Daughter Am I by Pat Bertram – An Indie Gems Featured Book

Pat Bertram is an accomplished author whose work I love. It’s my pleasure to welcome her to Indie Gems. Indie Gems exists to showcase  fine independently produced books and their authors. Indie Gems has a few rules, to which I will adhere. Pat Bertram and her work certainly fit the criteria for Indie Gems. Pat and I spoke about her novel, Daughter Am I. I wondered about her process as she wrote the book as well as what she had to say to upcoming writers. In addition to her wonderful books, Pat maintains a strong web presence and is  generous in helping other authors. She could give us a seminar on social media, as well as discussing her book! Here we concentrate on Daughter Am I , a suspenseful and fascinating novel.

Sandy Nathan
Indie Gems of Your Shelf Life

Daughter I Am by Pat Bertram

What is your novel Daughter Am I about?

Daughter Am I is the story of a young woman who inherits a farm from her murdered grandparents — grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born. She becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead.

How did Daughter Am I come to be?

Daughter Am I was the combination of two different stories I wanted to write. I’d read The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, and the mythic journey so captured my imagination that I knew I had to write my own quest story. I also liked the idea of telling little-known truths about the mob, and I settled on the story of a young woman going in search of her past. As she listens to stories of old-time gangsters and bootleggers — her mentors and allies — she gradually discovers the truth of her heritage. I’ve always liked stories within stories.

How did you do the research for the book?

Read, mostly. Not all the history in Daughter Am I is from my research, though. I had an historian friend who regaled me with tales of gangsters for many years. In fact, I got to the point where I couldn’t watch a gangster film with him because he’d keep up a running commentary about all the things the filmmaker got wrong, and I’d miss half the story. I did a lot of research myself, though, and it was a special joy when I discovered something he didn’t know! Most of the information isn’t on the internet, but resides in . . . gasp! . . . books.

A Spark of Heavenly Fire

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

I had one great obstacle — me! The story came to me all in one day. Even the biggest story problem — why the gold was buried — was resolved that very night when I read a book about the war on gold. Still, even though I knew the story, it took me eleven months to write the first draft. Words come slowly to me. I’m not one who can sit down and just write what comes to mind. I have to dredge the words from somewhere deep inside.

What author influenced you as a novelist?

My biggest influence was Taylor Caldwell. She told wonderful stories that showed history in the context of fiction, and I’ve tried to do the same. She also used a hundred words when a single sentence would have sufficed, and I’ve tried to do the opposite.

What advice would you give to an unpublished author?

Write your book. Rewrite it. Edit it Re edit it. Study the publishing business. Learn everything you can about good prose, story elements, promotion. With so many millions of people out there who have written a book or who want to write a book, the competition is fierce. And, no matter what happens, keep writing.

A writer does not attain maturity as a writer until he or she has written 1,000,000 words. (I’m only halfway there.) So write. Your next book might be the one that captures people’s imaginations and catapults you into fame and fortune. Not writing another book guarantees you will never will reach that goal. It also keeps you from doing what you were meant to do.

Traditional publishing continues to struggle. How has this impacted you as an author?

The main impact comes from the sheer number of books being published now. So many people have given up the dream of their novel being accepted by a traditional publisher and have found alternatives, that an unknown author who signs with a small independent publisher has a difficult time making a name for herself. Other than that, the struggles of the major publishers haven’t really had an impact on me as an author.

What is your book promotion strategy?

I didn’t realize I had a strategy until just now. It’s simple — I promote other authors in the hope that some sort of author karma will find its way back to me and catapult me to stardom. Hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve met a lot of wonderful writers.

More Deaths Than One by Pat Bertram

What are you working on now?

Rubicon Ranch is a collaborative and innovative crime series set in the desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by me and a few other authors of Second Wind Publishing.

Residents of Rubicon Ranch are finding body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

Who dunnit? No one knows, and we won’t know until the last chapter has been written. You can download the first book in the series free in any ebook format at Smashwords.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Pat Bertram author of Daughter Am I

I have a website — — where I post important information, including the first chapters of each of my books, but the best way to keep up with me, my writing, and my life on a daily basis is by way of Bertram’s Blog.

All my books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. Smashwords is great! The books are available in all ebook formats, including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

Destinies by Karleene Morrow – An Indie Gem Featured Book

Dear Readers,

Today I have the very great pleasure of introducing our first Indie Gems author and book. Karleene Morrow and her splendid book Destinies kick off my new feature. The purpose of Indie Gems is to give fine independently produced books the recognition they deserve. Indie Gems has a few rules, to which I will adhere.

Without further ado, my review of Destinies follows. Karleene Morrow will add a note of her own.

Sandy Nathan
Indie Gems of Your Shelf Life


Destinies by Karleene Morrow

Destinies by Karleene Morrow


Brilliant, Astonishing, and Impossible to Forget

I finished Destinies yesterday and feel like I’ve lost an old friend. I’m in that floating period that comes after finishing a good book: I’m mulling over its scenes, characters, and settings. I’m also wondering what on earth I’ll do until I find another book that carries me away so completely.

Destinies is an epic of sweeping scope that reminds me of famous works about Russia, Dr. Zhivago, for instance. Destinies presents a very original twist on life in Mother Russia and is remarkable in its originality.

It’s the story of a group of German peasants who leave the Rhineland at the invitation of Tzarina Katherine (the Great). Life is rough in the Rhineland. They’re tenants, not landowners, and at the mercy of pretty near everyone in their German life. The village decides to take advantage of Katherine’s gracious offer to bear the expenses of their traveling to Russia, and to set them up with their own farms and all that would be needed to run them: houses, horses, farm implements and seed. Sounds like a good deal, especially when compared to being exploited unmercifully by their landlords and local nobles in the old country.

The tzarina’s plan is to modernize Russia. She intends to settle her new citizens on eastern lands beneath the Ural Mountains, an area undeveloped, sparsely populated and invaded by marauding robber bands and wild tribes. Thousands of individuals—families and whole villages—heed the call. Morrow wisely focuses on one Rhineland village, giving the reader a close-up view of village life and introducing characters that I will never forget.

This book is intricately plotted, but isn’t confusing. It moves like a freight train; the pace being fast and exciting. Right from the beginning things begin to go wrong. I think this work could also be put in the suspense genre. It had me on the edge of my seat and reading into the night.

The plot alternates between the trials and tribulations of the German immigrants and the court life of the tzarina. I wanted to slap that woman. While communicating with Voltaire and the literati of France, and thinking of herself as an enlightened monarch, big (and growing bigger by the day) Tzarina Kate squeezes her own serfs almost to death, which incites a revolt she doesn’t understand.

The book bears the stamp of many hours spent researching everything about her characters, sites and the world around her work. The author presents detailed descriptions of the colonists’ difficult journey to Russia and what happens afterward. For instance, the way that Morrow describes the experience and sounds of the deep Volga ice breaking up during the spring makes you feel as though you’re right there. I can hardly wait to read more by Karleene Morrow.

Sandy Nathan, Indie Gems

ANOTHER BOOK BY KARLEENE MORROW: Karleene has written another book, FICTION WRITING: How to Write Your First Novel. (The paperback book is linked here.) The book has only one purpose – to guide the new writer toward producing a first class novel. Experienced authors have found this little gem so valuable that they keep it next to their computers. Its size is perfect for tucking into a laptop carrying case. It is a no-nonsense, easy to read book packed with the nitty-gritty of creative writing; a cut-to-the-chase work that will become your fiction writing bible.

FICTION WRITING: How to Write Your First Novel:
Paperback edition on Amazon
Kindle edition on Amazon
Smashwords eBook Edition Note: FICTION WRITING is on sale for $1.99 through January 1. Use the Coupon NX73H when you check out to receive the discount.

Soon on Amazon, Kobo, Sony, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and other online stores

Karleene Morrow

Karleene Morrow

A Note from Karleene Morrow:  You asked where I got the inspiration for Destinies.  My grandparents were Germans who immigrated to the U.S. from Russia. They spoke very rarely of ‘the old country’ so I knew little after they were gone. When I started into genealogy, researching my family, I found myself wishing, like every genealogist, that I’d asked my grandparents a hundred questions. The more I researched though the more ideas percolated in my head. When I bumped into Catherine the Great then, of course I had to research her, too. I started all this before genealogy on the internet was much of anything, Cindy’s List was about it and even that was new and extremely limited. was constantly pressing researchers for information. Now they sell that information to new genealogists.

Destinies ended up being loosely based on the family history I was able to find, particularly an ancestor who was a founder of the village of Krasnoyar.  Of course that was in the 1700s and Russia is not very cooperative with her information, being the secretive country she is, so the novel is fiction – but fiction based on fact.  There is an organization in Nebraska called the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia.  I was able to learn a great deal about the Europeans who answered Catherine’s call and made the incredible trek to Russia. One of the things I did was to read 20 years of their professional journals and “Clues” magazine and researched books in their library. I can’t begin to say how I felt when I finished that epic novel of drama and history and held it in my hands as an actual book. It was an emotional moment, misty eyes and the overwhelming feeling that the labor pains were worth it.

Sandy, I want to thank you for the marvelous review of Destinies and of course for loving it. And special thanks for inviting Destinies and me to your Indie Gems feature.  Destinies is available as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes (Apple), Kobo, Smashwords and as a paperback at Amazon, Create Space, Barnes & Noble, and from my website, discounted and autographed.

Karleene’s Website

The Last Newspaper Man by Mark Di Ionno – A Your Shelf Life Review

The Last Newspaperman

5 Stars! The Last Newspaper Man Left Me Breathless

This novel is about finding and maintaining personal integrity in a culture aimed at destroying it. Paradoxically, that culture can be a crucible that permits authenticity to grow. This book is exactly up my alley. I did a great deal of coursework in philosophy as an undergraduate and hold an MA in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling. The personal journeys that form the story are profound, and yet they’re rendered with spareness and clarity that are stunning.

The Last Newspaper Man tells the story of a young newspaperman out to make a mark at the extremely mediocre paper where he works. He wants to grab an atmospheric, witness-to-history story featuring some oldster and boost his professional standing. He goes to the Oceanview, a local retirement facility. He quickly finds the subject he wants: ninety-something Fred Haines, a retired journalist.

The two begin a passage that changes both of them. The story’s form is simple: The young journalist visits the old man. They talk. It turns out that Fred was a very prominent journalist in his day, one of the first “yellow journalists.” As Fred Haines tells his story, he presents a draft of a book that chronicles his life, covering horrific events that fly in the face of human decency. As the manuscript is revealed, both men are changed.

I heartily recommend this book. I found it’s content mesmerizing and extremely relevant in today’s world. DiIonno’s writing is exquisite. He sets up a deep and complex existential dilemma with simple words between two men. The book’s structure and execution are brilliant. Give me more, Mr. DiIonno!

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Sandy Nathan, Your Shelf Life Reviews

Mark Di Ionno

Mark Di Ionno


Mark Di Ionno is a news columnist at The Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper. He has won the New Jersey Press Association’s award for best columns several times, and helped edit the paper’s Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of the resignation of Gov. James McGreevey. He teaches Urban Journalism. Prior to the Star-Ledger, Di Ionno was a sports columnist at the New York Post. He is the author of three books about New Jersey culture and history. He is on the faculty of Rutgers University, Newark College of Arts & Sciences, University College, Newark, Department of Arts, Culture, and Media.


More about Sandy Nathan:

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan’s writing has won twenty-two national awards. She’s won in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for  information about each book.
All the links below go to Kindle/Amazon sale pages.)

The Tales from Earth’s End Saga ––A Legend for a New World (I recommend that you read the books in order to fully understand the action.)

  1. The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy (Kindle version, paperback version here)  Tales from Earth’s End Saga Book 1
  2. Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (Kindle version, paperback version here) Tales from Earth’s End Saga Book 2
  3. Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground (Kindle version, paperback version here) Tales from Earth’s End Saga Book 3

Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money (Kindle version, hardback version here) Bloodsong Series 1
Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could (Kindle version, paperback version here)


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