Tag Archive | World War II

Running on Red Dog Road

drema-portrait   Drema Hall Berkheimer, author of Running on Red Dog Road
And Other Perils of An Appalachian Childhood
visits with us today. If you haven’t read her book you have missed a wonderful time remember your own childhood.

Drema what has been the biggest surprise to you in writing your book?

How hard it was. Physically, spiritually, and creatively hard. If I’d known that before I started, I might have taken up mountain climbing instead. Writing RUNNING ON RED DOG ROAD and Other Perils of an Appalachian Childhood exacted a merciless toll. Gut punched, I needed to catch my breath. I didn’t write a word for over two years. I gave out, but I never gave up. Somewhat battered, I finally managed to drag myself over the finish line— after six years (or was it seven?) the book was finished.

I didn’t understand why this writing thing was so painful. My childhood was happy. No one so much as raised a voice to me, much less a hand. It was a puzzle. Then I realized that all the family I wrote about were dead, except for me.

Robert Frost said, No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. If that is true, I did him proud, because I, who never cried, shed buckets as I unearthed my Appalachian kin, long dead and gone on to Glory, and buried them again. Once again I mourned them, this time from a place of gratitude. With tears, yes, but also with joy.

No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader. Frost continued. Surely there couldn’t be any more surprises. After all, I knew the stories of my life because I lived them. No surprises there. But I was wrong. I was surprised again and again as I dredged seventy-year-old memories up from the murky past. Some lost detail would resurface—eyebrows that squirmed like wooly worms, buttons shaped like daisies, a gypsy skirt swirling red and purple and magenta. Something that added authenticity. Something I didn’t even know I knew. And then it turned out I did. I find one of the daisy buttons in Grandma’s button jar. A friend tells me she remembers that gypsy skirt. Hair on my neck prickles each time.

What is the one thing you enjoy most about writing?

Sometimes I think I don’t enjoy writing at all—I enjoy having written.  Writing is a bloody process, best suited for those who are drawn to self-flagellation while sipping a bile-colored kale drink like the one I have for breakfast every morning. People like you and me. Someone told me writers are divided into planners and pantsters, the latter being seat-of-the-pants types. I have a friend who is a planner. He spends months, years, planning. He makes graphs and pie charts and pages of character bios and scene sketches. He talks about reliable and unreliable narrators and points of view and the merits of first person or third. My eyes film like a lizard’s just thinking about it. I ask how his book is going. He claims he’s working on it.

I am not a planner, but that’s most likely a fault, so don’t mistake this for bragging about it. I sit down and peck out a first line. More lines follow. Some are okay. Some I cut or tweak all the goody out of them and have to go back and untweak. My husband says that’s because I don’t know when I’m finished. I grudgingly admit to that possibility. But now and again, there’s a line I fall in love with. Head over heels. Where did that come from, I wonder, looking admiringly at my perfectly ordinary fingertips. I’ve heard an altered state of mind is experienced by many, maybe even most, writers—not all the time, but on occasion. Once I saw a shirt that said, “I don’t write, I just take dictation.” That’s when your muse is sitting on your shoulder whispering precisely the right word or punchy sentence in your ear. It can neither be bidden nor forbidden. It just is. That’s the one thing I enjoy most.

What author do you like to read?

I’ve been immersed in memoir, so I’ll name just a few of the many on my list. I have read and reread Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and use a quote from her book in mine. I love the raw simplicity of Maya Angelou. I relate to Homer Hickam’s Coalwood series, because they’re books about growing up in the same West Virginia region and era as I did.  I’m an admirer of Mary Karr. Next on my list is  J. D. Vance’s  brilliant NYT bestseller, Hillbilly Elegy.

Tell me about your book.

red-dogrrdrfinalcover-197x300Sure, but first let me explain what red dog is. Mining companies piled trash coal in a slag heap and set it ablaze. The coal burned up, but the slate didn’t. The heat turned it rose and orange and lavender. The dirt road I lived on was paved with that sharp-edged rock. We called it red dog. Grandma said, Don’t you go running on that red dog road. But I do.

Gypsies, faithhealers, hobos, moonshiners, and snakehandlers cavort through my life in 1940s West Virginia after my father is killed in the coal mines and my mother goes off to work as a Rosie the Riveter during World War II, leaving me in the hands of devout Pentecostal grandparents. Grandpa, a retired coal miner turned evangelist, preaches hellfire and salvation while Grandma sews my piano recital dress from a surplus silk parachute and tries to keep Uncle Ed from drinking the rubbing alcohol, all the while praying I don’t fall into disgrace. Celebrating hardships, humor, and heroics of life in small-town West Virginia as seen through the eyes of a precocious and somewhat irreverent little girl, it is a journey of life and death—of searching for my own truths while coming of age in a multi-generational family of saints and sinners whose lives belie their own stereotypes. RUNNING ON RED DOG ROAD and Other Perils of an Appalachian Childhood was released in April by Zondervan, a HarperCollins Company. It is a living, breathing history of a bygone time and place.

And a red dog road runs through it.

drema-child                                                          dreama-children

What’s next for you?

All the stories I’d left untold compelled me to start another red dog road book. It will cover the same time period and characters as the original, so it will be a companion book rather than a sequel. The working title is STILL RUNNING ON RED DOG ROAD, More Appalachian Tales I Meant to Tell You.

What do you do for fun?

My husband and I have kept a boat at Lake Texoma for over thirty years. It’s a great boat, with all the comforts of home, an escape from life in the big city. So, of course I go to the lake. Wait, actually I don’t. I used to, but I don’t anymore—at least not often. I stay home. I answer interesting questions from interesting editors. I host Salon Quatre, a quartet of award-winning writing friends who have met at my house monthly for eight years, my favorite day of the month. I visit with friends and talk with old classmates and with children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren scattered about the country. And remember, I still have a book to write. I’m telling myself it will be fun.

Thank you Drema for visiting with us today.

Susan, thanks for allowing me to share some of my journey with your Southern writers and readers. I want them to know it is never too late to make a dream come true. Impediments are mere bumps in the road. Use them as stepping stones to reach your possibilities. Many may say you can’t. Dismiss them all. Only one may say you can. Believe that one.

I’ve read your book and found it delightful, full of wonderful people, people I wish I would have known. I must tell you, I did shed tears and laughter reading this book, for it brought back to my memory wonderful times in my own childhood and the precious people that were once a part of my life that are now gone.


Be sure and visit Dream she would love to hear from you.



Susan Elia MacNeal-The Maggie Hope Mystery Series

susan mcneildownloadWelcome, New York Times-bestselling author Susan Elia MacNeal. The author of the Maggie Hope Mystery series. She is the winner of the Barry Award, and her books have been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, and Dilys Awards.

Thank you for visiting with us today.

Thank you for having me.

roosevelt         Your newest book in your series is MRS. ROOSEVELT’S CONFIDANTE, which released October 2015. Tell us a little about it.

England’s most daring spy, Maggie Hope, travels across the pond to America, where a looming scandal poses a grave threat to the White House and the Allied cause. December 1941, soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill arrives in Washington, D.C., along with special agent Maggie Hope. Posing as his typist, she is accompanying the prime minister as he meets with President Roosevelt to negotiate the United States’ entry into World War II. When one of the First Lady’s aides is mysteriously murdered, Maggie is quickly drawn into Mrs. Roosevelt’s inner circle—as ER herself is implicated in the crime. Maggie knows she must keep the investigation quiet, so she employs her unparalleled skills at code breaking and espionage to figure out who would target Mrs. Roosevelt, and why. What Maggie uncovers is a shocking conspiracy that could jeopardize American support for the war and leave the fate of the world hanging dangerously in the balance.

Sounds most intriguing. No wonder everyone wants to read it. You received accolades from “O:The Oprah Magazine, where they said, “You’ll be Maggie Hope’s loyal subject, ready to follow her wherever she goes.” Congratulations on that praise. Every author would love to receive praise from that magazine. The Minneapolis Star Tribune also praised your book, as did Booklist who said, “A treat for WWII buffs and mystery lovers alike. And it is that Susan.

Thank you.

The Maggie Hope novels have been nominated for the ITW Thriller Award, the Sue Federer Historical Fiction Award, and the Bruce Alexander Historical Fiction Award. 

This is wonderful to have all this exposure for your books and accolades.

You’ve blended meticulous research on the era and psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character, Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel. They are simply wonderful reading.

mr churchill's secretaryYour debut novel in this series was Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Tell me about it.

The series I think captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it. In this book, set in London, 1940 Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. Graduating at the top of her college class, she possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.

You have done a superb job on this series. I want to thank you for visiting us today. Please let us know when your next book releases. Don’ want to miss it.

Visit Susan at www.susaneliamacneal.com. Let her know how much you are enjoying her series.




Dan Verner-A Multi-Talented Writer

dan verner31jJsuCSLZL._UX250_Dan Verner, you truly are a multi-talented writer. From your 32-year career teaching English and creative writing to high school students, and writing, human relations and computer skills to adults. You’ve scored essays for the College Board, contributed columns and articles to local papers, and managed Free Lance Writing, your own writing, editing, and consulting business. You’ve authored over 1000 short essays and devotionals on a variety of subjects, and maintain three blogs.

That is impressive. I would love to have your energy.

Thank you for visiting with us today. We’ve made your favorite drink for the winter, a hot cup of coffee.

Your third book in your Beyond the Blue Horizon Series, On Wings of Angels,  was released this year. Tell us a little about it.

wings of angels This book continues the saga of Otto Kerchner, the airplane-obsessed Wisconsin farm boy who becomes a hero of World War II.

What brought about the writing of this story?

 I have had an almost life-long interest in aviation and World War II. When I saw a picture of a young bomber pilot from that war, I felt I knew all about him and could write a novel about his life. That image helped inspire a series that now numbers three books, with another on the way in January.

 Is there a purpose behind the story that you want your readers to know?

My purpose was to tell a good story that would honor the members of the Greatest Generation who gave us the world we know and enjoy today.

What was the most challenging part in writing this story?

The most challenging part of this and my other novels is finding my way at the midpoint. I work without an outline, letting the characters and historical events guide the narrative. Once I overcome this challenge, it’s downhill from there. But I do have a few anxious moments.

 Did it require a lot of research and if so what kind?

In a sense, I have been researching this book since I was five. More recently, I used online sources, books, movies, articles, television programs and, most valuable of all, interviews with World War II vets and their families. Talking with them was an honor.

What’s next?

On Wings of the Morning is the first book in a series called Beyond the Blue Horizon. On the Wings of Eagles (Book Two) and On the Wings of Angels(Book Three) are out, while On the Wings of Grace (Book Four) releases in January. On the Wings of Faith (Book Five) is in manuscript and On the Wings of Midday (Book Six) is half written. I’m fortunate that these books come fairly easy to me, and I can write a first draft in about three months.

Thank you for visiting with us today. I am anxious for your new book to release in January 2016.

 Remember, visit Dan at his website www.danverner.com   and