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An Interview with Author Brinn Colenda

Former U.S. Air Force pilot Brinn Colenda weaves real-life experience and political intrigue into his military thrillers. Homeland Burning (2018) is the second book in the Callahan Family Saga published by Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. You’ll find Brinn on his website BrinnColenda.us and on Facebook.


What is your elevator pitch for Homeland Burning?
Spring 2000: An international organization launches environmental terrorism attacks across New Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Wildfires destroy western mountain watersheds and municipal water systems, breached dams release tidal waves of water to obliterate farms and towns, and stone-cold shooters target helpless civilians. USAF Colonel Tom Callahan struggles to convince a skeptical U.S. intelligence community that enemy attacks on American soil are not only possible but inevitable. Callahan’s political enemies in Washington conspire to distract the President and ridicule evidence, forcing Tom to go rogue. He’ll need all the help he can get from aviators of the New Mexico National Guard, the Civil Air Patrol, and the Ninety-Nines (an international organization of women pilots).

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I love the Southwest, especially New Mexico, and I wanted to highlight the culture and the geography, both of which are unique. At the same time, the Southwest is particularly vulnerable to the attacks portrayed in Homeland Burning. I wanted to use fiction to point out some public policy issues that need to be considered and discussed without being preachy.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing Homeland Burning?
The research. The characters. The storyline. The people I met along the way that helped—pilots, emergency management people, soldiers, firefighters, rangers, police, even a couple of cabinet secretaries.

How did the book come together?
It should not have taken as long as it did. I got caught up in my job as a councilor—but all those meetings and speeches turned into grist for the storyline. Probably about twelve months of actual writing. I am lucky to be in a superb writing group in Taos, which helped me immensely. Southern Yellow Pine Publishing of Tallahassee had published my second thriller, Chita Quest, the third in the Callahan Saga (yes, I wrote them out of sequence chronologically!), and jumped on Homeland, so I did not have any time delay from finished to published work.

What inspired you to start the Callahan Family Saga books? What sparked the story idea for the second in the series?
I got the idea for Cochabamba Conspiracy, the first book in the series, when I lived in Bolivia. Then I became intrigued with what happens to family dynamics when in danger or under other types of stress. The Callahan family happens to be military—military families are stressed under normal conditions. The stories are about ordinary people put in extraordinary circumstances and how they manage to survive and grow. I read a lot of thrillers so I decided to use that format. The idea for Homeland Burning came to me while I was serving as a councilor for the Village of Angel Fire. We were struggling with how to address the issue of emergency management, especially wildfires, and it occurred to me that the United States could be a prime target for ecoterrorism.

Tell us a little about your main characters.
I always have pilots and flying scenes in the stories. In Homeland Burning, I chose to highlight female aviators because I think they are usually overlooked. I am always amazed at how characters grow or crumble. One of the minor characters kept growing in stature and showed me that you could be gentle and kind without being weak. She became one of the stalwarts of the book, saved lives, taught lessons in humility, and essentially saved everybody. The antagonist went a little nuts and the Callahans were taken to the edge of their capacity to cope. I love my characters and often have conversations with them. They are all strong-willed and often they do what they want, not what I want.

You began your writing career later in life. What did your mature self bring to the writing table that your younger self never could have?
I was lucky in my career—I flew cool planes, lived in distant lands, and worked at reasonably high levels in government. I met many interesting and complex people. I developed a “big picture” of life and of international politics that I did not have as a young man.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
Ken Follett, Isabel Allende, Arturo Perez-Reverte, Daniel Silva, Dick Francis. They all tell compelling stories, beautifully written. I nearly cry when I read Allende and Perez-Reverte. Their translations are better than anything I can write—I can’t even imagine how beautiful their written words would be in the original Spanish.

Do you have a message or theme that recurs in your writing?
My female characters are strong, competent, and confident—able to handle dangerous and often bizarre situations. They are not the kind of women who are usually portrayed in thrillers, but they are the kind of women in my family and circle of friends. I like to take readers to exotic locations to broaden their horizons. I pride myself on the quality of my research so readers learn interesting things as they enjoy the story.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am writing a Young Adult thriller using some of the Callahan characters. It will “star” the Callahan’s sixteen-year-old son as he spends a semester abroad in Ireland and faces a decision between the easy way out and the right thing to do.


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




Author Update: Joseph Badal

Best-selling, award-winning author Joseph Badal uses his experience as an officer in the U.S. military to craft believable and compelling stories. His publishing credits include dozens of articles and short stories, as well as twelve mystery/suspense/thrillers (soon to be thirteen) split between three series and three standalone novels. The six-book Danforth Saga takes readers (and the Danforth family) through the wringer of international intrigue. His Lassiter/Martinez Case Files pits a pair of female detectives against relentless criminals, and The Cycle of Violence series deals with the timely topic of human trafficking. You’ll find Joe on his website JosephBadalBooks.com, his Everyday Heroes blog, and his Amazon author page.


Sins of the Fathers (Suspense Publishing, 2017) is the sixth novel in the Danforth Saga thriller series. How do you keep the Danforth stories fresh, for you as well as readers?
I’ve thought a lot about this issue and came to the conclusion that building the series brand on the backs of Bob and Liz Danforth alone would be a mistake. In order to refresh the series, I now have Bob and Liz’s son, Michael, and grandson, Robbie, playing more active roles. Bob and Liz are still integral to the plot lines, but they now share the spotlight with the next two generations.

What was the inspiration for this book? How did you go about weaving a complex plot that spans the globe?
As with most of my novels, my story in Sins of the Fathers is topical and timely. The conflicts in the Middle East and continued terrorist events in the West and in the Middle East continue to be front and center in the news, so I centered the plot around that theme. I also wanted to introduce Robbie as a bigger player than he was in the previous two Danforth Saga novels, and Sins of the Fathers provided the perfect platform.

You describe the main characters in your books as everyday people. What “everyday” characteristics do your protagonists possess that readers will relate to?
Readers are everyday people. Even those readers who may have performed heroic acts are still everyday people, not superheroes. Protagonists who leap tall buildings in a single bound and dodge bullets are literary superheroes who have no relationship to real people. My protagonists tend to be loyal, have character, and—most of the time—do the right thing. I believe the everyday reader can relate to that type of character.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing Dark Angel (Suspense Publishing, 2017), the second book in your Lassiter/Martinez detective series?
I received so much positive feedback about Borderline, in which I introduced Barbara Lassiter and Susan Martinez as detective partners, that I was anxious to bring them back. Dark Angel gave me the opportunity to convert Borderline from a standalone mystery to the first in a series. The most rewarding aspects of writing Dark Angel are the challenge of writing from a female perspective and the wonderful reviews and feedback I’ve received.

For the Lassiter/Martinez series, why did you choose two female detectives as your main characters versus the alternatives (one main character/different gender choices)?
I try to avoid consecutively writing books in a series. Stepping away from a series, moving to something new, and taking on a challenge are ways to clean my creative palette. Writing a mystery not only offered a challenge, but it caused me to think about doing something different, if not unique, from what’s out there today. Creating a detective team versus a single protagonist seemed like a way to differentiate my story from 99 percent of all the other books out there. And moving from male protagonists to female offered intrinsic challenges that gave me a great amount of satisfaction.

Has your writing style changed since you wrote your first novel?
I think the biggest change in style is that my writing has become less wordy and flowery and more economical. I attempt to write in a way that will avoid the reader stopping to question why I wrote something the way I did. Causing a reader to pause in his consumption of a book can lead to losing that reader.

Of all the books you’ve written, which one was the most challenging, and which one was the easiest (or most enjoyable) to write?
My first novel, The Pythagorean Solution (Suspense Publishing, 2015), was definitely the most challenging because I was learning to write on the fly, with almost no formal training and, obviously, no experience. As far as the most challenging novel I’ve written, I would say it’s always the most recent one I wrote. This is because I know more about writing with each new book, which creates new challenges. I also feel that my most recent book is also the one I enjoy writing the most.

You’ve taught several writing classes over the years. What do many beginning writers misunderstand about telling a story?
The biggest failing I see among beginning writers is that they believe all that is necessary to be published and to be successful is to tell a good story. A good story is the minimum requirement for success. But beyond that, the writer must learn that writing is a craft and that honing that craft is a continual process. I had to learn this the hard way. Today, after I finish the first draft of a manuscript, I spend months editing that manuscript (usually 6-8 edits). In the editing process, I challenge the necessity and appropriateness of every word and make adjustments accordingly. This is a time-consuming, arduous process, but once finished, it adds to the satisfaction of writing.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
My list of favorites is too long to publish here. But, just to name a few, they include Robert Ludlum, Bernard Cornwell, David Morrell, Tony Hillerman, Carl Hiasson, James Lee Burke, Steve Brewer, Elmore Leonard, Steven Pressfield, and James Clavell. What I admire most about all of these writers is that they have developed their unique voice that differentiates them.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I just completed the eighth edit of Obsessed, the second book in my Cycle of Violence series. It will be released in May of this year. I also just finished the seventh edit of a standalone thriller titled Second Chances and am in a rewrite of the third book (Retribution) in my Lassiter/Martinez series.

Find out more about Joe and his writing in his 2016 interview for SouthWest Writers.


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




An Interview with Author Patricia Conoway

It took eight years for former advertising consultant Patricia Conoway to call her first book ready for the public. Her memoir Listening With My Eyes: An Abused Horse. A Mother With Alzheimer’s. The Journey To Help Them Both. was published in 2015. You’ll find Patricia on her website PatriciaJConoway.com and on Facebook.


Why did you write Listening With My Eyes, and who did you write it for?
I wrote Listening With My Eyes to help caregivers—people in the same situation I found myself: with an aging parent descending into Alzheimer’s that had lost her ability to care for herself, or to communicate verbally. Prior to being a caregiver, I’d purchased my first horse, who’d been abused, drugged and had no use for humans. Ignoring advice to put her down, I decided to learn how to understand my horse Dream and gain her trust, which entailed learning her body language and building upon that learning. This in turn helped me better understand my mother and her body language. While we all incorporate body language into our dialogues, it is often on a subconscious level. It took a problem horse plus determination to push through fear—hers and mine—plus many challenges that achieved the goal of feeling safe then having fun with her. My mother exhibited fear not dissimilar to Dream’s as her memory and ability to function waned. I also wrote the book for animal lovers. I believe there is much we can learn from them if we take the time to “listen” and much we can learn about ourselves through them. Hopefully we become better humans because of them.

What do you hope readers will take away from it?
That being present, aware, and “in the moment” provides the “listener” with more and greater information that is extremely empowering. This is increasingly difficult with all our attention-grabbing and distracting computers, phones, etc. Paying attention to non-verbal communication (body language) in any sentient being not only provides the “listener” with greater comprehension, it also empowers the other being in the dialogue, making for richer, deeper, often profound understanding and empathy.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing it?
Along with completing it and seeing the final product, receiving feedback in emails, calls, and letters thanking me for writing it and for sharing my story. When I give talks or do book signings, people want to share their stories with me, ask for my advice, give me a hug and often buy the book! I’ve made new friends, met interesting people, and found the entire writing and publishing experience, though often challenging, well worth the effort.

When did you know you wanted to write your story?
My book began as journal entries, first with the agonizingly slow progress I made with Dream, gaining her trust and respect, then with the challenges and rewards I experienced as a caregiver. Once I began using horsemanship techniques with my mother (and people I had to deal with on her behalf) and got positive results, I took the advice of friends who said, “You need to write a book!”

During the process of writing Listening With My Eyes, it must have been difficult to relive some of your experiences. Did you ever feel scared of something you were writing or of revealing yourself through the work?
It was difficult and sometimes painful to relive some things, mostly the caregiver part. There were unbelievably sweet, tender, and sometimes agonizing things I experienced, along with great “aha” moments, and profound comprehension resulting from self-examination. Revealing myself wasn’t hard, as my goal was to help and empower others in similar situations. Moving forward from the emotional stuff that accompanied the memories was hard. I took weekly, sometimes monthly, breaks but forced myself to push through when I felt able, because I’d committed to completing this project. I also had a great editor who ushered me through items that were better left unsaid, or stated more succinctly or differently, which allayed my fears.

Tell us how the book came together.
From beginning to finished product it took eight years. I self-published, because I wasn’t prepared to wait to get my message into the world. After it was “finished,” I asked friends to read and edit, then hired a professional editor and made extensive revisions. Re-edited and proof read again, made more revisions. A friend did the fabulous photography for both covers. I lucked out with a great graphics designer who also edited, along with designing it. The editing/revising/re-editing/graphics work took a bit over a year.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for Listening With My Eyes?
Many things, mostly about Alzheimer’s. If not addressed/abated within a few decades, it will bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid. It has touched almost everyone in this country in some way. It is on the increase because of aging baby boomers. The horse research was hands-on. Though I’m no longer a novice, I continue to be amazed at their intelligence, curiosity and sensitivity. I continue to learn from them.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
That my book moves people, sometimes to tears, but gives them hope and optimism while they face their own challenges with the aging and death of a loved one. Also, my honesty about how adverse, sometimes painful situations, almost always result in making us stronger, perhaps more capable, empathic human beings.

Do you have advice for discouraged writers?
Do give yourself breaks, but keep your eye on the ball. You’ve no idea the impact you might have on another person or persons with your own unique story and way of telling it. Don’t let anything or anyone get in the way of sharing your thoughts, story, experience.

What writing project are you working on now?
A coming-of-age story about a bright, ambitious young woman who perseveres with her goals in spite of great adversity, disillusionment, and heartbreak.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
That it’s never too late to begin writing a book (or undertake any project) and never too late to finish it. That you will personally expand and grow when you do it. This can be life changing. Take that first step.


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




An Interview with Author Larry Kilham

Retired engineer and entrepreneur Larry Kilham is the author of four science fiction novels, two memoirs, and four other nonfiction books with topics ranging from creativity and invention to artificial intelligence and digital media. Free Will Odyssey (2017) is Larry’s most recent fiction work. You’ll find him on his website LarryKilham.net and on his Amazon author page.


What is your elevator pitch for Free Will Odyssey?
Peter Tesla, a prodigious young inventor, develops an electronic device using artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality to enhance the user’s free will. A major application is drug detoxification. Peter’s star client is the U.S. president. Along the way, Peter is tried for the mysterious death of a girlfriend and struggles with the schemes of a secretive industrialist.

What sparked the initial story idea for the book?
The story idea evolved. I started out writing about free will, and as I followed my characters, they challenged me with the rest of the story ideas. I’m very curious, and as my characters’ predicaments suggested solutions, I researched these with Google and in my extensive library.

Share a little about your main character.
The story is told in the first person. The main character, a technology entrepreneur, is largely a composite of my father and me. We were both entrepreneurs who started small companies. Most of the other characters—lawyers, engineers, high-tech business moguls, etc.—come from my business experience.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Learning about free will, mind enhancing electronics, and drugs. These are all difficult because there are no clear-cut truths. They are all areas of current research. Criminal court dialogue took a lot of effort. I Googled sample court dialogues developed for law students, and I submitted my drafts to lawyer friends.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing Free Will Odyssey?
Stumbling into a potentially important new method of drug dependency treatment and, through the medium of a novel, publicizing it. I hope I can add to the chorus of writers who say that by various methods we can greatly improve the drug rehabilitation process.

How did the book come together?
The novel took about six months to write, a couple of months to edit with several editors including Larry Greenly (of SouthWest Writers), and two months to design the cover, prepare the manuscript in pdf, and submit to Kindle and CreateSpace. I designed the cover myself using a photo from Shutterstock. While that was going on, I also worked with a professional narrator to produce the audiobook.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for this book?
I was surprised by the vast range of differing opinions about what free will is and if it exists at all. Free will has always interested me philosophically. Dostoyevsky used it as a theme in Crime and Punishment, Saint Thomas Aquinas studied it, and popular psychology magazines have recently reviewed free will in terms of current problems like drug addiction.

The Juno TrilogyLove Byte (2013), A Viral Affair (2013), and Saving Juno (2014)—explores whether natural or artificial intelligence will dominate the future. What challenges did you experience in writing this series?
My biggest challenge was writing entirely for fiction readers. Generally, they are new to AI and often reticent about reading stories involving AI. Fortunately, when I was writing The Juno Trilogy, I joined a writing workshop in Santa Fe. We read our chapters to each other every week. The feedback was very helpful.

What first inspired you to become a writer?
I first thought about becoming a writer when, to my surprise, I was picked to be the features editor for my college newspaper. Thirty-five years later, I decided to try writing a book after I was encouraged by my writing instructor, author Joan Torres, at our local community college. The only writing I did before that was trade magazine articles which were, if I may say so, quite good. I didn’t write books earlier because I had to make a good living through a lot of adventurous business travel. Let’s face it, writing generally is a tough way to make a living, let alone prosper.

What writing project are you working on now?
My project for 2018 is to write about my father Peter Kilham who was a great designer, inventor, and visionary. Through a compelling sense of purpose and perfection, he invented bird feeders which brought millions of people happiness. I will share my conversations with him along the way. Everyone can draw inspiration from his story. The book will be something like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Tuesdays with Morrie.


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




An Interview with Author Margaret Tessler

Margaret Tessler is the author of the Sharon Salazar cozy mysteries, five of which have been finalists in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. Her most recent novel, Relative Danger (2017), was originally planned as the 7th in that series but instead developed into a mystery with a new protagonist and a new setting. You’ll find Margaret on her website at Abq-Talespinner.com and on Facebook.


What is your elevator pitch for Relative Danger?
I have two, depending on how many floors the ride takes us: 1) When the family pariah returns to town, she unleashes chaos; and 2) Becca Sandoval must uncover the reasons for the hostility generated by the family pariah and learn what’s behind the sinister order she’s joined.

What sparked the story idea?
All my stories are sparked by some personal incident. In this case, one family member caused quite a bit of dissension within the rest of the family over a particular issue. That was when I came up with the idea of having people wear warning labels. (Disclaimer: The people and incidents in the book have no relation to my real-life soap opera, which eventually fizzled out, by the way.)

Tell us about Becca, your main character.
At one point, Becca describes herself as being like “everyday people.” She’s down-to-earth and unpretentious (her musical tastes include both Alan Jackson and Chopin). She has a good sense of humor. She’s basically kind and sympathetic. People find it easy to confide in her. But her halo isn’t firmly planted, and she can be snarky when the occasion calls for it. One comment I often get from readers is that they like the solid, healthy relationship between Becca and her husband Diego in Relative Danger, and between Sharon and Ryan in the Sharon Salazar series.

How long did it take to finish the book?
I kept getting interrupted in my writing, so it took two years to complete. I shared the story with my two critique groups, which I call my “editorial committee.” In addition, I have three or four beta readers who added their input. Their combined feedback was invaluable.

Relative Danger is a departure from your six-novel Sharon Salazar mystery series. What challenges did this new work pose for you?
Originally, I had planned the story as the 7th in the Sharon Salazar series. Then I was fortunate to find two agents who expressed interest in the initial pages of the story. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t accept something that was part of an ongoing series. Since I’d written only a few pages at that point, I decided it would be simplest to change the names of my characters and set them in Albuquerque instead of San Antonio. I figured if that didn’t sell, I could always go back to my original version. However, as I continued writing, I discovered I liked my new characters and liked keeping them in Albuquerque. Although the personalities and careers of the main characters (Becca and Sharon) are similar, I needed to find ways to set them apart. For example, Sharon has a difficult relationship with her mother; Becca has a very warm relationship with hers.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
I’m always gratified when people tell me they can’t wait for the next book to come out. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who enjoy re-reading my books.

What does a typical writing session look like for you? What do you absolutely need in order to write?
“Typical” for me is mostly hit and miss. It might sound counter intuitive, but I find that writing sparks inspiration and not the other way around. What I absolutely need is to park myself in front of the computer, quit looking for excuses to procrastinate, and start writing.

You published a memoir, Life in the Slow Lane, in 2004. What was the hardest thing about writing that book, and what was the easiest?
The easiest part was that I could use material I’d already written over a period of eight years: weekly family letters plus a daily journal. The hardest part was deciding what to filter out so the book wouldn’t wind up with 100,000 pages.

What do you love most outside of writing and reading?
I have a large extended family, so family activities account for a lot of my time. I also enjoy gardening, and I like to sing and play the ukulele.

Do you have a writing project you’re working on now?
I’m working on a lighthearted mystery with multiple viewpoints that’s totally different from my other novels. It’s giving my brain a break!


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




An Interview with Author Dennis Kastendiek

Dennis Kastendiek uses a lifetime of observation and adds in imagination and a unique voice to create memorable stories. His first book, …and Something Blue: 21 Tales of Love Lost and Found (2017), is an anthology of short stories full of subtle wit and charming characters. When not reading or writing, Dennis plays guitar, helps writers refine their craft at an Albuquerque community center, and serves on the board of directors of SouthWest Writers.


Like many authors, you’ve struggled with your writing. Does the following quote ring true for you? “Fear is felt by writers at every level. Anxiety accompanies the first word they put on paper and the last.” ~ Ralph Keyes
Except for buffoons, plutocrats, and a handful of people suffering from affluenza, I think we all function in an atmosphere of some anxiety. For the writer, it’s “do those words on the page accurately and cleanly reflect the message in my heart and bones and sinew?” Eric Burdon and the Animals had that song with the powerful couplet, “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good/Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” One of my dictionary (Encarta, 1999) definitions of fear is “awe or reverence, as toward God.” Most of us are aware that life involves risk. Sharing a noncommissioned story with a stranger is one such.

When readers turn the last page of …and Something Blue what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
That life can be looked at in so many different ways, from so many different angles. One of my story characters wears an amber pendant, a dying ant captured within its resin. It might be a beautiful piece of jewelry, but a tragedy is captured within its diorama. How must family members of someone who fell into wet cement pilings while a bridge was being built long ago, how do they feel when they cross that bridge today? Conversely, there are joys and raptures that some of us experience from music or sculpture that others of us pass by without a glance. So short answer—to see or feel a little deeper.

Tell us about a few of your favorite characters from the anthology.
Taranjula, Wally, Frank—exaggerated shades of me in each of them. They all go through a crucible and come out, I hope, a little stronger at the end. I hope readers connect because these characters, as flawed as they might be, are basically good at heart and trying to deal with this world as best they can. Carter Hork had his shallow dreams of wealth and luxury. Well, now he has everything to the gills. But he’s also in a kind of arranged marriage, with all the responsibilities and sacrifices and attempt to love that the situation is going to require. Taranjula has to fight for his friends. Craig has to somehow convince Mona of his love and his willing and patient atonement. One of my favorites was Peter Grindle, who wanted to get back to civilization in the worst way, but we haven’t heard from him since 1972.

What part does setting play in your stories?
Setting is a big part of the title story and also looms large in “The Dawn of Civilization.” Interestingly, I have never set foot on a tropical or desert island, or spent time in a castle or in a medieval prison. But the research was fun. Even though I realize that elements in those stories are stretched and zany. Setting, for me, varies in importance from story to story. I do drop hints here or there that we are in Illinois, or California, in a small town bar, at a Michigan B&B. While setting is important, I was influenced early on by minimalists like Raymond Carver or Lorrie Moore. Characters foremost.

How did the book come together?
Sixty-nine years in the making. Some of these stories are from college days in the 70s. Some from the 80s as I crossed my fingers and tried for a few of the “bigs.” I still have my rejection from McCall’s with the hand-scrawled addition, “Nice work but not right for us. Thanks!” And some are relatively new rejections. But I’ve always revised like mad. Some critics find my sentences too lush and run-on. But I was guided in that direction (and I’m thankful for it) by an instructor from the University of Iowa named Ralph Berry who detected “anecdotalism” in some of my early stories. He encouraged richness, flow, the sprawl of a jazz solo riff as the band is winding up its final set. If a reader feels he’s on a magic carpet ride, I’m happy for him. A good story should feel like a ride through time and space.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing …and Something Blue?
I guess it was noticing that I haven’t written the same story over and over. I do some realism. I do some madcap. Some are tragic. Others comic. I coined an expression for some of my stuff that I call “magical claptrap.” A writer conceiving his next story while getting a root canal. A small-town bar and the sudden appearance of Beelzebub’s agent. A newspaper want ad for a professional daydreamer. A little Rod Serling, some William Goldman, a dash of Vonnegut.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
I avoid choosing favorites, which can vary by season, mood, recent experience and so forth, but Kurt Vonnegut, David Morrell, Rod Serling, William Goldman, Doctorow, Salinger and others are certainly up there. And some of their magic is cinematic. From my reading of Morrell and Goldman, I learned they were both heavily influenced by movies. My mother worked second shift at Western Electric when I was a kid, so my grandma often took me to movies for diversion and to get those cool dishes and plates and cups and stuff they gave away. I vividly recall how ANYTHING could happen in the movies. Recently, an interviewer asked a young kid why he liked to read J.K. Rowling’s stories. He looked at her as if she had a screw loose. “I don’t read her stories,” he answered, “I WATCH them.” From the mouths…but what a great way to phrase it.

When did you know you were a writer?
When I was being raised Catholic as a kid, I was intrigued by the confessional. The priest was in the middle and lines formed to the left and right of him. I would see a red light go on shortly after someone entered the booth. I’d look up at the high, high ceiling and wonder how the church paid to heat this huge place. I knew it had to be expensive because my mother and grandma constantly complained about the price of coal that was stored in our basement. Suddenly it came to me. The red light over the confessionals was like the red light on the top of elevator booths. There was probably a big coal mine underneath every church, and the priest was taking these people down to dig coal as penance for their sins. That was why some took longer than others. And how the church was able to afford the heating costs. I puzzled over how their clothes looked so clean, but I figured the priest listened to their sins while they changed into overalls and got their picks and pails and stuff. Then a fast shower before the elevator came up again would explain the beading on some of their foreheads when they walked out of the booth. It would be years before I came to realize the red light was from a switch under the kneeling pads, but my imagination had worked out another answer. I likely had a glimmer then that I could write.


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




An Interview with Author Mary Quinalty

Former journalist Mary Quinalty is an advocate for the immigrant and homeless population in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she volunteers for Catholic Worker House. She spent three years writing her memoir, Mountaintop Milagro (2017), which brings to light a life-changing mountaintop experience she believes can happen to anyone. Visit Mary on her website MaryQuinalty.com and on Facebook.


Why did you write Mountaintop Milagro, and who did you write it for?
I received first-hand knowledge of the power of God when I saw the brilliant light of a vision on a mountaintop in Mexico. It changed my life forever. On the University of New Mexico (UNM) campus, students who had heard about my encounter asked me for an interview. Eagerly, I sat in front of Aquinas Newman Center after mass and answered questions. When I finished, I was astonished to see many students crowded around, taking notes. Week after week, the interviewing continued. It was humbling to shake their hands and look into their young faces, full of desire to know how I could say, “I know God is real.” It was then I realized how many souls could be inspired by my transformative life if I wrote a book. After living a new spiritual life under God’s guiding hand over 25 years, I was inspired to tell every human being, every soul, “It can happen to you.” That gave birth to my book Mountaintop Milagro in 2016.

When readers turn the last page in the book, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
It is my hope that when readers finish the book, they’ll know God has a plan for each one of them. Our challenge is to ask God to show us what that is and then do it.

What was the most challenging aspect of completing this work, and what was the easiest?
The most challenging aspect was re-living the truths I learned of how one attains a close spiritual relationship with God. I faced the pain of realizing what a sinful life I was living. That was the most difficult—and then how to put it all down in words. The rewrites were bitter. I was tormented at the time it happened, and I was tormented re-living it. I leaned on my faith and found it was the support of the religious around me that encouraged me to keep writing. Priests, theologians, teachers, and even my soul mate, knew meanings of the Holy Scriptures that I had missed long ago. The easiest part was working with an editor who patiently helped me find the words that laid it all out. I was a first-time book writer, and I had to learn the basics of how to keep my audience reading. That was a pleasant, enlightening learning experience. It raised the bar on my self-confidence.

When did you know you wanted to write your memoir?
In living my spiritual life, I accepted a divine calling to move to Mexico to a village where extreme poverty prevailed. My goal was to establish a mission site in this underserved third-world country where Spanish was the first language. Me? I couldn’t speak Spanish fluently. The Holy Spirit covered my ineptness as I lived alone and worked among the poor, sick, and suffering. Messenger after messenger appeared suddenly with insights that kept me safe from hostilities and helped me develop an understanding of the people I was there to serve. As we resolved each community problem, I became part of the culture and fell in love with the people, the young ones, the elderly frail.

I kept journals week after week during the ten years I lived there. When I returned home, I brought with me boxes of journals and the photos I’d taken to document life in the village. It all captured the quality of life that had been raised by the efforts of my organization and that of the people of the village themselves. God had richly blessed us all. I knew then I had to tell the story. My book covers the life changes of the two heroes of the book, of my changes and how they all blended to accomplish the mission I envisioned. And it certainly humbled me to know, with God’s help, we had reached our goal of developing a village that could be self-sustaining. All the more reason to write the book.

Is there a scene in your book you’d love to see in a movie?
That has to be the scene where I saw the vision. The wonderment of that scene, my inability to understand what it was. And how I didn’t want to be moved from the scene, my refusal to leave. I was on sacred ground but didn’t realize it. The power of God was like a giant wave sweeping my mind, pulling at me. I wanted to go with it. Later in my religious education, I related my experience to the Holy Scriptures where disciples of Christ threw down their nets and followed Christ. That was exactly my feeling. It’s been over 27 years since my vision, and the tears and feelings I had then are as fresh as the day it happened.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
The best compliment was in a review from Father Rich Litzau, the priest at UNM Newman Center who helped me accurately write the priestly comments and phrases. In his review he says Mountaintop Milagro is “a powerful tale of how God works through individuals over whatever years it takes to accomplish the task. A deeply personal account, written in language that we all can identify with of God being in one’s life in real, quantifiable ways. Mary draws the reader into her experience as one would a fellow traveler on a spiritual journey.”

You’re in the process of writing a sequel to Mountaintop Milagro. What challenges are you encountering with this second book?
Self-publishing Mountaintop Milagro lowered my cash reserves. With that book I learned what a challenge it is to get rejection after rejection from publishing houses and agents who no longer take “first-time” writers. I’m writing the second book, knowing I can’t self-publish it due to low cash flow. I must find a publisher if I’m to see this book in print. I’m hopeful I’ll be successful because the sequel tells the rest of the story. Again, I come back to my faith—if God wants this second book published, he will provide the means.

Do you have advice for other writers?
If self-publishing, don’t enter the marketing field without extensive study of all the avenues of marketing and distribution. Knowledge of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, websites and blogging is essential. In marketing, writers wear a new hat. Be aware that it demands a seemingly endless journey of exposure to the public with dynamics of sales and showmanship, as well as other time commitments. It all taxes one physically and mentally. It can be done, and I’m doing it, but I never imagined how much time and energy it would take.


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




An Interview with Author Ramona Gault

Ramona Gault is the author of Artistry in Clay: A Buyer’s Guide to Southwestern Indian Pottery (1991) and the co-author of The Santa Fe & Taos Book: A Complete Guide (1994). After feeling compelled to write a story about a mother-daughter relationship set in New Mexico, it took five years to complete her debut novel The Dry Line (2014). Visit Ramona on LinkedIn and TheDryLine-aNovel.blogspot.


What is your elevator pitch for The Dry Line?
Anna Darby would do anything for her beloved daughter, Paris, except tell her about her soldier father who was killed in Vietnam. But when Paris gets into a scrape with the law and an old friend asks for a big favor, social worker Anna acts impetuously. They move from Albuquerque to a village where Anna meets Cisco, a combat vet who paints ghosts by day and rides the back roads by night. Will he be the love of her life, or the death of her? And can feisty Paris save Tonio, a strange, neglected boy who lives in a cave? The barely suppressed sorrows of the past erupt in a remote desert village, and Anna and Cisco must figure out whether, and how, they can heal.

When readers turn the last page of the book, what do you hope they take away from it?
I hope they enjoy a page-turning romance/thriller, as well as insight into how the Vietnam War affected ordinary New Mexicans.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I hadn’t written fiction since I was a child. I didn’t have a clue how to write a novel, but I really, really wanted to do it. Figuring it out gave me untold satisfaction.

Who are your main characters?
Anna Darby is, in a sense, every single mother. Fiercely protective of her child, struggling to build them a better life, while dealing with family baggage and great loss in her past. Her own vitality and her desire for love empower her. Cisco is the night aspect to her day. He returned from the war with a pack of demons, but at heart, he’s real gold.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for the book? Is the setting a character in the story?
Setting is definitely a major character! New Mexico works mojo on me. It would take me lifetimes to fully explore this land in my fiction.

Tell us how the book came together.
I wanted to write about the mother-daughter relationship and set it in a New Mexico village like those I’d spent time in. So I envisioned this idea, wrote scenes and an outline. Pages later, the characters and the village came to live in my imagination. My experience is that people in New Mexico’s traditional culture are open-hearted; it’s a more people-focused culture. For me it’s much more satisfying to write about those kinds of relationships. It took me five years of writing after work at my day job.

What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
For fiction, The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot by Charles Baxter and The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer by Sandra Scofield.

Now that you’ve written both fiction and nonfiction, do you have a preference?
Fiction is a joy to write; nonfiction is pure work.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
I love writing scenes of all kinds! If I’m having a hard time with a scene, that generally means I need to take a fresh look at what the scene is trying to do.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m 55,000 words into a mystery novel set in a small town in the South where I grew up.

Do you have advice for writers working towards publication?
Get an editor. Get an editor. GET AN EDITOR! I can’t say it enough. Beta readers can be of help, but in the end, they’re not professionals. I was so eager to see my book in print that I rushed things. Don’t make my mistakes! Find an experienced fiction editor and work with that person to revise, revise, revise. I’m still in love with The Dry Line, but for my new mystery-in-progress, I’m hiring a professional fiction editor to do a developmental edit that will find the weaknesses in plot and character, the stupid gotchas, the parts that don’t work. And this editor will help me shape the manuscript into something marketable. It’s not cheap, but if you value yourself, the investment is worth it.


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




Author Updates: S.S. Bazinet & Zachry Wheeler

Sandy Bazinet (writing as S.S. Bazinet) and Zachry Wheeler both embrace the “what if” potential of speculative fiction. Sandy has published ten books since 2012, between four paranormal fantasy series and two standalone books (one self-help and one picture book for children). Since the publication of Zachry’s debut novel Transient in 2016, he has released two books in his new Max and the Multiverse series. He’s also been busy acquiring a screenwriting credit for Transient which is in development as a major motion picture. (This update focuses on each author’s newest work, but links to their first interviews regarding earlier books are included at the bottom of each section.)


S.S. Bazinet’s newest series, The Madonna Diaries, begins with Dying Takes it Out of You (2015) which follows a gifted artist, Dory, who fights a disease slowly stripping him of his humanity. Brother’s Blood (2016) is the fourth book in The Vampire Reclamation Project. What happens when vampire blood mixes with angelic blood? This book continues Arel’s journey as he seeks to overcome the darkness of his curse and find true fulfillment. A Vampire in Heaven (2016) is book two in Sandy’s Sentenced to Heaven series about the misadventure’s of Alan who is forced to enter heaven after being thrown out of hell and banned from every world in the cosmos.


What sparked the story idea for The Madonna Diaries: Dying Takes It Out of You?
I liked the idea of trying a new genre—and again, inspiration took over. A character named Dory showed up and a dystopian story unfolded. The strange part was I started writing the story from a third person point of view (POV). Then, without meaning to, I began writing from a first person POV. I tried to go back to third person, but as writers know our characters often dictate the how and why of a story. As I continued to write, I realized how rewarding the first person POV can be. I connected more intimately with what my character was feeling. He took me into the depths of his heart as an artist.

You released ten books in a span of four years. How did you keep on track to reach your goals?
My secret is I’m in love with the process of writing. But I didn’t always feel that way. For years, I wanted to write, and I’d start a story, but I was too analytical. The stories never went anywhere. It was only after I surrendered to a sense of just having fun that the inspiration kicked in. Now, writing is almost effortless. However, I do believe in editing and making sure the story is told in the best way possible. I’ve learned that inspiration and learning the “nuts and bolts” of writing are both extremely important. That’s where an organization like SouthWest Writers (SWW) comes in. I’ve learned so much by attending their meetings and workshops.

Book five of The Vampire Reclamation Project (Tainted Blood) is set to release in 2018. After so many books, do the characters still surprise you as their stories unfold?
Yes, the characters are always changing and growing. My main guy, Arel, started off as a recluse. That quickly changed. The stories are full of his interactions with people he considers his new family. Now in book five Arel thinks he’s ready for a relationship. Yikes! As I write the current story, I feel like a concerned mother who’s wishing Arel didn’t have to trip over every landmine in the road. But that’s kind of his nature. Thankfully, his friends and angelic buddies are always there to help him find his way.

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
When I look at all my stories, the overall theme seems to revolve around flawed characters and their journeys back to their authentic selves. For example, Alan from the Sentenced to Heaven series starts off feeling completely justified in being egocentric. When he finds out he has the capacity to care about others, he’s appalled. For Alan, caring really hurts! But once his Grinch heart opens, he’s stuck with the condition. His only option is to go forward. So like it or not, my characters are forced to expand their capacity to relate to others and themselves in a more meaningful, heartfelt way.

Your newest book in the Sentenced to Heaven series, A Vampire in Heaven, takes a lighter look at the supernatural. Tell us about the book and how it came together (and are you having fun writing this series)?
First of all, I don’t decide what to write about. A story, like a baby in a basket, simply shows up on the doorstep of my mind. That’s how I started writing the Sentenced to Heaven series. I opened some mental door and there was Alan, a rebellious soul who was such a one-of-a-kind rascal that not even hell would have him. Luckily, Raphael, an angel who ran a part of heaven, took Alan in when nobody else would have him. But for Alan the thought of living forever in heaven was the worst of punishments. Again, the story is told from a first person POV. And yes, I love writing about Alan’s adventures. He’s very funny. He’s always fighting the system, but he’s learning how to care about others along the way. He’s also made friends. They include some of heaven’s pet population. A dog name Nippy sees Alan’s good side and becomes a trusted companion. I’m currently working on the third book in the series.

How has your writing style changed since you wrote your first novel?
Hopefully I’m better able to create an emotional atmosphere the reader can relate to. I was very pleased by a recent review of The Madonna Diaries: Dying Takes It Out of You. The reviewer said, “Wow, from the get-go, this story grabs you by the throat.” Another person called it a “beautiful, heart grabbing book!”

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m in the final editing stages of book five of The Vampire Reclamation Project. Hopefully, book three of the Sentenced to Heaven series will come out in 2018. But I’m most excited about a new romance series I’m writing! It’s called Open Wide My Heart, and I can’t help but spend most of my days working on book one. If all goes well, it might come out around Valentine’s Day 2018.

Read more about Sandy and her writing in her first interview for SWW. You’ll find her on her website S.S.Bazinet.com and her Amazon author page.


After Zachry Wheeler gave readers “a re-imagination of vampire lore through the lens of science fiction” in his first novel Transient (2016), he offers us a humorous look at a teenage gamer’s dull life turned bizarre in Max and the Multiverse (2017). Book two in the series, Max and the Snoodlecock (2017), continues the misadventures of Max and his band of quirky space jockeys.


What is a Snoodlecock, and how did you come up with the name? And while you’re at it, define multiverse.
Ha! I get that question a lot these days. Without giving too much away, a snoodlecock is a colorful bird-like creature. Max, the protagonist, described it as a “disco chicken.” The name arose from several tedious brainstorming sessions. I wanted it to be unique, funny, weird, and compelling all at the same time. That’s why I dedicated this book to my wife: For Evelyn, who suffered through every dumb name before snoodlecock.

The multiverse is another name for parallel universes, the theory that our universe is one of an infinite number of concurrent universes with infinite variations.

What sparked the story idea for Max and the Multiverse?
Whenever a story revolves around parallel universes, there is always a reason to interact with them, often in the form of a mission (think Stargate and Doctor Who). But, I got this nutty idea of someone being forced to interact with the multiverse, some random nobody who bumbles through new realities against their will. The story sprung from there.

Tell us about your main protagonist and his sidekick Ross.
From the first book’s cover blurb: “Max is a teenage gamer with an exceptionally dull life. That is, until a bizarre accident leaves him with the ability to shift between parallel universes, but only when he falls asleep. Every time he wakes, he confronts a distressing new reality, be it talking cats or 80s pop culture.” That sums him up pretty well. Ross is his orange tabby cat, more of an indifferent prick than trusty sidekick. He speaks with a British accent and berates Max every chance he gets.

Transient is dark and serious; your Max series is the opposite. Does writing humor come naturally to you? What’s the hardest thing about weaving humor into a story?
I feel comfortable writing on both sides of the spectrum, but I enjoy humor more. It comes naturally to a point because I have always loved stand-up comedy. The structure of a good joke has always fascinated me, so I spent a lot of time studying it. The hardest aspect of writing humor is maintaining subtlety. I’ve seen authors go for a big punchline, only to botch the delivery and leave the reader confused. You need to trust your readers to derive the humor from the narrative. Don’t just tell them a joke.

In your last interview for SWW, you said the most difficult aspect of world building for Transient was the creation of a believable sociopolitical environment. What about world building for Max?
The world building for Max is sooooo much easier than Transient. Writing a story inside the multiverse gives me the freedom to do anything. I can throw the protagonist into any “what if” scenario because the multiverse validates it at a conceptual baseline. The humor comes from how he handles the shift.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
Douglas Adams has been my favorite author since childhood. I even dedicated Max and the Multiverse to his memory. One of my readers, also a big Adams’ fan, told me he loved Max more than The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I nearly cried.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
I wish I had known that writing is the easy part. Ninety percent of authorship has little to do with writing. It’s editing, publishing, networking, marketing, all that tedious stuff. It’s much like leveling up in gaming. Once you grind it out, then the game begins.

If time and money weren’t a concern (or if you possessed a magic ring), what skill would you like to learn or acquire?
One of my longstanding dreams is to be an astrophysicist. I have been a space junkie for as long as I can remember. If I could wave a magic wand, I would join the ranks of Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

What do beginning writers misunderstand about telling a story?
Many think that world building is a step, not a process. One of the hallmarks of poor writing is info-loading the beginning of a story. Skilled writers know how to dole out info during the narrative, usually near its relevance.

Do you have a favorite how-to writing book you’d like to recommend?
Stephen King’s On Writing. That one book gave me more practical knowledge and insight than every other book, blog, and article combined.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Now that Max and the Snoodlecock is out, and with the Transient movie in development, I’m switching all of my focus to the Transient sequel. I have the entire series mapped out, just need to hunker down and get to work.

Find out more about Zachry and his writing in part one and part two of his first SWW interview, and connect with him on his website ZachryWheeler.com.


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




An Interview with Author David Yasmer

Author and singer/songwriter David First goes to sleep at night dreaming of his next great song or book chapter. Writing as David Yasmer, he published The Secret Psychic Files: The Men Who Caught Ted Bundy (2017) after waiting decades to verify the real story surrounding the capture of one of the most infamous serial killers in U.S. history. To learn more about David, follow him on Facebook and visit his author page on SouthWest Writers.


What is your elevator pitch for The Secret Psychic Files?
Days after serial killer Ted Bundy was executed, George C. Brand Jr. (head of the Chi Omega murder task force and lead detective who caught Bundy) gave one exclusive taped interview—it was for this book. If the information he revealed had gotten out before the execution, Bundy most likely would have had grounds for an appeal, and he may even have been acquitted. In 2014, after 25 years of requests for the files Brand spoke about in the interview, the Leon County Sheriff’s Department finally released the psychic files. More than 3,600 pages confirming Brand’s bizarre, nightmarish story.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
The greatest challenge was confirming the story. Just getting the sheriff’s department to release the psychic files took 25 years. Most of the law enforcement people involved did not want to revisit the investigation. No one wanted to confirm the psychic’s role until I revealed I had Brand on tape talking about him. Once they knew I had interviewed Brand, everyone told me the same thing: It’s all true. The second biggest challenge was writing it as factual as possible based on the files, sometimes even damaging people. For example, one of the victims supported her lavish lifestyle by being an elite prostitute to Tallahassee’s executives and powerful state politicians.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing it?
Telling the story and getting feedback that people are truly enjoying it. Those who experience psychic episodes often say to me, “I’m glad you wrote this, because it lets people know it does happen for real.”

How did the book come together?
I wrote this book because of a promise I made to George Brand in 1980. He liked a few of my country songs and one night asked me what I wanted to do after college. I said, “Write books.” He told me to find him after Bundy’s execution because he had an exclusive story about the investigation if I promised to write and publish the book. In 1989, after Bundy’s execution, I found Brand working for Florida State University concessions. We sat in his Doak Campbell Stadium office where he made sure the tape recorder was working and fulfilled his promise.

At first I wrote the book based only on Brand’s interview. Publishers weren’t interested in the actual investigation, they only wanted first-hand dirt on Bundy. I set the book aside but kept requesting the files hoping one day to confirm the story, maybe write something publishers would be interested in. In 2014, I made one last request for the files. This time I got them. Wow, did that change everything. It took me another three years to rewrite it, go through several editors and edits, and finally have a great book based on the actual case files and Brand’s interview, as well as interviews with other people involved in the story.

The costs for the different types of professional edits was worth it. I have learned it will never be finished in my mind. When professional editors break out the ruler and begin smacking the hell out of your typing fingers, you get the feeling it’s time, it’s finished, and ready to release to the most important people of all, the readers.

Tell us about your main characters.
George Brand Jr. was a deeply religious, spiritual Southern Baptist. Brilliant and a true out-of-the-box thinker. A problem solver who never lost sight of his investigations. Sheriff Ken Katsaris was a man of science who wasn’t very spiritual and was obsessed with re-election. He was a great college professor before being elected sheriff in 1976 but a terrible, egotistical sheriff who drove everyone nuts. Richard (the secret “Hippie Psychic”) was Jewish, smoked pot, and believed his dreams would solve the case. The sheriff believed Richard was involved in the Chi Omega murders and would kill again. The hippie’s notes and visions were too exact with details only the killer could possibly know.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for The Secret Psychic Files?
Everything in the files were surprising! From the written ultra-homophobic comments to the level of sexual abuse and rape women often endured in 1978. Also, the stupidity of reporters obsessed with printing information that not only helped the killer but put witnesses’ lives in danger. The list goes on, but I’d say read the book and find out.

Why did you decide to use a pen name?
I chose my pen name to honor my family’s real name. My father was adopted by German Jews. My real grandfather’s family was Turkish. The name Yasmer means “a singer (of stories).”

How has the creativity and discipline you employ as a musician influenced your writing?
Great songs have interesting beginnings, usually a story to tell in lyrics, an enjoyable hook and a good ending that makes you want to sing along or just listen to the music over and over. Great books are the same way. The rest of the discipline is either practice, practice, and practice again, or write, write, and rewrite again.

What is the hardest thing about writing?
The marketing after being published. It’s a full-time job, and it takes you away from creating new stories and, in my case, music. My advice is to take a break, take a breath, and take the time to love what you’re doing, then go back to getting booked for radio, newspapers, TV shows, and book signings like the other 100,000 people who publish a book each year.

What are some of your favorite books?
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Why do you think people enjoy reading true crime stories?
I like what Alfred Hitchcock once said—murders sell tickets. The rest is how you tell the story.

What is the best advice you’ve received on your writing journey?
My mother gave me this great advice when I was 17 and starting to write stories and music: “Never stop, never quit, and never give up. There are two ways to live life: wish I had, glad I did. Which one will you say you lived when you want to teach your grandchildren something?”

What projects are you working on now?
A musical (Deadly Hearts, Deadlier Diamonds) and an erotic novel of healing and discovery (Mystical Silver Waters).


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




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