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.
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.
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
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:
In her poignant memoir, Losing Tim, iconic writing instructor Janet Burroway writes about the death of her son, a former Army ranger and government contractor. “Every suicide is a suicide bomber. The intent may be absolutely other—a yearning for peace, the need to escape, even a device to spare family. Nevertheless, the shrapnel flies.”
A few years ago, I was struck by shrapnel, and I’ve been carrying a heavy chunk of it inside me ever since.
We’re all aware of the startling statistic, twenty-two veteran suicides a day, but the statistic never hit a personal note until the violent suicide of a Marine Corps friend. In the wake of that tragedy, my friend left behind two teenaged daughters and a slew of Marine friends who wondered what we could have said or done that might have made a difference to a friend who had become so disillusioned with his civilian life he ended it with a gunshot.
His suicide came shortly after the release of my memoir, Eyes Right: Confessions from a Woman Marine. For several months, I’d been answering a number of emails and Facebook requests from veterans who were eager for writing advice. Everyone has a story, and every story matters, whether that story is written for self-reflection, a family legacy, or for publication.
But after my friend’s suicide, I stopped the cutting and pasting of advice snippets from one email to another and began to develop On Point, the first writing guide for veterans and their families. Frankly, I was searching for a way to make a difference—for a way to reduce that 22-a-day statistic that sent shrapnel flying into the hearts and psyches of twenty-two families and countless friends every, single, day.
It’s no secret that getting an appointment with a health professional at a VA can sometimes take so long that a veteran gives up. It’s also no secret that transitioning from the military into civilian life is more difficult for some. But could a writing guide, I wondered, written by a veteran for fellow veterans and families, fill a gap? After all, most mental health professionals use writing, and other forms of art, in their programs for cognitive processing therapy.
My gut said yes, and here’s why. Writing about our military experiences, even if we decide to turn our true stories into fiction, helps us develop a deeper understanding about our life, our decisions, and the motives behind our decisions because meaningful writing comes from identifying meaningful patterns. Meaningful writing requires a self-awakening. When we write, we’re training ourselves to search deeply for motive behind choices, whether we’re writing about ourselves in a memoir or essay or about the characters within our military short story or novel.
In On Point, Brooke King, a soldier who served in Iraq and who admittedly suffers from post-traumatic stress, shares how writing helps. “It helps to make sense of what is happening to you,” she said. “In Cognitive Processing Therapy, a veteran with PTSD is asked to confront their traumas head-on by writing down the incident, and then connect the feeling associated with it. I didn’t think writing was helping at first, but I kept doing it because it was the only way I knew how to express myself.”
When I first shared the premise for On Point with friends and fellow writers, most assumed On Point would be a guide exclusively for the military veteran with a war story. Not so. Not every military story is a war story. I never saw combat in the 1980s, but my story of overcoming self-limitations, gender bias, and abuses of power still found its way into the world.
On Point is a guide for writing the military story. If you are serving in the military today, or have ever served, On Point is for you. If you are, or have been, a member of a military family, On Point is for you. In Red, White, and True, I included a number of true stories from spouses and grown children, and their essays are just as compelling as the essays from Iraq War veterans. And if you are the parent of a military son or daughter, you, too, have stories about how military service has affected you; at times you have probably felt pride, worry, fear, betrayal, resentment, anger, and other strong emotions.
On Point may have been born out of grief over losing my Marine Corps friend, but over time, the book grew as a wish to inspire a cross-generational sharing of the military experience–and where needed, a healing.
“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.
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?’ ”
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
“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.
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.
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.
A war memorial plays a significant role in my latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately.
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.”
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
He’s not about to give up your secrets—the secrets you pour
into him from this bench. Dark things hidden behind bronze
At 6: 45 a.m. on the 1st Cavalry parade ground, Fort Hood, TX, we welcomed home our youngest son, 1st LT J.P. Rodgers, from his deployment to Afghanistan. Instead of my usual gift for gab, I’ll let these photos speak for themselves.
For sixteen years I believed in this novel. Snarled at rejection. Revised. Raised two sons. Sold stories to national magazines. Stayed true to my dream of finding a traditional publisher. And then it happened. On my 50th birthday. Then USA Today, The Associated Press, & Military Times took notice. And now almost six years after the original publication, my little book that grew wings and learned to fly is back in paperback and e-book.
Kathleen M. Rodgers is the author of the award-winning novel, The Final Salute, featured in USA-Today, The Associated Press, and Military Times. The novel soared to #1 on Amazon’s Top Rated War Fiction in 2012 and is being reissued by Deer Hawk Publications Sept. 9, 2014.
Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press February 1, 2015.
“With Johnnie Come Lately, Kathleen Rodgers has crafted a story that hits every emotion and is, in many ways, cathartic. This deeply-felt family drama resonates on multiple levels, ultimately leaving you inspired.”
Angela Ebron, former magazine editor and the author of Blessed Health.
Besides writing novels, Rodgers’ work has appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, Family: The Magazine for Military Families, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Albuquerque Journal, Clovis News Journal, Her War Her Voice, “Spouse Buzz” at Military.com, Women’s Independent Press, and in the following anthologies: Because I Fly ( McGraw-Hill), Lessons From Our Children (Health Communications, Inc.), Stories Of Faith And Courage On The Home Front (AMG Publishers), Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand (Press 53), and Red, White and True (Potomac Books, an imprint of University of Nebraska Press).
She is a recipient of a Distinguished Alumna Award from Tarrant County College/NE Campus 2014. She lives in a suburb of North Texas with her husband, a retired fighter pilot/commercial airline pilot, and their dog, Denton. Her oldest son, a working artist, is a graduate of University of North Texas and resides in Denton, TX. Her youngest son graduated from Texas Tech University and is currently deployed to Afghanistan.
I’ve written about them often over the years. About their hell-raising good times at the Officers Club, living life to the fullest…on the edge of the envelope at a speed faster than the rest of us.
I’ve written about them at other times, too, when they have slowed down to a snail’s pace. When a hush goes over a squadron of men like a black veil because earth and sky have collided and one of their brothers isn’t coming home. A young wife is widowed, a child left fatherless, an older couple wandering around confused, their future of grandchildren and the good life destroyed in a fireball. “Weren’t we supposed to go first?” they ask.
So when my essay “Remembering Forgotten Fliers, Their Survivors” first appeared in the pages of Air Force Times, March 16, 1992, I felt a sense of joy mixed with sadness. Joy because I was happy to have another byline in a national publication that treated me like a professional, but the sadness came from the fact that once again I had written about loss––the loss of fighter pilots dying in peacetime training missions. This subject would be the driving force behind my debut novel, The Final Salute, first published in 2008.
Fast-forward twenty-two years later and the republication of my essay in a prestigious new anthology titled “Red, White, & True,” released from Potomac Books, an imprint of the University of Nebraska Press. Edited by Tracy Crow, a former Marine Corp officer and an award-winning military journalist and author nominated for three Pushcart Prizes, this provocative and powerful collection presents thirty-two true stories about the enduring impact of U.S. military service from WWII to present. The writers include a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a novelist with a New York Times Notable book award for 2012, and a writer seeing his name in print for the first time.
Today, I take pride in the fact that my story made the final cut as it “passed for review” in front of Tracy Crow and her editors at the University of Nebraska Press. Sometimes my job as a writer is to give a voice to those who are no longer living. In my own small way, I help keep their legacies alive. In Chapter 3 on pages 16 – 20 of “Red, White, & True,” I give a voice to the names of too many good men who flew west before their time.
This collection of powerful true stories would make a great gift.
Kathleen M. Rodgers’ stories and essays have appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, and in anthologies published by McGraw-Hill, University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books, Health Communications, Inc., AMG Publishers, and Press 53. In 2014, Rodgers was named a Distinguished Alumna from Tarrant County College/NE Campus. Three of her aviation poems from the book Because I Fly (McGraw-Hill) were featured in an exhibit at the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island, NY.
She is the author of the Amazon #1 Top Rated war fiction, The Final Salute, featured in USA Today, The Associated Press, and Military Times. In 2009, the novel won a Silver Medal from Military Writers Society of America, and in 2016, The Final Salute received an Honorable Mention for military fiction from Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards.
Seven Wings to Glory is Rodgers’ third novel and releases from Camel Press April 1, 2017. Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, has garnered several awards: 2015 Gold Medal for literary fiction from Military Writers Society of America, Bronze Medal for women’s fiction from Readers’ Favorite 2015 International Book Awards, Finalist for literary fiction in the 2016 Kindle Book Awards, First Place Winner for women’s fiction from Texas Association of Authors 2016 Best Book Awards, & 2015 Best Cover Awards from Southern Writers Magazine. The novel has been featured in Family Magazine, Stars & Stripes, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Morning News, Southern Writers Magazine, and on “The Author’s Corner” on Public Radio. The audio edition is narrated by Grammy® Award-winning vocalist and Broadway Actress Leslie Ellis.
She and her husband, Tom, a retired USAF fighter pilot/commercial airline pilot, reside in a suburb of North Texas with two big dogs, Denton and Jav. The mother of two grown sons, Thomas and J.P., she is currently working on her fourth novel. You can find Rodgers online at: www.kathleenmrodgers.com