Walking in the footsteps of my grandmother (a Harvey Girl) at the Castaneda Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico

May 20, 2017

The Castaneda, a Fred Harvey hotel, opened in Las Vegas, NM 1899.

For years I longed to visit the historic Castaneda Hotel located next to the railroad tracks in Las Vegas, New Mexico. My maternal grandmother, Olga Berg, left the security of her Iowa home in 1928 and came to Las Vegas, NM to work as a Harvey Girl for the Fred Harvey Company. She spent two years at the Castaneda before transferring to the Harvey House in Belen, NM, now home to the Harvey House Museum. She also worked special functions at the La Fonda in Santa Fe and the Alvarado in Albuquerque.

In the lobby of the historic Castaneda Hotel with Kathy Hendrickson of Southwest Detours
Hotel lobby. Train passengers entered from the doors on the far right.

 

 

 

 

 

Grand staircase in lobby

 

 

 

Thanks to Kathy Hendrickson of Southwest Detours, I got to walk in Olga’s footsteps and imagine what it was like to be a young girl far from home, donning the starched black and white uniform, and serving hungry train passengers at all hours of the day and night. With my husband Tom by my side, we entered the hotel lobby with our tour guide and stepped into the past.

My grandmother, Olga Berg, sixth from left. Look for the deep-set eyes.

While Tom and Kathy Hendrickson chatted at the long counter, I was pulled across the room by a lone black and white photograph hanging on a wall to my right.

Olga Berg, second from left.

 

 

 

As I approached the photograph, my heart began to race as I honed in on the Harvey Girl with deep-set eyes and a quiet smile in the center of the photograph.

 

Dining hall awaiting renovation.

I knew instantly it was Olga, my beloved grandmother! But just to be sure, I whipped out my cell phone and took a picture and sent it to my mother back in Clovis, NM. Within seconds, Mother texted back and said she was certain the young woman was her mother. I also sent the photograph to my two sisters and both of my grown sons. We all agreed the young woman had to be Olga.

Dining hall from days gone by. Note the hardwood floors.

I spent the rest of the tour thinking about my grandmother and wishing I’d asked her more questions about her days as a Harvey Girl before she married a railroader and became the mother of a daughter and two sons.

Lunchroom where train passengers stepped off the train and were served immediately by attentive Harvey Girls.

 

 

 

Olga Berg Lamb passed away on March 17, 1978. Until her last breath, she was always waiting on others and she knew the proper way to set a table.

Back staircase used by staff.

As we walked up and down stairs and entered quiet rooms now occupied by ghosts of the past, I tried to tap into the Harvey Girl spirit. These women were more than glorified waitresses working at trackside lunchroom counters and dining halls across the west. They were risk takers! I wish I had half their gumption.

 

In the kitchen. Check out that giant mixer!

 

Author’s note: The Castaneda is currently under renovation. One day soon, this grand dame will shine again and welcome travelers looking for comfortable lodging and a link to the past when passenger trains ruled.

On the veranda after we took our private tour.

Olga’s younger sister Nellie Berg answered the Fred Harvey call and came to New Mexico and Arizona years later to work as a Harvey Girl. A large photo of Nellie graces the museum in Belen, NM.

On the veranda leading from the tracks to the hotel lobby.

To learn more about the young women who worked for Fred Harvey, I highly recommend The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West, by Lesley Poling-Kempes and Rosa Walston Latimer’s series of books, starting with Harvey Houses of New Mexico (Kansas, Texas, and soon-to-be Arizona).

Former Clovis resident Kathleen M. Rodgers to read from her latest novel at Clovis Carver Public Library

Update: June 5, 2017

 

Date: Friday, May 12, 2017

Time: 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Location: Clovis Carver Public Library

Location Address: 701 N. Main St. Clovis, NM 88101

Event Description: I’ll give an informal talk, read a brief passage from my latest novel, Seven Wings to Glory, and host a Q&A session. 

While I’m not allowed to sell books on the premises, readers can order online in advance, and I’ll be happy to sign their copies. Books are available at Amazon, B&N, Target, and Indie Bound. I also hear that a fella in a big white Suburban out in the parking lot may have a few copies on hand. 😉

On Saturday, May 13, I’ll be receiving The Purple Pride Hall of Honor Award for “Sports and Entertainment” from the Clovis Municipal School Foundation. This is a huge honor, and I’m grateful to be nominated. My writing career began my junior year as a student writer on the high school newspaper, The Purple Press

Hope to see you at the library,

Kathleen 

(CHS Class of 1976)

“A nuanced portrayal of military connectedness…. Rodgers writes convincingly of relationships, foibles and struggles. Johnnie’s worry over her son is particularly tangible, informed by Rodgers’ experiences as the mother of a deployed soldier…. In Seven Wings to Glory, the author has created a satisfying story, one that reveals the variety of military family experiences.” 

—Terri Barnes for Stars and Stripes

 

“Passing 50” Radio Host Robin Boyd chats with Kathleen M. Rodgers about writing

April 13, 2017

“Why worry about each passing decade? Let’s celebrate our voices of experience!” ~ Robin Boyd, host of Passing 50

Join Robin and me for a lively discussion about the writing process and my latest novel, Seven Wings to Glory, on her new radio talk show, Passing 50. It’s always an honor when the person conducting the interview has read your work. To listen to the interview, click on the show’s homepage and our interview appears to the right under the title Seven Wings to Glory

Have a great day.

Kathleen

 

 

Photos from Seven Wings to Glory book launch at B&N, Southlake, TX

April 9, 2017

 

Signing a copy of my third novel, Seven Wings to Glory, for the one and only Parris Afton Bonds, my writing mentor since 1984 when she was the keynote speaker at a special luncheon at the Fort Hood Officer’s Club. Parris is a NYTs bestselling author of over 40 novels. She co-founded Romance Writers of America with her dear friend, Rita Clay Estrada. This superstar writer raised 5 sons.

 

Patron of the arts Tom Rodgers and NYTs bestselling author Parris Afton Bonds meet each other for the first time after they’ve both been encouraging my writing for years. A sweet moment I will always cherish. Parris showed up with beautiful flowers.

With Tom and Brian (a super cool manager at B&N in Southlake, Tx) who is a proud military brat and also served as a pararescuman in the Air Force. Their motto is “That others may live.” 

 

 

 

Longtime church friend Tari Sanchez Bauer stopped by with her daughter Mandie. Tari’s bookclub read my second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, and they were such a welcoming group.

Janet Terneus, a loyal reader who loved Johnnie Come Lately, grabbed a signed copy of my latest. 

 

With good friend Joyce Hegeman, a fun-loving gal and fellow pilot’s wife. And dog lover, too.

 

Neighbor and friend Kathi Marrs (a military mama), Katherine Boyer (Retired Library Director of Roanoke Public Library) and dear author friend Drema Hall Berkheimer.

 

 

Rhonda Revels (far right) and our mutual friend Leisa Price Rintala. What a glorious day. Rhonda has supported me through three novels…My sons grew up thinking of her as a second mama.

 

Beverly Logan Jones and I finally met in person after being FB friends the past couple years. We have a mutual friend Wendel Sloan and she wanted to make him jealous. LOL Beverly drove in from Mt. Vernon, TX.

 

 

With my best friend from high school, Sherry Dodson Christian, and my best friend Rhonda Revels (since 1992). What a joyous moment! Sherry surprised me. She snuck up and sat down next to me while my head was turned. I had no idea she was there or that she was coming to the launch.

Always fun to connect with FB friends in person. Loved meeting Julianne Hart and her writer friend Scherry Lewis who says she’s been wanting to meet me for a long time. Thank you, ladies.

 

 

Four authors in a row…L-R Parris Afton Bonds, Jan Marler Vanek, yours truly, and Jerry Gundersheimer.

 

With longtime writer friend Melissa Embry. Mellisa went to a writers conference at Tarrant County College/NE campus and stopped by to say hi before heading home clear across the metroplex.

 

 

Jerry Gundersheimer, author of the new novel Face of the Bell Witch. Jerry and I have been FB friends for over a year and he drove all the way from Sherman, TX to meet me. Wow, so honored! Such a cool guy!

 

Family support from son Thomas, DIL Brittany, and Tom.

*Special thanks to B&N Community Relations Manager Casey Dickey for setting up the event.

 

Seven Wings to Glory by Kathleen M. Rodgers: a Columnist Exposes Her Town’s Racist Past

April 1, 2017

My third novel, Seven Wings to Glory, releases today from Camel Press. The novel is a sequel to Johnnie Come Lately but can be read as a standalone story. The book is available at Amazon B&N and most online booksellers.

Endorsements and additional buying information can be found on my publisher’s website.

#MilitaryFamilies #Racism #MagicalRealism #Faith

 

New Book Release from Kathleen M. Rodgers

Dear Readers, Friends, and Family,

I’m excited to announce the April 1, 2017 release of my third novel, Seven Wings to Glory, published by Camel Press. Sometimes small towns harbor big secrets. And sometimes things just can’t be explained. Early praises are coming in from top authors around the country. To read their endorsements, please visit my website.

The print edition will be available on Amazon, B&N, and other online retailers April 1. The Kindle and Nook editions are out now.

You can ask your local bookseller or library to order the book. If you’re a member of a book club, I hope you’ll consider choosing Seven Wings to Glory for a future discussion.

The official book launch will be held at B&N, Soutlake, TX, Saturday, April 8 from 2-4 pm CDT.

All the best,

Kathleen

Johnnie Kitchen is finally living her dream, attending college and writing a column for the local paper. She adores her husband Dale and chocolate Labrador Brother Dog, and they reside in a comfortable home in the small town of Portion in North Texas. Their three children are thriving and nearly grown.

But Johnnie is rattled when her youngest boy Cade goes to fight in Afghanistan. The less frequent his emails, the more she frets for his safety. On the home front, Johnnie learns that Portion is not the forward-thinking town she believed. A boy Cade’s age, inflamed by a liberal bumper sticker and the sight of Johnnie’s black friend Whit, attacks them with the N-word and a beer bottle. After Johnnie writes about the incident in her column, a man named Roosevelt reaches out with shameful stories from Portion’s untold history. More tears and triumphs will follow, as Johnnie’s eyes are opened to man’s capacity for hate and the power of love and forgiveness.

 

Casualties: A compelling and convincing read by debut novelist Elizabeth Marro

February 2, 2017

“His war is over. Hers has just begun.” ~ from the book jacket of Casualties, published by Berkley Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

What others are saying:

“… this powerful first novel will leave the reader reflecting for days. – Library Journal 

“Marro’s perception of the hurt and guilt her characters carry is deftly portrayed… Marro provides a clear sense that, while the past can’t be undone, the future always offers a chance to make amends, and the human spirit can triumph over pain and find hope in family and forgiveness. Marro casts a ray of hope that a good life can be lived after terrible tragedy.” Kirkus Reviews

“Elizabeth Marro made me care about these two people so much that by the end of the novel I’d forgotten they were fictional characters and I was ready to call them up to see how they were doing and if they’d finally found their way toward peace and forgiveness.”—David Abrams, author of Fobbit.

To find out how to win either an E-book or signed hard copy, read on.

Q&A with the author:

Kathleen M. Rodgers: Welcome, Elizabeth. I must admit, as a military mother whose youngest son served in combat, I approached your novel with some trepidation. From the book’s description, I knew going in that Robbie, a Marine fresh home from the war, was going to break his mother’s heart. In breaking Ruth Nolan’s heart, he broke mine as well. And yet, I couldn’t stop reading. Without giving too much of the plot away, can you describe how the story first came to you?

Elizabeth:

I knew this story would be about a mother, her son and one of the scariest “what if” questions that keeps parents awake at night. I didn’t know until we moved to San Diego in 2002 that it would be about a mother whose son goes to war. My husband and I had been living and working in central New Jersey, an area dominated by the pharmaceutical industry and other corporations. We knew few people whose immediate family were in the military. My own family’s involvement in the military ended with my father’s generation. Now we were in a city that many think of as a sunny escape to paradise but is one of the largest military communities in the country. Here we saw the recruits come in, the families waving goodbye, the pews in church occupied by one less family member as troops were deployed. Then we began to read the names of the fallen in our local newspapers and see the photographs that went with them. Each of those names led to a family whose lives would never be the same. It became important to me to try to understand their journey.

KMR: The story alternates between three point-of-view characters. First we meet military mother Ruth Nolan, an affluent executive who works for a major defense contractor. Next comes Robbie, back on American soil after fighting in Iraq. After tragedy strikes, we meet Casey MacInerney, a wounded warrior and con artist with a heart of gold. All three characters are equally convincing in their roles. How did you get inside the heads and hearts of your main characters to create story people readers care about, enough to still worry over them days after finishing the book?

EM: It’s wonderful when characters stay with you, isn’t it? I think part of it is that I lived with these people for a very long time. I had conversations with them, asked them questions, and sent them down blind alleys a few times. After all that you find you have them or, more accurately, they have you. You hear them in your dreams. They start telling you what happens. Some opened up much more easily than the others. Casey, for example, came quickly and easily. Robbie was also accessible in a way that his mother, Ruth, was not for a long time. I think that to crack to code for each of them — particularly Ruth. Initially, I was a harsh judge of Ruth but writing isn’t about judging. It’s about understanding. When I wrote a number of scenes about Ruth’s childhood that never appear in the story, I recognized her vulnerabilities in a way I couldn’t before.

KMR: Casey’s character is so authentic, not only with his war injury but his need to find a loved one he’d abandoned years ago. By the end of the story, I felt complete empathy for him due to the physical and mental anguish he’d suffered. I wanted him to be happy. Did you interview wounded warriors who’d lost limbs?

EM: Casey emerged not from interviews but from piecing together elements of men I’d observed and imagined. His conflicts stem only partly from losing part of his leg in the first Gulf War. He is shaped as much by his upbringing, the losses he’d had over the course of his life, and his need for family which is complicated by his conviction that he doesn’t really deserve that kind of love. Having a feel for who he was before the injury helped me to understand how his injury and the events that followed could land him in the situation he was in when he met Ruth.

 KMR: Casey’s love of reading and his respect for books turns what could be a cliché down-on-his-luck-character into a well-rounded person. Why is reading so important to the development of a person regardless of his or her background?

EM: As a lifelong book addict, I’m very aware of how stories have opened the world to me. They challenge me, they help me to go places and meet people I’d never otherwise meet, they help see life a little more fully. Books are also a refuge, a place to go and live for a while and to come back with a fresh perspective. Knowing Casey the way I did, I knew he’d not want to sever every connection he had with who he’d been as a promising younger person.

KMR: Is your book an indictment against war?

EM: I’ve never thought of it that way for the simple reason that I’m focusing on people, not an agenda. There are very human universal issues at stake for the characters in this story and war is one of them. Human history seems to be inextricably bound with war and I venture to guess that most of us all over the world would like to see less of it. The consequences of going to war are tremendous and far-reaching. It is important for as many of us as possible to recognize and feel those consequences on our youth, families, and communities. It is important for those of us who do not serve to recognize what we are asking those who serve to do on our behalf. We need to do what we can to be sure we are going to war for the right reasons and make sure the needs of our veterans and military families are met. And we must consider the consequences suffered by the civilians living in war zones whose lives are affected for generations.

KMR: Ruth drives an expensive jaguar. It’s sleek and represents the trappings of her well-heeled life. But later, after days on the road, the jaguar begins to show signs of a long journey. Then near the end of the story, you gift the reader with an image of the hood ornament and the symbol becomes a metaphor for the possibilities awaiting both Casey and Ruth. During the writing of the novel, did you ever find yourself wanting to take a road trip and travel the exact route of your characters?

EM: Yes! In fact, I’ve driven portions of this trip but not the whole of it. I’d love to do the whole thing some day.

KMR: I finished the last pages of your novel with a tissue pressed to my nose. When Ruth turned onto Lost Nation Road, I found myself wanting to be alone as she pulled up in front of the house she grew up in. The ending was quite satisfying and I can imagine life continuing on in this fictional world you created. Will there be a sequel?

EM: There are no plans now for a sequel. We may catch glimpses of Ruth or Robbie or Casey and his daughter in future stories about other people.

KMR: What are you working on now?

EM: I’m working on my next novel, a few short stories and some essays. The novel, as it is currently evolving, is a complete departure from Casualties.

KMR: Can you talk about your process? Did you plot out the novel chapter-by-chapter, scene-by-scene, or did you scribble a few notes and let the characters lead you on their journey?

EM: I tried everything with Casualties. I wrote thousands of pages and threw out hundreds. One thing that seems to be true for me: nothing happens unless I understand my people first. I have the basic story for my next novel but before I plot it out extensively, I want to make sure of them. That way, they can help me fill in the parts I don’t know.

KMR: Do you revise as you go or do you complete a first draft straight through and then go back and revise?

EM: I start with messy scenes and fragments, see what I’ve got, then write a draft. Then another draft, Then another one. Lots of drafts, lots of revisions. About half way through my work on Casualties, I threw out about 600 pages and was left with the last scene and a few disconnected chapters. That was the moment that got me closest to the book that was finally published.

KMR: What advice can you give writers who are struggling to write a book, be it fiction or nonfiction? Most writers deal with self-doubt about their work. How do you push through it and get your work done, especially if you’re working on a story without a deadline?

EM: There is always a deadline in my mind. I have only so many years on this planet and I want to use them as well as I can. Writing is an important part of that. These days, I feel worse when I’m not writing than when I’m struggling. Self-doubt comes with the territory. There is no getting away from it. I try to treat it as I would an itch or a cold, something temporary to be endured. The best medicine for self-doubt are writing friends who can listen and urge you on. Give yourself permission to write really awful stuff on days when it isn’t coming. Chances are you’ll stumble on a line that gets you to where you want to go the next day. Writing is like anything we’ve done in life and there is a way to draw confidence from that. We weren’t born experts in anything we’ve had to learn to do. We’ve had to figure it out, do it, practice some more. I say try anything – meditation, walking, screaming but sit down and write what you can each day even with the self-doubt riding on your shoulder.

KMR: At what age did you proclaim, “I am a writer?” Are there other writers in your family? 

EM: I was pretty young when I had dreams of writing but I was sixty when my book was published. I credit two teachers with spurring me in the direction of actually putting pen to page. The first was my third grade teacher Sister Maureen James and the second was my English teacher in high school. I wrote a story that made Sister laugh and then, later, an essay that my English teacher praised. There is at least one other member of my extended family in the business. My cousin Megan Mulry has written a series of women’s fiction novels and erotica. There may be others. I’ll start asking around! I do come from a family of die-hard readers and nothing fosters the desire to write more than reading.

KMR: You mention your ten siblings in your acknowledgements. I come from a family of six kids; I’m the third one down. I jokingly tell people I became a writer to have a voice. What role, if any, did growing up in a large family play in your becoming a writer?

EM: I’m the oldest of five and, later, my mom married a man with six kids. While still at home was always escaping into my own world. I read, I made up stories that I told to myself. I was the kid who would nod at everything my mother said while hearing nothing over the sound of my own thoughts and imaginings. I was the one who would disappear into the bathroom with a book when it was my night to do the dishes because the dishes could wait but the story I was reading could not.

KMR: When did you take up walking and how does it affect your writing? Do you go for long strolls or do you power walk to get your heart rate up? Do you have a walking partner?

EM: I began to walk in a serious way a couple of years ago. Until then, it had been something I did with my dogs (a lovely way to walk), but not a way of actually getting anywhere or of seeing anything. I gave myself a goal in 2015 to walk 800 miles for the year. I never came close but I did develop a habit that has led to so many wonderful things for me and my writing. I stroll and walk fast. I look for hills but my favorite thing is to walk the cliffs near my home and see what is new that day. I enjoy walking with others but I walk most often alone and I enjoy that too. I don’t walk with earphones in my ears and I try to notice something new each time.

Special OFFER:

To celebrate the first anniversary of Casualties, Betsy is offering a free copy of her novel to my readers. Winners can choose between a signed hard copy or a free e-book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks. To enter, comment below before midnight on Monday, February 6. The drawing will be held on Tuesday, February 7.

BIO:

Elizabeth (Betsy) Marro is the author of Casualties, a novel about a single mother and defense executive who loses her son just when she thought he was home safe from his final deployment. Now she must face some difficult truths about her past, her choices, the war, and her son. A former journalist and recovering pharmaceutical executive, Betsy Marro’s work has appeared in such online and print publications as LiteraryMama.com, The San Diego Reader, and on her blog at elizabethmarro.com. Originally from the “North Country” region of New Hampshire, she now lives in San Diego where she is working on her next novel, short fiction, and essays.  Casualties, published in February 2016 by the Berkley imprint of Penguin Random House, is her first novel.

 

 

 

Author Kathleen M. Rodgers signs with Nine Speakers, Inc.

January 25, 2017

Some good news:

 I’m delighted to announce that Diane Nine, President of Nine Speakers, Inc. based in Washington, D.C., will represent my future work. Now it’s time to get busy and write my fourth novel. A huge thank you to Deborah Kalb for making the connection. Deborah is the author of The President and Me: George Washington and the Magic Hat and Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama, which she coauthored  with her father, renowned journalist Marvin Kalb.

Many thanks to all of you who’ve believed in me over the years. The journey continues…

Seven Wings to Glory featured in Eastern New Mexico University’s Greyhound Gazette

December 16, 2016

Eastern New Mexico University’s campus newspaper, Greyhound Gazette, is the first news outlet to run a story about my third novel, Seven Wings to Glory. The article is written by Wendel Sloan, Director of Media Relations for ENMU. I’m thrilled as this was the college I attended right out of high school.

 

Baby Bailino: Long Island Author of the Year Dina Santorelli pens another thriller full of heart and soul

December 13, 2016

What others are saying about Baby Bailino, a follow-up to Baby Grand

“Dina Santorelli writes a terrific thriller. Baby Bailino will grip you to the end—and long after.”

—Andrew Gross, New York Times best-selling author of The One Man

“Dina Santorelli has done it again—delivering a taut thriller with believable, flesh and blood characters and a story that stays with you.”

—Anne Canadeo, best-selling author of the Black Sheep Mysteries

Book Summary:

It’s been two years since Jamie Carter escaped captivity and saved Charlotte Grand, the infant daughter of New York Governor Phillip Grand, becoming a national hero for foiling the kidnapping plot that incarcerated reputed mobster/entrepreneur Don Bailino—the man who abducted and raped her. As Governor Grand considers his candidacy for U.S. president, Bailino inexplicably escapes from prison, and soon Jamie’s fifteen-month-old daughter, Faith—Bailino’s biological child—disappears. Jamie sets off to find her and, in the process, finds an unlikely ally in Bailino, who is on the run not only from the FBI but from members of organized crime who have a score to settle. Can Jamie trust the man who once held her prisoner? Can she rely on her instincts? And can she again find the strength to save a child when, this time, that child is her own?

My thoughts on this well-crafted story:

Dina Santorelli’s Baby Bailino kept me in a quandary from the moment I started reading until the very end: at times I wasn’t sure who to root for. Just when I thought I had the characters figured out, along came another twist and turn in an action-packed thriller full of heart and soul. Sometimes the “bad guy” might turn out to be your favorite character. As I read the last lines in this incredible story, I smiled to myself with a deep sense of satisfaction at the way things turned out.

Q&A with the author:

Kathleen: Baby Bailino is a sequel to your debut novel, Baby Grand. Was writing the sequel easier or more difficult than the first book? How long did it take you to write both books?

DS: Although it took the same amount of time to write the first drafts of both books (about a year and a half), I found writing Baby Bailino easier in one sense and more challenging in another—easier in that I felt like I was really comfortable with the characters already and felt an immediate connection, like I was reuniting with family and friends, and more difficult in that I felt the pressures of sequelhood—not wanting to repeat too much for those who read the first book, but knowing that I needed to acclimate new readers to the story. I always was conscious of that fine line between telling too much and telling too little.

KMR: Can people read the sequel if they haven’t read Baby Grand? In other words, can Baby Bailino be read as a standalone book?

DS: Yes. I wrote the sequel so that it can stand alone. However, readers of the first book will certainly get a fuller and more satisfying read—they know the backstory of these characters and bring that knowledge to the new plot.

KMR: What advice can you give writers who are struggling to write a sequel? How do you decide how much backstory to include in the second book?

DS: Oh, that’s the million-dollar question! I wish I knew.  I just try to include enough backstory so that new readers don’t feel completely lost. I find writing to be such a go-with-your-gut kind of endeavor. Whatever feels right, I try to do and hope for the best.

KMR: Do you revise as you go or do you write the first draft straight through and then go back and revise?

DS: Oh, I revise as I go. My modus operandi is to write a chapter or so at one sitting, and then at the next sitting look over what I did the session before, edit, and then go on to new material from there.

KMR: Early in the sequel, there are some fast-paced scenes that take place inside a prison. As a reader, I was pulled along with my heart in my throat. Without giving too much away, can you describe how you created this realistic setting? Did you visit a prison or talk to former inmates before you wrote this section?

DS: Actually, I made the entire thing up! For me, that’s the best part of being a fiction writer—just using my imagination. Because I’ve been a journalist for more than 25 years, I have always been tied to facts—getting descriptions right, getting attributions right. I feel so much freer as a novelist. I can do whatever I want!  That’s not to say that I don’t like to mix a little fact into my fiction. I think when novelists incorporate factual information it makes their works more believable. For instance, when I mention that Phillip Grand (fictional character) had a photo of Barack Obama (real person) on a table, that helps tie Phillip to a certain place and time that is real. I like doing that. But to write the prison scenes, I just tried to tap into that imagination and take the reader on a really interesting ride. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

KMR: At what age did you proclaim, “I am a writer?” How did you get your foot in the door at publications like CNN and Newsday?

DS: I’ve always felt like a storyteller. Feeling like an actual writer came later. When I was in my teens, my head was full of stories, but I didn’t think my writing was good enough to make those stories come alive. It took more than twenty years as a journalist—working on my writing every day, learning how to make observations every day, meeting new and interesting people every day—to hone my craft. By telling other people’s stories, I learned how to tell my own.

Getting my foot in the door at any publication or with any new client meant getting myself to a place where I had enough experience to show I could do the job. I wrote for many publications and outlets that paid terribly and had small readerships, but I didn’t care; I wanted the experience and the clips for my portfolio. (Turns out, I learned a hell of a lot, as well, working for these publications and made contacts that impacted my career greatly.) Getting my foot in the door also meant hoping that the person/publication I wanted to work with would take a chance on working with someone new. I always say to my students (I teach Continuing Ed. at Hofstra University), “All you need is one person to take a chance on you.” I was lucky enough to have had several.

KMR: Do you attend many writers’ conferences these days? If so, which ones?

DS: The conferences I go to are more about publishing—the business of writing—such as Digital Book World, which I’ll be attending in January.

KMR: What was it like growing up in Queens? As a child, did you and your family go into New York City very often? And did living so close to the city have an influence on your writing career?

DS: I loved growing up in Queens. I was lucky to live with two parents who loved me and a strong friend network. It was really one of those “city” upbringings that you see on television where packs of kids are outside playing handball or punchball or playing tag and Red Rover well into the night. That was us. We all felt like family, and when I see old friends on Facebook, they say the same thing. We loved and protected one another—kind of like the kids on the Netflix series, Stranger Things. That was us, riding bikes and having adventures.

My family and I went to New York City on occasion, but it wasn’t really until I was driving on my own that I would go into Manhattan—“the City,” as we called it—to see plays and shows. I know it’s a cliché, but there really is such an electricity to New York City that is palpable—I still feel it to this day when I go there. It never gets old.

And, oh, yes, living there did have an influence on me! Not only did commuting to Manhattan for work foster my love of reading—I read thrillers by John Grisham, James Patterson, and Michael Crichton on the buses and subway every day—but it is just rich with people and activity. There’s a novel lurking on every corner.

KMR: You and your husband have three kids. How do you juggle family time with your professional duties as a novelist, journalist, ghostwriter, nonfiction author, and Executive Editor of Family and Salute Magazines (distributed at military installations around the country). Do you designate certain days of the week for your editing job and other days for your freelance work? And how do you squeeze in ghostwriting other people’s books on top of writing fiction? I feel like a slacker next to you.

DS: I have no idea how I do it.  I do believe, though, that you can find time for anything you want to do, if you really try. I’m a firm believer in: If there’s a will, there’s a way. To write Baby Grand, the kids were younger and demanded more of my time, so I used to set my alarm for 4 a.m. to write. I’d write for an hour or two, crawl back to bed, and then get up with them for school. It’s all about time management. I’ll designate a morning to working on a nonfiction project and an afternoon to working on a freelance article and then an evening to going out to dinner with my friends. A spiral notebook on my desk is my best friend—I write down all the things I want to get done in a day and then try to do them (my kids make fun of me for not having acclimated to Google Calendar). I may not always get to everything, but I try. Of course, as my children have gotten older, juggling has gotten a whole lot easier—at least until we got our shih tzu.

KMR: Please describe the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction. In your opinion, is one more difficult to write than the other?

DS: To be honest, I’m not sure which is easier or more difficult. Both present interesting challenges. I find fiction to be an all-encompassing kind of writing. When I’m in the throes of writing a novel, I become consumed. The characters follow me around while I’m running errands, trying to sleep, taking a shower. My brain is always trying to piece together threads of plot and dialog. It can be exhausting. It’s like I am in a constant pursuit of authenticity. For nonfiction, it’s less consuming, but just as demanding. Here, too, I strive for authenticity. In a freelance article, my concern is presenting the authenticity of whomever I’m writing about. As a ghostwriter/collaborator, I strive to bring to life the authenticity of the author of the book: Am I capturing his/her voice? Am I conveying what he/she wants to say? Did I nail the lingo? Writing fiction and nonfiction, for me, is all about finding truth, whether it’s mine or someone else’s.

KMR: In a television interview you gave a few years ago, you talked about how most writers deal with self-doubt. How do you push through it and get your work done, especially if you’re working on a story without a deadline?

DS: Ah, the dreaded self-doubt! One of my professors used to call it the “shit bird” that sits on your shoulder and constantly tells you you’re no good. Not fun. How I push through really depends on the day. Some days, I’ll just step away from the computer—I’ll take a walk or take a shower or spend time with my kids. Usually, I’ll do this when I’m feeling particularly frazzled. Other days, I’ll just sit there and push. I usually strive for 1,000 words a day when I’m writing, so I’ll just write and write until I get there, even if I think what I’m writing is awful. I have this saying: Bad writing is better than no writing. Even if I’ve written 500 words of blah, I can usually find one or two gems in there that would not have gotten written if I didn’t push.

KMR: You’ve interviewed several celebrities over the years, both in person and over the telephone. Can you give us a peek into this process? For the most part, are they friendly and accommodating or have you ever dealt with any rascals (male or female)?

DS: Most people are friendly. Usually, they are promoting films or television shows, so I expect them to be, although there have been a few “rascals,” as you describe them. (Being from New York, I would have used another word.) Some of my favorite interviews have been with James Gandolfini (telephone), Paul Reiser (in person), and Norman Reedus (telephone).

KMR: After all these years, is it still thrilling to see your byline on a story for a national publication and on the cover of your books?

DS: Yes! But, to be honest, what’s even more thrilling is when people stop me to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed something I’ve written, especially my novels. It’s one thing to write, but it’s another to connect, and I feel honored that so many readers have taken my characters into their hearts.

KMR: What are you working on now in terms of fiction?

DS: I am currently writing the third book, titled Baby Carter, in the Baby Grand thriller trilogy. I’m planning to publish it in the summer of 2018.

KMR: In closing, is there anything else you want to share about your career?

DS: Yes, not so much about my career, but I’d like to say this to all aspiring writers: Never give up. The road can be dark (and not because you’re nutty and write in the middle of the night like I do) and sometimes you’ll wonder if it’s worth it. It is. Tell your story. Stay tough, and keep on keepin’ on. Sometimes you are the only one who can see a dream, but, really, you is all you need.

BIO:

Voted one of the best Long Island authors for two consecutive years, Dina Santorelli is the author of the award-winning debut novel, Baby Grand—a Runner-up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition and an Honorable Mention, Genre Fiction, in the 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. She has been a freelance writer for nearly 20 years and has written frequently about travel, entertainment, lifestyle, bridal, and pop culture. Dina currently serves as the executive editor of Salute and Family magazines for which she has interviewed many celebrities, including Norman Reedus, Vince Vaughn, James Gandolfini, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, Angela Bassett, and Kevin Bacon, among others. She has collaborated on a variety of nonfiction book projects, including Raising Men: Lessons Navy SEALs Learned from Their Training and Taught to Their Sons (St. Martin’s Press, May 2016), I, Spy: How to Be Your Own Private Investigator (St. Martin’s Press, February 2016), Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, The Brown Betty Cookbook, and Bully, and her book Daft Punk: A Trip Inside the Pyramid has been published in several languages. Dina also lectures for Hofstra University’s Continuing Education Department and is a SELF-e Ambassador for the Library Journal. For more information about Dina, visit her website at http://dinasantorelli.com

For another great interview, check out Dina’s Q&A with author and journalist Deborah Kalb.

http://deborahkalbbooks.blogspot.com/2016/09/q-with-dina-santorelli.html

Winner!

Dina Santorelli: 2nd Place, Best Long Island Author, 2013 & 2014 (Long Island Press)

Dina Santorelli: 1st Place, Best Nassau County Author, 2013 & 2014 (The Happening List)

Baby Grand: Honorable Mention, Genre Fiction, 2013 (Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards)

Baby Grand: Top-rated Mystery/Thriller (Amazon Kindle)

Baby Grand: Best-selling organized crime thriller (Amazon Kindle)

 

Baby Grand is available for purchase on Amazon: https://t.co/YCFnttLfy7

Baby Bailino is available for purchase on Amazon: https://goo.gl/JZd5qO

 

Join Dina’s mailing list! http://tinyurl.com/dinasmailinglist

Twitter: http://twitter.com/DinaSantorelli

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dinasantorelliwriter

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dinasantorelli

Blog: http://makingbabygrand.com

Johnnie Come Lately showcased in 2016 Holiday Catalog from Southern Writers Magazine

Updated Dec. 1, 2016johnnie-featured-in-2016-southern-wrtiers-magazine-holiday-catalog

Books make great gifts for any occasion. Check out all the books featured in the 2016 Holiday Catalog from Southern Writers Magazine. The online catalog is free. Click here to grab your copy.

Happy Reading!

Kathleen

seven_wings_300Seven Wings to Glory releases April 1, 2017 from Camel Press

Johnnie Kitchen is finally living her dream, attending college and writing a column for the local paper. She adores her husband Dale and chocolate Labrador Brother Dog, and they reside in a comfortable home in the small town of Portion in North Texas. Their three children are thriving and nearly grown.

But Johnnie is rattled when her youngest boy Cade goes to fight in Afghanistan. The less frequent his emails, the more she frets for his safety. On the home front, Johnnie learns that Portion is not the forward-thinking town she believed. A boy Cade’s age, inflamed by a liberal bumper sticker and the sight of Johnnie’s black friend Whit, attacks them with the N-word and a beer bottle. After Johnnie writes about the incident in her column, a man named Roosevelt reaches out with shameful stories from Portion’s untold history. More tears and triumphs will follow, as Johnnie’s eyes are opened to man’s capacity for hate and the power of love and forgiveness.

The sequel to Johnnie Come Lately

 

Firebrand: A Novel rife with tension on every page

October 28, 2016cover-image-med

“In the summer of 1860, when slavery ruled the heart of America, two young abolitionists discover how dangerous it can be to believe in freedom for all.” From the book jacket of Firebrand by Texas author Sarah MacTavish (Dove Hollow Books).

Q&A with the author:

Kathleen: Welcome, Sarah. Your story is so well crafted. The writing is tight, and from the opening sentence until the closing scene, you pull the reader along at a breathless pace. How did you breathe life into this emotionally charged story where your characters rise up off the page fully formed? I’m in awe of your talent.

Sarah: Wow, first of all, thank you! Well the first thing that comes to mind is just time–I started writing this book when I was a teen, so I’ve spent so many years with these characters, and I got to know them pretty well. But I think I just focused on knowing their hearts–who they were at their core. And at risk of sounding cliché, after I gave them a historical framework, I just let them drive the story. After many many revisions, they finally took on lives of their own with their own distinct voices.

KMR: The story alternates between two teenage narrators, Saoirse Callahan in North Texas (longing for a lost brother and her native Ireland) and Westleigh Kavanagh in Pennsylvania (longing for the truth about his parentage). How did these two characters come to you? Did they appear as voices in your head demanding to be heard? Did they first show up together or separate?

SM: Westleigh was definitely first. He came from a very old draft that bears little resemblance to Firebrand now, and I don’t remember much of how he first came to me. But even as the story changed over the years, his quiet voice stayed pretty constant. Saoirse sort of barged in–as is her way–many years later, after I discovered that there were women in history who disguised themselves and fought in the Civil War. I knew I had to tell that story. So then the original book I started became a series, and Firebrand became the background for why these characters will go on to fight in the war to come.

KMR: Can you talk about your process? Did you plot out the novel chapter-by-chapter, scene-by-scene, or did you scribble a few notes and let the characters lead you on their journey?

SM: I did a little of both. The characters really shaped the story early on, but after a while I had to give myself an outline to keep track of the alternating POVs, and the historical timeline, etc. Plus it helped give the story focus. So I did a one-page overall outline with one sentence chapter summaries, then I would do chapter-by-chapter outlines that could be 2-3 pages of notes, character dialogue snippets, historical background, etc.

KMR: Do you revise as you go or do you complete a first draft straight through and then go back and revise?

SM: I did some revision as I went. I had an amazing critique group that met weekly, and they helped push me along by getting a chapter to them every week. And their feedback definitely helped me shape the story as I went. Later I got an editor who helped me to revise it even further.

KMR: About midway through the story, there’s a scene that grips the reader by the throat. I found myself stopping to catch my breath in places. Although you wrote about an extremely cruel act of violence, you handled it with class and didn’t push the reader over the edge. Without giving too much away, can you describe how you created this vivid scene where so much is at stake for Saoirse, her beloved cousin, Jack, and Abigail, Jack’s secret sweetheart?

SM: Oh, that scene. I absolutely hated writing it–I still cringe every time I think about it, sometimes I wish I had not written it at all, but I didn’t want to sugarcoat just how awful slavery was. And it was a way to stress how helpless these characters were, and how much power men like Reeves (the antagonist) had. It’s really a character-testing point for everyone involved–even Saoirse’s father, Brian. I think we all, when we look back at history, like to think we’d act or do things a certain way, that we’d stand up for injustice and be heroic, but it’s not always that simple, or easy, and this is the point where idealistic Saoirse begins to understand that.

KMR: There’s a lot going on in the story between Saoirse and her family in Texas and Westleigh and his Da, David, in Pennsylvania. How did you keep track of your fictional family tree?

SM: I had a literal family tree! I kept notes with names, dates of birth, places, family timelines, even a little chart with how old everyone was in certain years (because math is definitely my weakness). I referred to those notes quite often! I’m probably going to include some of this information in the second book, too, for readers’ reference.

KMR: What advice can you give writers who are struggling to write a book, be it fiction or nonfiction? Most writers deal with self-doubt about their work. How do you push through it and get your work done, especially if you’re working on a story without a deadline?

SM: Find a critique group. Make sure it’s full of encouraging, challenging writers who will push you to finish, cheer you on, and help you improve along the way. I never would have finished without mine, especially since I did not have a deadline. My group made me brave enough to believe I could do it!

KMR: At what age did you proclaim, “I am a writer?” And how do you handle the naysayers who tell writers, “You’ll never make a living at it?”

SM: I was probably a teenager–13 or 14, but even younger than that I knew I wanted to be one. I’ve never really had to worry about naysayers per se, I’m usually my own worst enemy when it comes to discouragement. I have had an incredibly supportive family, and as a teen I had a few powerfully encouraging teachers. They probably called me a writer before I called myself one. So it’s their words I usually try to remember whenever I’m feeling like a fraud. And I try to remember that this is my passion, this is who I am, and even when I’m feeling discouraged, I couldn’t imagine being or doing anything else.

KMR: Please tell us about the writers’ conference you hosted in Roanoke, TX two years in a row.

SM: Well, I’m also a librarian, and for years at work I’ve had this idea to put together a sort of local mini-conference for aspiring writers in our area to come and network, learn, and get fired up with their own writing… and to give them this for as little cost to them as possible. Writers conferences can be so pricey. So our library finally made this happen in 2015, and it was successful enough that we expanded this year, and hopefully will continue to expand each year. We bring in a keynote speaker and other local authors and offer classes, workshops, one-on-one critique sessions, and plenty of chances for networking. We’re also trying to offer more writing related programs like small workshops throughout the year, contests, NaNoWriMo events, grow our local critique groups, and really just make our library a hub for writers.

KMR: You end the book on a bit of a cliffhanger with “to be continued…” I saw on Instagram where you recently visited Andersonville Prison, a former Confederate prison camp located in southwest Georgia. You mentioned that you were on a research trip for the sequel to Firebrand. Can you tell us the name of the sequel and hint at things to come?

SM: Shh, spoilers! Kidding. Well, Firebrand is the first book of four, and I’m currently working on book two, which will pick up right before the Civil War starts. I haven’t released the title yet but I’d love to do that for you–Book Two will be called Paladin. Concerning my trip to Georgia, my research in Andersonville will probably be making its way into Book 4, but that’s all I can hint at right now! I can say that the next three books (including Paladin) will be following some of the main characters–Saoirse especially–as they fight in the Union Army.

KMR: In closing, is there anything else you’d like share?

SM: Just want to point out my short stories on my website–if you want to read a little more, I have three “prologues” for Firebrand available for free online, and I plan on writing three short stories for in between each of the rest of the books. So check out the ones I have now, and stay tuned for more to come before Paladin releases next year! *fingers crossed*

author-photo-mediumBIO: Sarah MacTavish is a small-town Texan with Yankee roots and a heart that belongs to Ireland. In addition to being a writer she is also a teen librarian, incurable Star Wars nerd, and proud Hufflepuff. When she isn’t writing, she’s either gaming, watching British television, or chasing down “just one more hint” on her family tree. Sarah is a member of the Historical Novel Society, and finalist in Novel Rocket’s 2014 Launch Pad Contest in the Historical Fiction category. Firebrand is her first novel.

facebook.com/sarahmactavishtx

pinterest.com/sarahmactavish

Twitter & Instagram: @sarahmactavish

 

Johnnie Come Lately named finalist for literary fiction in the 2016 Kindle Book Awards

October 2, 20162016-kindle-book-review-finalist-johnnie-come-lately-by-kathleen-m-rodgers

What a thrill to learn that my second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is now a finalist in the 2016 Kindle Book Awards. Many thanks to Camel Press for believing in my story about family secrets, redemption, second chances, and scars of war.Johnnie Come Lately kathleenmrodgers, camel press 300

To see the complete list of finalist and semi-finalist, click here.

Winners will be announced November 1, 2016

 

Southern Writers Magazine presents “Giving Johnnie a Voice: How a song and a poem led to an audiobook”

September 2, 2016Johnnie audio in SWM

To read the complete article on how Grammy® Award-winning vocalist Leslie Ellis and I collaborated on the audio edition of my novel, Johnnie Come Lately, click here to order your print or digital copy in the September/October 2016 issue of Southern Writers Magazine.

Audio:

 

 

The Final Salute wins Honorable Mention for Military Fiction in the 2016 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards

September 1, 2016

kathleenmrodgers The Final Salute Honorable Mention 2016
The little book that grew wings and learned to fly continues to ride the thermals. Many thanks to Readers’ Favorite reviewer Michelle Stanley for thinking my novel worthy enough for a 5-star rating in 2015. 

Publication History:

First edition released from Leatherneck Publishing in October 2008. Thanks to the late Neil Levin for believing in me and this book which won a Silver Medal from Military Writers Society of America in 2009. Thank you to MWSA Founder Bill McDonald for the stellar review. In early 2010, the book was featured in USA Today, The Associated Press, Military Times, and many other publications.

E-Book released from Navigator Books in 2011 with a new cover featuring a missing man formation of A-10 fighter jets affectionately known as Warthogs. Thanks to Maria Edwards and Jeff Edwards for giving the book new life.

Second edition (print and e-book) released from Deer Hawk Publications in 2014. Thanks to Aurelia Sands at Deer Hawk for giving my book a new home.

A huge round of applause to all of my readers over the years who were kind enough to invite my characters into their busy lives and then went above and beyond by posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and spreading the word to friends and family.

The Final Salute is the little book that could…

Buy links:

Amazon

B&N

Walmart