling author of seven books and is a regular contributor to a variety of publications, including Bleacher Report, and Sports Illustrated.

Last week, my son Austin wrote a guest blog post for Book Club Mom — a review of Pearlman’s latest book, Gunslinger (view here), which is a biography on famous NFL quarterback Brett Favre. Austin connected with Jeff on Twitter, then Jeff connected with me, and a couple days later, he graciously accepted our interview request.

Knowing Austin would ask the best questions, I turned the interview over to him.

When and why did you first get interested in writing about sports?

So I started writing about sports when I was a junior at Mahopac High School in Putnam County, N.Y. We had a monthly student newspaper, The Chieftain, and I was really excited to try this journalism thing. My first-ever byline was atop a story about the boys and girls cross country teams. And seeing my name in print was an enormous thrill. I was hooked. The next year I was the sports editor, and then I went to the University of Delaware and joined The Review, the college paper. I’ve been all in ever since.

How early into the process for Gunslinger did you realize that Brett Favre wouldn’t speak for the book? How, if at all, do you think the book would’ve been different if he did decide to talk?

Well, I kept hoping and hoping and hoping. I had a bunch of interviews with him arranged, then they’d inevitably fall through. With about seven months until deadline I realized it was never going to happen. Such is life. How is the book different? In good ways and bad ways. Good—it’d have been more inclusive, and it’s certainly easier to grasp someone’s thoughts when he directly explains them. Bad—involvement usually involves some concessions. “I’ll talk, but …” And that’s usually bad for the honesty of a biography.

You interviewed hundreds of people for this book — did you have a favorite interview? If so, why?

Well, Brett’s mother, Bonita, was amazing, and she’s someone I now consider something of a friend. She was honest, clear, smart, unsparing. People have asked many times, “Wait, why did Brett’s mother talk to you when Brett didn’t?” And the answer, plainly, is that I showed up and asked. She’s a very blunt person, and if you ask a question, you almost always get an answer.

Fans regularly wrestle with whether to forgive athletes for crimes/immoralities, especially if they play for their favorite team. Is there anything Favre could’ve done that would’ve lost respect from the fans, or did the city of Green Bay essentially not care what he did off the field?

Well, not much. If he’d raped someone, killed someone—crimes of those level, sure. Armed robbery might have been a tough image recovery. Robbing an orphanage. Stabbing Santa. But, overall, they’re a forgiving people of their icons. It’s what you do on the field that matters most in Green Bay.

In your writing career, have you ever found it difficult to write negative things about people?

I hate it, almost every single time. I don’t enjoy writing about substance abuse problems, about out-of-wedlock children, about infidelity, etc. That’s no fun for me. But in this business, we have a shitty choice to make. We can write true biographies, and that means unvarnished explorations of the lives of famous and historic figures. Or we can push out feel-good puff pieces. Well, I hate puff.

But here’s the thing: Walter Payton had an out-of-wedlock son. He lived a few miles away, but refused to have anything to do with him. I learned that while reporting “Sweetness,” and it made me want to vomit. I don’t like diminishing icons. I don’t like stuff like that. But how do you write Payton’s life story and leave out something so important? You can’t.

What’s it like now writing about the USFL for your next book, especially coinciding with Donald Trump being President of the United States?

Well, I feel like I have a very detailed understanding of Trump and the way he operates. I’m also sick of hearing about him. He was on my mind (for the USFL) long before the election, and now he won’t go away. Every … day … it’s … something … awful. So while I love the USFL and loved this project, I would take zero sales in exchange for his banishment to the outer moons of Saturn.

Thank you Jeff Pearlman for taking time out of your writing schedule for this interview!

For more information about Jeff and his best-selling books, visit

You can learn more about Austin Vitelli at

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When you take up (or keep on) writing later in life

Image: Pixabay

It’s never too late to put a pen to paper and these famous writers are proof of that. Some have enjoyed long careers and continue to write books well into their eighties and nineties and beyond (think Herman Wouk). Others have become authors later in life. What do you think they all have in common? Probably a need to get their story out and for that, you don’t have to be young. In fact, being older can be a great advantage.

Read below and see what I mean:

John Barth – American novelist and professor. Currently 87, has been writing fiction since 1956 and has won many awards. Wrote Lost in the Funhouse and Chimera. Collected Stories was published in 2015.

Charles Bukowski was a German-American writer. He tried writing, was minimally successful, wound up working in a post office until he quit and wrote Post Office at age 49. Died in 1994 at age 73.

William S. Burroughs committed a ridiculous number of crimes, including murdering his wife, before he became a writer. Naked Lunch was published when he was 45. Died in 1997 at age 83.

Elmore Leonard – prolific award-winning writer of westerns and crime fiction, passed away in 2013 at age 87, published his last book, Raylan, in 2012.

Doris Lessing – passed away in 2013 at age 94. A British writer and biographer. Won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007, noted as the oldest person to ever receive the award (age 88). Most well-known for The Grass Is Singing, The Golden Notebook and The Good Terrorist.

Toni Morrison – Won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for Beloved and is still writing at age 86. Her most recent novel, God Help the Child, was published in 2015.

Frank McCourt’s wife urged him to write Angela’s Ashes and the famous memoir was published when McCourt was 66. McCourt passed away in 2009 at age 78.

Alice Munro – currently age 86 – master of the short story. Dear Life was published in 2012 and she won the Nobel Prize in 2013. One of my favorite authors!

James Salter – passed away in 2015 at age 90. Wrote many novels throughout a long career, including The Hunters (1957) and All That Is (2013). Continued to lecture at age 89 until his death as Kapnick Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia.

Bram Stoker held a bunch of different jobs, including working as mathematician and an actor’s assistant. His writing career didn’t take off until he wrote Dracula at age 50.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was a teacher, mother, wife and farmer before she became a writer. Her first Little House book (Little House in the Big Woods) was published when the author was 64. She passed away in 1957 at age 90.

Tom Wolfe –Known in the 1960s for The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff was published in 1979 and The Bonfire of the Vanities in 1987. His most recent nonfiction The Kingdom of Speech was published in 2016 when he was 85.  Perhaps he has another book in the works!

Herman Wouk – Wrote The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar, Youngblood Hawke, The Winds of War, War and Remembrance and many more during a long career. He’s still going strong at age 102. His most recent book, Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author, was published in 2015.

Do you have a book idea ready to surface? Well, get started – you can do it!

Thanks to the following articles for helping me compile this list:

Five Authors Who Prove It’s Never Too Late To Start Writing – 4/29/13
8 Writers Over 80 – 3/15/13
And thanks to for the occasional fact check.

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Do You Know What a Book Publicist Does? by Claire McKinney

Do You Know What a Book Publicist Does?
A Guide for Creating Your Own Campaigns
Claire McKinney


Writing a book is a big job and getting it published is an even bigger one. But even then, there is more work ahead. Did you know that there were over 700,000 books published in 2015? If you are a self-published author, promoting your book is the only way to get people to read it. Many self-published authors are unsure about how to do that. Their craft is writing, not publicity and marketing is a daunting task.

That’s where Claire McKinney’s guide to creating a book publicity campaign comes in. Even if you have a publisher, you need to understand how campaigns work. McKinney knows that having a plan takes the anxiety out of the job. Her book outlines how to pitch a book, develop contacts, write press materials and create a timeline.

In traditional publishing houses, the plan is in place months before the release. For self-publishers, it should be no different. McKinney’s guide is a great place to start. She explains how book publicity works and what you can do to get in there. Specifically, she offers advice on how to prepare a press kit and a bio, how to pitch your “story” and where to pitch it. She details how to set up and manage a media contact list, how to ask for and get reviews and when to pay for them.

Social media plays a big role in book publicity and McKinney offers advice on reaching readers through Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. You can download her free social media guide here. In addition, she explains advanced media strategies including how to work bookstore events, library programs and conferences. One strategy I think is the most interesting is how to insert your book and into a news story, thereby adding reader interest.

The book’s format is simple and readable and presented in a non-intimidating style. I highly recommend this guide and I will be sure to keep it handy as I help promote my father’s new book of short fiction.

I read Do You Know What a Book Publicist Does? as part of my Build a Better World Summer Reading Challenge to read a do-it-yourself book.

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Summer Reading Challenge – create a movie soundtrack to your favorite book

One of the fun squares on my Summer Reading Challenge BINGO card is to create a soundtrack to my favorite book if it became a movie. For those of you who don’t know, my #1 all-time favorite book is Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk.  Wouk has been writing books for decades, most notably The Caine Mutiny, which was published in 1951 and won the Pulitzer Prize, Marjorie Morningstar, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, and of course, Youngblood Hawke.

Read all about Herman Wouk in “Who’s That Author?” here. And by the way, Wouk is 102 years old and at age 100 published Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year Old Author.

So you can make sense of my soundtrack, here’s a quick summary of Youngblood Hawke:

Youngblood Hawke is the story of a young author from the coal mines of Kentucky who arrives in New York and becomes a hugely successful and prolific novelist. Publishers, agents, Broadway producers, filmmakers, real estate developers and, of course, women, all want a piece of this larger-than-life, good-natured and ambitious personality. Hawke’s goal all along is to make enough money so that he can really get down to business and write his most serious work, something he calls his American Comedy.

He has a work ethic like no other, writes all through the night, sleeps very little and spends the rest of his time trying to manage his new successful life, with many detours. Pushed to his limits, Hawke ignores recurring symptoms of a head injury from years ago. We watch and hope for the best as he works maniacally and under incredible financial pressure to complete his latest book. His dream is just ahead and we hope for the best.

Here’s my soundtrack!

  • Everyday I Write the Book – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  • Talk of the Town – The Pretenders
  • The Book I Read – Talking Heads
  • It’s Hard To Be a Saint In The City – Bruce Springsteen
  • Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield
  • I’m So Anxious – Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes
  • Reelin’ in the Years – Steely Dan
  • Gone Hollywood – Supertramp
  • Life’ll Kill Ya – Warren Zevon

Note:  Youngblood Hawke was actually made into a movie in 1964 and starred James Franciscus, Suzanne Pleshette and Geneviève Page. My song choices are my own. You can check out the details of the film here.

I created this movie soundtrack as part of my Build a Better World Summer Reading Challenge.

What’s your favorite book? Can you make a soundtrack for it?

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Books set in New England

Image: Pixabay

With fall around the corner, I think of New England and how it’s such a great place for a story. Dramatic coastlines, boats coming and going, beautiful tree lines and snowy winters are just some of the appealing features of our northeastern states.


Image: Pixabay


I’ve reviewed a few New England-based books, though I know there are many more. Take a look and see if you can add to the list!


Death in a Dacron Sail by N.A. Granger – 4 bookmarks:  2nd in the Rhe Brewster Mysteries. When Peter Barnes finds a small finger caught in his lobster trap, ace sleuth Rhe Brewster is on the scene in Pequod, Maine, just a short step behind her brother-in-law, Sam, the town’s Chief of Police.

Death in a Red Canvas Chair by N.A. Granger – 3 bookmarks:   1st in the Rhe Brewster Mysteries. When a female body is posed at the far end of a youth soccer field, no one seems to notice. No one, that is, except Rhe Brewster, an emergency room nurse with an eye for detail and a knack for putting her nose where it doesn’t belong.

Defending Jacob by William Landay – 3 bookmarks:  What would you do if your teenage son was arrested for the murder? Set in Newton and Cambridge, Massachusetts, Jacob’s parents navigate through feelings of doubt as they hope it isn’t true.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo – 4 bookmarks:  Pulitzer Prize winner about Empire Falls, Maine, a town that is struggling to survive and is controlled by Francine Whiting of the once-strong Whiting Industries.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey – 5 bookmarks:  Caldecott Medal winner and classic children’s picture book about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, who settle in Boston to raise a family. Mrs. Mallard causes quite a stir when she leads her eight ducklings through the streets of Boston, across town to meet Mr. Mallard on the pond in the Public Garden!

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick – 4 bookmarks:  comprehensive and scholarly account that begins with Mayflower’s voyage in 1620 and ends with the conclusion of King Philip’s War in 1676. Excellent read.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – 5 bookmarks: Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of thirteen integrated short stories about the people of Crosby, Maine, a seemingly simple town on the New England coast, with the prickly and misunderstood Olive Kitteridge as the collection’s anchor character.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer – 3 bookmarks:  Amanda Palmer’s memoir about supporting herself in various occupations, most famously as a musician and an 8-foot bride statue in Harvard Square.

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant – 3 bookmarks:  coming-of-age story about Addie Baum, a young girl growing up in Boston during the early 1900s.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake – 3 bookmarks:  historical fiction about a female postmaster in a Cape Cod town during the onset of World War II. The real story is about Frankie Bard, a female broadcaster based in London whose radio broadcasts of the nightly German bombings in London are heard throughout America.

The Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin – 4 bookmarks:  Suspenseful medical thriller about a deadly flu epidemic that rips through a Boston hospital and the race to stop it.

Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish by Nancy Dingman Watson – 5 bookmarks:  Great children’s story set in a coastal town in Maine about a little boy who wants to give his mother the best birthday present ever.

We Are Water by Wally Lamb – 3 bookmarks:  ambitious book about abuse and its widening range of effects. We Are Water is a novel set in Norwich, Connecticut, with many characters and many themes in a rotating narrative.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – 4 bookmarks:  Cadence Eastman struggles to remember mysterious events of her fifteenth summer on the family’s private island off Martha’s Vineyard.

Pretty soon these places will look something like this!

Image: Pixabay

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Who’s That Indie Author? Linda Smolkin


Author name:  Linda Smolkin

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

BookAmong the Branded (May 2017)

Bio:  Linda Smolkin always wanted to be a writer—ever since she saw her first TV commercial and wondered how to pen those clever ads. She got her degree in journalism and became a copywriter. Linda landed a job at an ad agency, where she worked for several years before joining the nonprofit world. When not in front of the computer, she’s behind the drums (slightly) annoying her husband, son, and their 70-pound dog.

Favorite thing about being a writer:  Letting my imagination go wild. Oh, and writing dialogue!

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  Finding enough time to do everything. I have a full-time job, so all of the writing and business aspects of being an indie author have to be done on the side. But, meeting my goal of becoming a published novelist has been really great—except for the dark circles!

Favorite book:  So many wonderful books to choose from, but if I could only choose one, it would be: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Contact Information:
Twitter: @lindasmoklin
Goodreads Author:  Linda Smolkin
Among the Branded on Amazon

Awards/special recognition:  San Francisco Book Review rated Among the Branded 4.5 out of 5 stars, and in their review wrote, “This is a beautiful and fascinating novel that will keep readers hooked.”

Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars
E. Lockhart


Something bad happens during Cadence Eastman’s fifteenth summer on the family’s private island off Martha’s Vineyard. Cady, her cousins Johnny and Mirren and their friend Gat were inseparable and fearless that summer and they would risk everything to break free from the oppressive, greedy and narrow minded Sinclair family pressures.

After an unexplained accident, Cady struggles to remember the events that sent her to the hospital and left her with debilitating migraines. Cady tells us what she can: “I used to be strong, but now I am weak. I used to be pretty, but now I look sick.” She wants to know, especially about Gat, but her family stays quiet and keeps her away from Beechwood Island. Everything is different when she returns for her seventeenth summer, but who will help her remember why?

Who can resist a book about three generations of a wealthy New England family, inseparable friends (nicknamed the Liars), rivalries and teenage love? E. Lockhart does a great job setting the scene:  money, interesting family drama and good looking people with strong chins spending their summers on an idyllic private island. Keeping appearances and hiding weakness are Sinclair rules and the reader soon sees that this kind of lying runs in the family. That’s enough for me, but The Liars is much bigger and is full of mystery and suspense. Lockhart leads the reader through a series of jumps between present and past, filling in details, but leaving a shocking discovery to the final pages.

This is a terrific Young Adult story about how the mysterious events of one summer force an entire family through painful changes that just may bring them closer. I recommend The Liars to readers who like suspenseful family dramas.

I read We Were Liars as part of my Build a Better World Summer Reading Challenge to read a book suggested by a friend.

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Books about football

Image: Pixabay

Since football season is once again upon us, I thought it would be fun to look at some interesting football books. Certainly not a comprehensive list, the books below tell about a couple famous quarterbacks, a legendary high school team and offer two good middle school fiction reads.

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger:  Excellent account of the Permian Panthers high school football team in Odessa, Texas, the “winningest team in Texas history.” Bissinger chronicles the 1988 season and tells the story of the small town that revolves around Friday night games and elevates its players to hero status. If you like to know the real story behind ultra-competitive high school football programs, check out the book and the movie. And for those who like the relationship drama behind any story, the television series is a good choice.

Gunslinger by Jeff Pearlman:  Excellent biography of Brett Favre, one of the most famous NFL quarterbacks to play the game. Favre’s career lasted nearly two decades, playing for the Green Bay Packers and later, the New York Jets and Packers’ rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. Pearlman provides an in-depth look at the ups and downs of Favre’s career and the complex character behind the football legend.

Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica:  Great young adult book. A story of 13-year-old Nate, star quarterback for his 8th grade football team. Nate gets a chance to win a million dollars if he throws a thirty-yard pass through a target during half-time at a New England Patriots game. The companion story is about Nate and his best friend Abby who are struggling with health and family issues. Nate’s parents are under financial stress and Abby is losing her eyesight due to a rare condition. These pressures affect Nate’s performance on the football field and, what seemed like a fun contest suddenly becomes too much.

QB1 by Mike Lupica:  a feel-good read geared towards the middle school or early high school reader. Two Texas quarterback brothers, four years apart and sons to a famous quarterback whose NFL career was cut short, Wyatt and Jake Cullen have different challenges. Wyatt is a freshman quarterback for the Texas Longhorns and is living his father’s dream. Younger brother Jake has lived in Wyatt’s shadow for as long as he can remember. The story begins when Jake enters ninth grade as the third-string quarterback, for a coach and team that are still celebrating big brother Wyatt’s leadership the season before.

Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow:  Interesting memoir about Tim Tebow’s high school, college and professional football careers. Written during a period of Tebow mania, this book has few surprises, but fills in the details about the famous quarterback’s early life and explains his personal religious beliefs and message. Not all professional athletes want to be viewed as role models, but they are in the public eye anyway and stories about the bad role models make headlines regularly. Tim Tebow wants to be out there in a positive way. He wants to be noticed and, besides sending his religious message, his biggest goal, a kid himself, is to reach out to kids. If you can take the rest of it, then he’s your man.

Check out a comprehensive Amazon list of football books here.

Click here for an Amazon list of children’s football books.

What football books can you add to this list?

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