Watercolors Inspired by Seven Wings to Glory

April 2, 2017

Seven Little Girls by Jenny Zovein
Mama’s ’59 El Camino at Johnnie’s House by Jenny Zovein
Mama at War Memorial by Jenny Zovein (Johnnie Come Lately & Seven Wings to Glory), published by Camel Press.

 

Early in the writing of my third novel, Seven Wings to Glory, I reached out to watercolorist, Jenny Zovein, whose work I’d admired on Facebook. Her whimsical style appealed to me and I wondered if she could paint a few scenes to inspire me as I worked to bring the story to life.  She agreed and we arranged a time to discuss the project by telephone. Each time she sent me a completed painting, I propped it up in front of my computer and felt the spirits of my characters come to life.

To see more of Jenny’s work, please visit her art page on Facebook.

Seven Wings to Glory is published by Camel Press and is available in print and e-book at most online booksellers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

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.

 

Johnnie Come Lately Short Listed for Somerset Book Awards

February 11, 2017

My second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, moved up from finalist to the short list and is in the final rounds of judging for the 2016 SOMERSET Book Awards novel competition for Literary, Contemporary, and Mainstream Fiction. The Somerset Book Awards is a division of Chanticleer International Book Awards and Novel Writing Competitions.

The sequel, Seven Wings to Glory, releases from Camel press April 1, 2017. The novel can be read as a standalone story.

As an American novelist, I realize it’s a privilege to write fiction. I never want to take my freedom of expression for granted.

 

 

Artist Jenny Zovein creates watercolor depicting key scene from Johnnie Come Lately, an award-winning novel

March 28, 2016

Mama at war memorial by Jenny Zovein (Johnnie Come Lately, published by Camel Press).
Mama at war memorial by Jenny Zovein (Johnnie Come Lately, Camel Press)

 

Author’s note: In the following passage from my novel, Johnnie Come Lately (Camel Press), the protagonist, Johnnie Kitchen, is standing at the kitchen sink reflecting on her mother who’s been missing for twenty-three years. Johnnie’s husband, Dale, spotted Mama at the war memorial the day before. 

Chapter 16

“Go Army”

Her mind drifted to the empty bench in front of

the war memorial a few blocks to the west. She imagined a

woman, limber and lithe, making her way to the bench. Once

seated, the woman tilted her head and said something to the

soldier. Then the birds scattered and the woman rushed away,

leaving nothing behind. As if she’d never been there.

“What are you thinking so hard about?”

Startled, Johnnie turned from the window and caught Dale

gazing at her.

The cherry tomatoes were still cupped in her hands. Water

dripped everywhere. She swallowed. “Mama.”

Amazon & B&N

 

bio for artist Jenny Zovein for Kathleen M. Rodgers' novel, Johnnie Come Lately (1)A note from the artist:

My name is Jenny Zovein. Colorado has been my home for the last 47 years. I was born in Pennsylvania in 1949. Shortly before my first birthday, my family moved to Colorado. During my childhood I lived throughout the United States in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Utah, California, Alabama, and Maryland. Doing a full circle brought me back to Colorado in 1969. I am retired and spend many hours doing my artwork. I started when I was a little child but only started watercolor painting in 2014. 

I am the mother of two grown children. My son and his wife live in San Francisco and my daughter lives near me. They both give me inspiration to continue what I love doing.  

I was fortunate to travel to Europe and visited Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France, and England. This trip was a big factor in my love for art and culture.

To see more of Jenny’s work, click on the following links:

Jenny’s art page on Facebook

Jenny at Paintings I Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colleyville Book Club welcomes Johnnie Come Lately author Kathleen M. Rodgers

December 9, 2015

FR L-R Kathleen M. Rodgers, Tari Sanchez Bauer, Shirley Miller, Top R L-R Patricia Dede Larmon (holding portrait of Mandie Bauer), Shelley Stults, Tuula Westlake, Julie Moore, Sharon Nunez Couch. Photo by Mandie Bauer
FR L-R Kathleen M. Rodgers, Tari Sanchez Bauer, Shirley Miller, Top R L-R Patricia Dede Larmon, Shelley Stults (holding portrait of photographer Mandie Bauer), Tuula Westlake, Julie Moore, Sharon Nunez Couch. Photo by Mandie Bauer

 

Many thanks to members of the Colleyville Book Club for their warm welcome and lively discussion about my second novel, Johnnie Come Lately. As an author, it’s so gratifying to be invited to a serious book club where the members show up having read your book, some with notes in hand, and are eager to meet you and discuss a story that took six years to bring to life.

Hostess Tari Sanchez Bauer @ Colleyville Book ClubA big round of applause to hostess Tari Sanchez Bauer for selecting my novel for the December book club pick and a special thanks to her daughter and cohost, Mandie Bauer, for taking the photos. Deep into the discussion, Tari brought an element of magic to the evening when she shared a powerful and personal story about why cardinals are so meaningful in her life. The framed cardinal and centerpiece on her table is a gift from her daughter, Mandie.Hostess Tari Bauer' table for Johnnie Come Lately (1)

Not only were the members eager to discuss my novel, they also wanted to learn more about how the city of Grapevine, TX influenced the setting for my fictional Portion, hometown to protagonist Johnnie Kitchen and her family.

Everyone is excited that I’m working on the sequel to Johnnie, titled Seven Wings to Glory. Kathleen M. Rodgers signing Johnnie Come LatelyThanks to this great group of readers, I came away from the evening with a renewed sense of faith in my work and a whole new set of friends.

 

Kathleen M. Rodgers reads from her novel, Johnnie Come Lately, for The Author’s Corner on Public Radio

Updated August 1, 2015 

“The Author’s Corner® on Public Radio show celebrates new books with brief authentic readings by authors. Enjoy best-selling authors and emerging stars in this fresh nationwide series available free to air on 500 “NPR” stations nationwide, from Maine to Guam.” Click the photo to listen to me read a brief passage from my latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately.Kathleen M. Rodgers reads from her novel, Johnnie Come Lately, for The Author's Corner on Public Radio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why there’s no “happy” in Memorial Day

Updated May 27, 2016

Mama at war memorial by Jenny Zovein (Johnnie Come Lately, published by Camel Press).
Mama at war memorial by Jenny Zovein (Johnnie Come Lately, published by Camel Press).

The following passage is from my second novel,  Johnnie Come Lately.  (Reader discretion advised).

     Johnnie was about to rave on Granny’s baked beans

when Callie Ann piped up, “Hey, D.J., tell everybody what

happened this morning when you went to buy cigarettes.”

     D.J. looked up from his plate. He put his fork down and

cleared his throat.

     “So, I’m standing in line at the 7-Eleven. The guy in front

of me pays for his stuff and says to this young female

cashier,‘Happy Memorial Day.’ Man, I thought that chick

was going to come over the counter. She shoves the guy’s change at him and

snarls, ‘What’s so fucking happy about Memorial Day?’ ”

     Johnnie cringed.

     Before anyone could say something, D.J. picked up his

plastic fork and stabbed at a pile of baked beans. “Sorry about

the F-bomb,” he apologized. “I’m just reporting what I heard.”

     Johnnie took a deep breath and reached for Brother’s head.

As usual, he was at her side, waiting for a scrap to fall. She

needed to hold onto the one member of the family who wouldn’t judge her.

Wouldn’t judge any of them.

     Running her fingers through his soft fur, she said what

needed to be said.

     “Well, considering that my father died in war, I have to agree

with that young lady at the 7-Eleven. There’s absolutely nothing

happy about Memorial Day. It’s a day set aside to honor the

war dead.”

 

Johnnie Come Lately (Camel Press)

 

The author hugging her youngest son, former Army 1st Lieutenant (P) J.P. Rodgers, before his deployment to Afghanistan in 2014.
Hugging my youngest son at Fort Hood before he deployed to Afghanistan in 2014. He earned a Bronze Star for time in combat.

 

 

 

 

 

Author Kathleen M Rodgers welcoming home her youngest son, 1st Lt. J.P. Rodgers, from Afghanistan.
At the homecoming with my youngest son (oldest son to his right). My youngest is now a 1st Lieutenant in the US Army Reserves. In 2012, his roommate from Officer Candidate School was KIA by an IED. Everyday is Memorial Day for the family of 2nd Lt. Travis Morgado. This is why we can never associate the word “happy” with Memorial Day.       

“I’m frustrated by people all over the country who view the day as anything but a day to remember our WAR DEAD. I hate hearing “Happy Memorial Day.” Jennie Haskamp, United States Marine Corp Veteran, for Washington Post.

 

Gypsy Muse Studio hosts author Kathleen M. Rodgers for Main Street Days in Grapevine, TX

Posted May 16, 2015

Gypsy Muse Studio 106 E Texas St, Grapevine, Texas
Gypsy Muse Studio, 106 E Texas St, Grapevine, Texas
L-R Literary agent Jeanie Loiacono, Claudia Hackett, Rhonda Revels, and author Kathleen M. Rodgers gather on the lawn of Gypsy Muse Studio in Grapevine, TX for Main Street Days. Kathleen signed copies of her novels, Johnnie Come Lately & The Final Salute.
Jeanie Loiacono, Claudia Hackett, Rhonda Revels, and author Kathleen M. Rodgers gather on the lawn of Gypsy Muse Studio in Grapevine, TX for Main Street Days. Kathleen signed copies of her novels, Johnnie Come Lately & The Final Salute. 
Kathleen with Claudia Hackett, who drove from Memphis, TN to meet Kathleen in person. Claudia and Kathleen met on Facebook years ago.
Kathleen with Claudia Hackett,  who drove from Memphis, TN to meet Kathleen in person. Claudia and Kathleen met on Facebook years ago.

 

 

Johnnie Come Lately’s fictional setting takes place in Portion, Texas, modeled after Grapevine. Anyone familiar with the area will recognize certain locations along historic Main Street, such as the Palace Theater and the corner bank building at Worth and Main. The cemetery along Dooley Street plays prominently in the story, as does the nearby lake.

L-R Claudia Hacket, Kathleen, and Meredith, an aviation mechanic from Savannah, GA who stopped by Kathleen's booth and left with autographed copies of Johnnie Come Lately and The Final Salute.
L-R Claudia Hackett, Kathleen, and Meredith, an aviation mechanic from Savannah, GA who stopped by Kathleen’s booth and left with autographed copies of Johnnie Come Lately and The Final Salute.

 

 

 

 

Johnnie Come Lately deals with the repercussions of a heat-of-the-moment confession, a son’s enlistment during wartime, and many other issues that American families deal with day to day. At the heart of the story is a woman whose mama has been missing for several years and the family secrets surrounding her disappearance.

Kathleen with Faith, the 14 year-old granddaughter of one of the owners of Gypsy Muse.
Kathleen with Faith, 14 year-old granddaughter of one of the owners of Gypsy Muse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

War Memorial in Johnnie Come Lately by Kathleen M. Rodgers

Posted April 14, 2015

A war memorial plays a significant role in my latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately.
Photo courtesy Brian Brown/Vanishing South Georgia
Photo courtesy Brian Brown/Vanishing South Georgia

 

Siobhan Fallon, Army wife and author of the critically acclaimed collection, You Know When the Men Are Gone, says this about my novel:  Johnnie Come Lately evokes the pathos of family life—secrets, betrayals, misunderstandings, heartbreak, and just enough love and forgiveness to make it all worth it. Kathleen M. Rodgers treats her haunted characters with keen insight and empathy, offering them the second, third, fourth chances that all of us flawed human beings need.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnnie’s Journal

December, 1979

Portion, Texas

 

Dear Mama,

I’m up here at Soldiers Park, hoping you might come

swaying by with the breeze. Most of the leaves have dropped

and it’s getting cold. I asked the old soldier, the one you talk to

from time to time, if you’d happened by here lately, but he just

stands high on his pedestal, armed and ready, and gives me the

silent treatment.

He’s not about to give up your secrets—the secrets you pour

into him from this bench. Dark things hidden behind bronze

eyes that only seem to come alive for you.

Pick up the novel at www.johnniecomelately.com

 

Johnnie Come Lately & The Final Salute are available at Barnes & Noble, Southlake, TX

February 14, 2015

Southlake Barnes & Noble 1430 Plaza Place Southlake, TX 76092 

Johnnie Come Lately and The Final Salute are available at Barnes & Noble in Southlake, TX (located minutes from DFW Airport). Both titles are upstairs in the Fiction and Literature department.

Autographed copies of Johnnie Come Lately and The Final Salute at Southlake, TX Barnes & Noble 2/14/15
Autographed copies of Johnnie Come Lately and The Final Salute at Southlake, TX Barnes & Noble 2/14/15

Johnnie Come Lately is set in the fictional town of Portion, Texas, a North Texas suburb based loosely on Grapevine, TX. The Final Salute is set at fictional Beauregard Air Force Base, based on England Air Force Base which closed in December of 1992.

 

View of the lobby and people waiting for me to sign books

 

A few days after my February 7, 2015 book signing at Barnes & Noble in Southlake, TX,  I received a surprise message from Dr. Cindy Ryan, a minister at First United Methodist Church of Grapevine, TX. Dr. Ryan read about my latest novel in the Sunday book section of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Feb. 1, 2015), ordered the book, then fell in love with the story. She is an active member of her church’s No Stress Book Club, and she’s picked Johnnie Come Lately for their March selection. On March 25th, I will have the honor of attending  their meeting to discuss my novel.

Both books are also available in paperback and e-book at most online booksellers.

Author & Journalist Deborah Kalb interviews Kathleen M. Rodgers about her latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately

February 2, 2015

Author and journalist Deborah Kalb grew up watching her famous father on CBS News, NBC News, and as the moderator of Meet the Press. In 2011, Deborah appeared with her father and co-author, Marvin Kalb, on C-SPAN2 BOOKTV where they discussed their book, Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama (Brookings Institution Press), with moderator and television journalist Ted Koppel.

Deborah Kalb with her father and coauthor, Marvin Kalb, discussing their book, Haunting Legacy, with Ted Koppel on C-SPAN2 BOOKTV in 2011.
Deborah Kalb with her father and coauthor, Marvin Kalb, discussing their book, Haunting Legacy, with Ted Koppel on C-SPAN2 BOOKTV in 2011.

 Johnnie Come Lately kathleenmrodgers, camel press 300On Monday, January 26, 2015, Deborah called me to discuss my latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately. The first thing Deborah said was, “I loved Johnnie Come Lately. Your characters are so well drawn.” She also told me how much she enjoyed the journal entries woven throughout the narrative. To read our full interview, please visit  Books Q & As with Deborah Kalb.

Marvin and Deborah June 27 2012

 

 

 

Deborah Kalb is a freelance writer and editor. She spent two decades working as a journalist in Washington, D.C., for news organizations including Gannett News Service, Congressional Quarterly, U.S. News & World Report, and The Hill, mostly covering Congress and politics. Besides co-authoring Haunting Legacy with her father, Marvin Kalb, she is also co-author or co-editor of two books published by CQ Press (The Presidents, First Ladies, and Vice Presidents; and State of the Union: Presidential Rhetoric from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush).

You can follow Deborah on Twitter ‪@deborahkalb‪  or 

https://www.facebook.com/DeborahKalbBooks

Johnnie Come Lately made the Sunday book section of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

February 1, 2015

Johnnie Come Lately made the book section of the  Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the same day the novel was released from Camel Press, a traditional publisher based in Seattle, WA. While the country was tuned into the Super Bowl, I was still celebrating the official launch of a book that took six years to complete.Johnnie Come Lately in Fort Worth Star-Telegram kathleenmrodgers

 

Book Launch for Johnnie Come Lately, Barnes & Noble, Southlake, TX
Date: Saturday, February 7, 2015
Time: 2-4 p.m.
Where: 1430 Plaza Place, Southlake, TX 76092 (Southlake Town Square)
817-442-0735
I will also be signing copies of the 2nd edition of The Final Salute

Johnnie Come Lately in book section of 2:1:15 Fort Worth Star-Telegram kathleemrodgers

Stars & Stripes columnist Terri Barnes interviews Kathleen M. Rodgers about her new book, overcoming struggles, and more…

 

Terri Barnes, columnist for Stars & Stripes
Terri Barnes, columnist for Stars & Stripes

 

What an honor to be featured in Terri Barnes‘ popular column in Stars & Stripes! After Terri read an advanced reader copy of my forthcoming novel, Johnnie Come Lately, she offered to endorse it and she also requested an interview. We talked for over an hour. Please click the red link to read the story she gleaned from our conversation.

http://www.stripes.com/blogs/spouse-calls/spouse-calls-1.9571/defeating-a-monster-1.307741

 

 

 

 

Terri’s endorsement for Johnnie Come Lately, forthcoming from Camel Press 2/1/15

“The Kitchen family could be any wholesome All-American family, and like any family, they have secrets. In Johnnie Come Lately, Kathleen Rodgers brings to life an extended family that could be yours or mine. Their secrets will draw you into this book, and Rodgers’ characters — from Johnnie Kitchen to her lovable chocolate lab, Brother Dog — will jump off the page, grab your heart, and won’t let it go until the very end.”

Terri Barnes, author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life and a columnist for Stars and Stripes 

Terri’s full bio:

Terri is the author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life and is the special projects editor at Elva Resa Publishing. A well-respected columnist, Terri is the writer and creator of the weekly Stars and Stripes column Spouse Calls, which first appeared in 2007. Now published in print editions worldwide and online, Spouse Calls serves as a voice for military spouses and families, through personal stories, incisive interviews, news analysis, and interaction with readers. Terri has been a member of the Washington, DC, press corps and has contributed to several other books about military life. Her work has appeared in Air Force/Army/Navy TimesThe Huffington Post, and Books Make a Difference, as well as newspapers, magazines, and base publications in many of her adopted hometowns around the world. Her other media appearances include CNN Newsroom, Positive Parenting with Armin Brott, and Semper Feisty Radio with USMC Life. 

 

 

Seven Wings to Glory: My bravest novel yet

(Updated March 16, 2017)

Display of talismans and symbols for Seven Wings to Glory. I draw inspiration from creating a small still life depicting certain aspects of my novel.
Display of talismans and symbols for Seven Wings to Glory. I draw inspiration from creating a small still life depicting certain aspects of my novel in progress.

 

Summary:

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.

To read more about Seven Wings to Glory, please visit my website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories In Uniform: One Editor’s Perspective on Military Short Fiction

Editor Jeffery Hess
Editor Jeffery Hess

I had the pleasure of meeting Jeffery Hess in 2009 at the annual Military Writers Society of America conference in Orlando, FL. Jeff was there to receive a Gold Medal for his anthology of short fiction  Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform published by Press 53. That same year he appeared on The Dennis Miller Show. In 2013, Press 53 released Jeff’s second book Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand. An excerpt from my latest novel Johnnie Come Lately appears in this edition. In the following article, Jeff explains his criteria for selecting the stories that appear in both anthologies. 

 

By Jeffery Hess

cg56 moored bowThe proudest moment of my Navy enlistment came on the morning of December 7, 1989 as I stood in my dress blues on the bow of the USS San Jacinto, looking at the row of other ships pier-side at Norfolk Naval Station. Our ship had only been back a few days from a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean and Black Seas. I was due to receive my Honorable Discharge the following week and my task that morning was to raise the Union Jack, which I did, as the sailors aboard the other ships did at the same time. All these years later, I’ve never forgotten that moment. It was a routine, daily task, but one that I’d never been assigned until that day. Even then, I knew it was a way of honoring my service while also honoring every sailor at Pearl Harbor forty-eight years earlier.

As I write this, it is June 6, 2014 and I have a similar honor, because as you may know, today happens to be the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. Instead of raising the Union Jack, I’ve been asked to write a few words about how I came to select the stories included in a pair of military-related anthologies. It’s a fitting occasion to discuss all things military, which I’m always happy to do, in a humble effort to honor and remember everyone who has worn a uniform, as well as anyone who has been affected by someone who has.

press 53 logoThat was my hope in publishing the two Home of the Brave anthologies of military short fiction with Press 53.

As a reader, writer, editor, and teacher, some of the most fulfilling work I’ve been lucky enough to have done involves assembling and editing stories for these two anthologies.

Over the years, people have asked why I enjoy sticking to the military theme. For me, it seems the stakes tend to be higher in stories of this sort. Hemingway said, “War is the best subject of all. It groups the maximum of material and speeds up the action and brings out all kinds of stuff you have to wait a lifetime to get.”

 

2009 Gold Medal Winner from MWSA
2009 Gold Medal Winner from MWSA

I don’t read military journals exclusively, but I do enjoy finding military stories in regular journals and collections. I’m always amazed by the way in which writers interpret the topic.

Writing military fiction, myself, I learned from the stories I read. My stories focus on the Navy, Cold War era, mostly, but as an editor, I was given insight into a world of military experiences I had no way of knowing about first hand. This is another reason people read.

In addition to securing reprint rights to well-known stories by Kurt Vonnegut, Tim O’Brien, James Salter, and Tobias Wolf, I sought out other great stories from writers who aren’t as well known, but should be—writers like Pinckney Benedict, Benjamin Percy, Fred Leebron, Amber Dermont, Tracy Crow, and Court Merrigan, to name a few. But I also worked with up-and-coming writers, some I’ve known for years, many others I’ve never met. For both volumes, I received submissions from all over the country. Not all of them were perfect. Many had potential, but needed polishing. A number of stories I chose needed a lot of work, sometimes, more than I bargained for, but there’s just something magical about the excitement of finding a character in a situation that people need to read, no matter the shape the manuscript might be in, and helping the writer achieve his or her vision and then sharing it with the world.

 

Spring 2014 MWSA Recommended Reading List
Spring 2014 Recommended Reading List from Military Writers Society of America

I put together the second anthology in the aftermath of Seal Team 6’s killing of Osama Bin Laden. There was a lot of “heat of battle” stories flooding in. It seemed battle-front stories were everywhere during this time. But, violence is only one segment of the equation. I’m also curious about the other portions of the conflicts.

Tolstoy famously wrote, “…each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Everyone in uniform has a family and friends and neighbors. I’m interested in a mother’s reaction. In how the wives feel. How new fathers fear what might become of their sons.

During my selection of stories, I recalled favorites I’d read in the past and I contacted the authors to get permission to include their stories, often this involved contacting publishers. I sent emails to every writer I know telling them what I was looking for. Some offered me stories. Others sent people my way. Some did both.

Narrowing the search quickly became an issue. So much material was being generated on this topic, I could pick and choose. My main criteria was based on Interest and Impact.

To gain my Interest, the stories have to convey a sense of authenticity. Whether stories about direct military action or a civilian’s reaction to what they see on the news, I need evidence to prove (or, at least, provide the illusion) that these people and these worlds are absolutely real.

Aristotle said, “For the purposes of story, a convincing impossibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility.”

 

HOTB:SITS launch party in WInston-Salem, NC. Pictured are: Jeffery Hess, Jim Walke, Paul Strobel, Robert Wallace, Tracy Crow, and Joseph Mills.
Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand launch party in WInston-Salem, NC. Pictured are: Jeffery Hess, Jim Walke, Paul Strobel, Robert Wallace, Tracy Crow, and Joseph Mills.

To make an Impact on me, I have to care about the characters. I look for the stakes Hemingway mentioned, as well as how each character deals with their situations. As this is fiction, I willingly grant creative license, because it’s the emotional truth that we’re after. This requires a connection to the characters, their physical, emotional, and intellectual selves.

The stories that received an automatic rejection were the ones that were faked or half-assed.

Ultimately, I looked at how each story made me feel when I finished—if it made me say, Wow, Damn, or Oh no, or if it just left me shrugging and reaching for another one. And, most importantly, did the story make me think about it after I put it down?

The one element I found in common with all the stories I selected is passion. Whether about a wounded warrior or a worried widow, or about a mother or children, or overcoming enemies on either side of the wire, or any of the other scenarios that appear in these stories, each of them separated themselves from a number of stories that lost out due to the writers having a good idea, but not a true passion for the topic. During the process of finding these stories, I came to learn that the passion for the characters and their situations is contagious.

Tell us something, we’ll forget it. Show us something, we’ll see it. Makes us feel something and we’ll remember it.

This approach isn’t limited to stories about military events. The notions of authenticity and specificity make characters memorable no matter if they’re war heroes, gangsters, housewives, siblings, psychopaths, depressed boomers, or a Harry Potter wizard or whatever he is. My goal, with the forty-six stories selected for inclusion in these two volumes, is that they become memorable to readers for years to come, because, as Calvin Coolidge said, “The nation which forgets its heroes will itself be forgotten.” That won’t happen on my watch.

About Jeffery Hess

Jeffery Hess is the editor of the award-winning anthology Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform, and the recent follow-up, Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand (both from Press 53). Prior to earning a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte and a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of South Florida, he served in the U.S. Navy aboard the fleet’s oldest and then newest ships. He’s published a number of short stories that recall this period of his life in print and online journals. He’s held writing positions at a daily newspaper, a Fortune 500 company, and a university-based research center. He lives in Florida, where he’s completing a novel and has, for the past six years, led the DD-214 Writers’ Workshop for military veterans.

Helpful links:

-Home of the Brave anthologies website:

http://www.press53.com/HomeoftheBrave.html

-Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/HomeOfTheBraveStoriesInUniform

-Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/HomeOfTheBraveSomewhereInTheSand

-Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform – Amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/Home-Brave-Stories-Jeffery-Hess/dp/0982441606

-Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand – Amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/Home-Brave-Somewhere-Jeffrey-Hess/dp/1935708856/ref=la_B00DIEBKMM_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401910392&sr=1-1

-DD-214 Writers’ Workshop website:

http://www.dd214writers.org/

 

Jeff appeared on The Dennis Miller show June 10, 2009 and again on June 4, 2013.
Jeff appeared on The Dennis Miller show June 10, 2009 and again on June 4, 2013.

-Dennis Miller Interview – June 10, 2009

https://www.dennismillerradio.com/b/Jeffery-Hess-Interview/6373.html

-Dennis Miller Interview – June 4, 2013

https://www.dennismillerradio.om/blog?action=blogArchive&blogTag=Jeffery%20Hess

-Tampa Tribune article about Anthologies and Workshop:

http://tbo.com/list/military-news/out-of-navy-veterans-labor-of-love-new-anthology-is-born-20130624/

-Interview with Jeffery Hess

http://rkvryquarterly.com/interview-with-jeffery-hess/

Kathleen's author bio as it appears in Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand
Kathleen’s author bio as it appears in Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand