Blog Archives

An Interview with Author Gabrielle Dorian

Author and attorney Gabrielle Dorian marries courtroom experience with witty banter and memorable characters in her debut romantic comedy Waking Up in Vegas (2018). When she’s not writing or practicing her magic in the Land of Enchantment’s legal system, you’ll find her rollerblading or kickboxing. Connect with Gabrielle on her website at WritingWithTheSharks and on Twitter.


What is your elevator pitch for Waking Up in Vegas?
A stop-and-go divorce case spurs a stop-and-go romance between opposing counsel on the case.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Formatting. The characters communicate with each other via text occasionally throughout the book, and I wanted the text messages to appear in the book as they would look on a phone screen. Now that that’s been accomplished, it is proving to be a challenge adapting the text messages for the audiobook script. Fortunately, I am working with a creative audio team, and I think it’s going to be great.

What was your favorite part of this writing project?
I loved the moments when I made connections between something that had happened earlier in the story with a later part, where something cool could happen, just because I had fortuitously set it up. Maybe it was there on some subconscious level. I’m willing to give myself some credit. But it felt like I had a lot of serendipitous “aha” and “yay” moments where I was able to work something back into the story, which gave it a lot more depth.

How did your book come together?
I had been happily single for about seven years when I met someone (not opposing counsel on a case, but an attorney I met in court) who made me question my views on relationships. But that relationship ended just as quickly as it began, and I was left wondering: What just happened? I started working through my thoughts on relationships, using writing, and a story developed out of it.

The first draft was completed in about nine months, and then the book went through two major editing rounds (which included a few additional rounds targeting specific chapters). It took about two years and some change  from initial idea to the time I hit “publish” on Amazon KDP.

Why did you choose Las Vegas, Nevada as the setting for the book?
I chose Vegas as a backdrop for a few reasons. Although it is almost as easy to get married in many other states (no blood test required, no waiting period), there is still a common perception of Vegas as the destination for a spontaneous marriage or quickie divorce. One thing I discovered about Vegas in my research is that the County Clerk’s office is open sixteen hours a day, which, coupled with the legal public drinking and ongoing party atmosphere, probably does allow for (if not encourage) a higher rate of spontaneous weddings than in other states. I also enjoyed juxtaposing Mallory’s character (somewhat introverted, career-focused, risk averse) with the stereotypical outlandish Vegas setting.

Tell us about your main characters.
The two main characters are attorneys. Mallory, a talented estate planning attorney, is reluctant to leave her comfort zone. Tyler, a brazen divorce attorney from Chicago, starts off on the wrong foot, looking like a smug jerk to Mallory. He quickly wins over Mallory’s paralegal, Amanda, and Amanda convinces Mallory to give Tyler a chance.

I really enjoyed writing Amanda, because she has a lot of qualities I wish I had, plus a ton of confidence and minimally censored sassy responses. My favorite character to write was actually Tyler’s mother, Quinn. Completely uncensored and unapologetic, Quinn is the free spirit who enters into a spontaneous marriage that sets the whole story in motion. Those close to me have pointed out commonalities between me and several of my characters.

Did you discover anything interesting while doing research for Waking Up in Vegas?
I searched for “crazy things people do in Vegas” online, and read a lot of interesting stories. Only one anecdote ended up becoming the basis for a minor character in my story, but describing it would spoil one of my favorite surprise moments in the book.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write, and what do you do to get over this hurdle?
I find it difficult to write scenes involving dialog in a group of people because the reader has to be able to tell who is talking, and because there must be action (a lot of people just standing around talking gets dull quickly), and again, the reader has to be able to tell who is doing what. I hate using a lot of dialog tags, but when more than two people are talking in a scene, I have accepted the need to use more tags to identify the speakers. I try to make each character’s voice as distinguishable as possible and to pair a character’s action with the speech to minimize the necessity of tags.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am currently working on the second book to follow Waking Up in Vegas, tentatively titled Chicago is So Two Years Ago. I am also working on a series of short stories about lawyers, more dramedy than romantic comedy, to be released close to the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” in 2019. I blog about lawyers, being a female attorney, and dating on my website. Finally, I am working on a screenplay about gym rats—a modern day bromance.


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




An Interview with Author Thelma Giomi

Author Thelma Giomi is a novelist, award-winning poet, and a psychologist. She used her personal experience with chronic illness and as a caregiver, as well as her years in the medical arena, to fashion her newest release, Shatter My Heart (2018). You’ll find Thelma on her website ThelmaGiomi.com and her Amazon author page.


What is your elevator pitch for Shatter My Heart?
Shatter My Heart is a dynamic story that immediately immerses the reader in the lives of four friends. Individually and together they face and overcome some of life’s most devastating challenges—invisible illness, loss, infidelity, and the demands of commitment to each other. They emerge from these challenges with poise and compassion to become the heroes of their own lives.

Tell us a little about your main characters.
Lauren loves working as a psychologist in a medical setting but is haunted by persistent and undiagnosed symptoms of her own. She remains a steady force finding ways to live with her illness and its consequences while finding delight in life and never losing her compassion for others. Emotionally wounded surgeon Ian Blackburn is running from his own sense of compassion. He is tormented by his feelings of helplessness to cure his wife or care for his son. Ian and Lauren’s love story is a compelling drama filled with shifting moods and events as Ian spirals to near self-annihilation. Lauren’s best friends, Paul and Nikki Fiori, live their lives with passion, humor, and an acceptance of life’s challenges. The couple provide a sanctuary for Lauren in her darkest moments.

What themes do you explore in the book?
One of the major themes pervasive in Shatter My Heart is that taking care of each other is the only thing that really matters in life. Nikki, Paul, and Lauren all demonstrate this throughout the book in their care and commitment for each other. Another theme is that “reality cannot be fooled.” As Lauren’s symptoms (like many with “invisible illnesses”) are dismissed or trivialized by the medical profession and others, Paul reminds Lauren of the reality of what she is experiencing and urges her to not give up. Throughout this novel Lauren and others must find in themselves what Camus calls “an invincible summer.” As challenges and crises occur in their lives the characters in this book find ways to live not only constructively with the challenges, but with an ability to continue to find pleasure, shared happiness, caring and compassion. The novel also addresses who a healer is and the consequences of running from fears and vulnerabilities.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
One of my challenges was to incorporate into the story my own experiences and those of others living with invisible illnesses while letting Lauren find her own voice and speak her own truth. Another challenge was in researching Lauren’s different medical issues by interviewing professionals and patients to provide authenticity to the scenes and events. For me, as with anyone living with a chronic illness, writing this novel posed a constant need to balance writing times with the physical manifestations of Systemic Lupus.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing Shatter My Heart?
The most rewarding aspect is the emotional feedback I have received from readers. It affirms my vision and hope for this book—that it offers the reader an engaging story with complex and compelling characters and that it reaches a wide and diverse audience. Hearing from a variety of readers with their different experiences and points of view has affirmed that this book offers compassion to those living with chronic illness as well as insight and understanding to those who have not experienced the life challenges and consequences of such illness. Many reviewers have said that the story is “well told.” That is a goal we storytellers strive to achieve and perhaps one of the best evaluations one can receive.

Tell us how the book came together.
The story emerged while I was listening to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. I envisioned a couple, the man casting a shadow over the woman, and realized that this could embody a story of how the couple faced some devastating challenges in their lives and survived. My next thought was that this could be the way to tell the story of invisible illness and its impact on individuals, their families and friends. I began to see how writing a good story with engaging and passionate characters would reach a wider audience than the limited one my nonfiction writing (and speaking) had reached before. Writing this book included the very essence of what it is like to live with chronic illness and remain creative while experiencing its random and unpredictable episodes. The book grew in spite of my physical limitations and never being able to write on a schedule.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for this book?
What surprised me most was the development of the Fioris’ friendship with Lauren and how it grew despite her mounting health challenges. They became intimately involved in helping Lauren find answers to her symptoms and life challenges, even including her as a beloved family member. Their compassion was very touching to me. I was also surprised by how little medical professionals know about Lupus and other invisible illnesses and how rarely they look for these diseases when presented with ambiguous symptoms. As I interviewed and met others with invisible illnesses, I was surprised by how ubiquitous my experience was. In researching this book, I came to have deeper respect for those medical professionals that never lose their compassionate connection with their patients. Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” I can truly say as I wrote this novel, and as I read it over, there were still tears and surprises.

How has your work as a poet influenced your fiction writing?
Through my poetry I have always hoped to connect with the unearned challenges life brings us and embrace new perspectives and constructive alternatives to coping. Writing Shatter My Heart has allowed me to do this in fiction as well. In my poetry I use imagery and sensual experiences to bring the reader into an intimate connection with the words. I think I was able to carry this over to my novel. Writing poetry also has enhanced my fiction work with a sense of rhythm and pace that can be mesmerizing as it captures the reader’s attention and changes their breathing.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
While my mother was in hospice she asked me to read my poetry to her each day. One morning she said, “Your words fill the room with beauty. How beautiful life could be if your poems touched everyone. Please promise they will be published so that your words will find the ones who need them.”

What writing projects are you working on now?
I have many projects in the works including a sequel to Shatter My Heart which will answer many of the enthusiastic questions I have received from readers who want to know more about the characters and their lives. I have finished compiling a book of meditations written by my sister. Church of My Heart will be released next month. I am also in the process of preparing Beagle Blues about the adventures of a little beagle who gets into everything with an exuberant innocence. When completed I will offer this book to rescue groups, vets and others to mitigate some of the cost of caring for abused or abandoned dogs. And I am completing my new collection of poetry which I hope to have ready for publication later this year. Other projects include contributions to anthologies, my website and blog, and public speaking and workshops on the two topics prominent in my life—writing and coping constructively with chronic illness.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I love feedback from my readers and would appreciate their comments on my website at ThelmaGiomi.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. Kathy has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




An Interview with Author Gail Hamlin

Gail Hamlin is a poet as well as a nonfiction author, associate publisher, and editor of over 30 reference books pertaining to Native Americans and United States history. A journey of love and faith produced her newest book, Prophetic Utterances: The Cry of His Heart (Volume 1, 2018). You’ll find Gail on her website at Gail-Hamlin.com and on Facebook and Instagram.


What is your elevator pitch for Prophetic Utterances?
My book Prophetic Utterances: The Cry of His Heart reveals the heart of God, and it shows His immense love for His children. He says, “My sheep hear My voice,” and through these prophetic utterances, He is speaking to His children. He speaks not only of His love, but He warns them to prepare themselves for what’s ahead. These prophetic utterances are a foretelling of events to come.

When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
I want them to know just how much they are loved, and that Jesus’ coming is nearer than they think.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing the book?
It was hearing the still, small voice of God and interacting with Him. I appreciate that He trusted me enough to share some of His heart, words, mysteries, and secrets with me. It was an experience that cannot be fully understood with the natural mind.

Tell us how the book came together.
The inspiration for it came about as a result of answered prayer. I wanted to write a book written by God, not by Gail. I asked Him to give me something new to write about, and He did that on two separate occasions. The first time was in 2002, when I was awakened from a sound sleep at midnight with all kinds of words running through my mind. I began to write what I heard, and this lasted for three days and three nights. The second time was in 2013, when the words started pouring through my mind again—only this time, it lasted for five weeks. There was a rhythm to the words, and pauses as well. I learned to stay in sync with God as He gave me these writings. The amazing part to me was how similar the writings were, even though these two experiences were many years apart. They came at all hours, with some sessions lasting three to four hours at a time. Some of the writings were preceded by visions and dreams. During this time I had a vision of the hand of God over my hand while I was writing; I saw the lower part of His arm covered in a white robe with His fingers outstretched over mine. I wrote the book over a period of five years before having it edited and published.

This is a nonfiction book, but do you believe it contains a character or characters?
Yes, I do. God is the main character and also the author (Omniscient Narrator). We (His children) are minor characters. There is another character who is written about, and that is Satan, and he is quite the character….

Do you have a favorite quote from Prophetic Utterances that you want to share?
That’s a tough question, because there are so many that I like! I think the one at the top of my list is from the writing titled “I AM THE AUTHOR” (page 66)—“I AM is coming to sign
HIS book. Will you come meet HIM?”

What advice do you have for discouraged writers?
Don’t give up! Push past all the obstacles, all the fear and doubt, and all your insecurities. And above all, pray!

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
The writings came to me like a scroll; some were so long that I had to figure out how to break them up into bite-size pieces for the reader to chew on. So, I used the first line of each new topic for the title. There were more writings than I could put into one volume, so a second volume will be published. I encourage the reader to allow God to speak to them through these writings. God is speaking all the time and in so many ways that people often don’t recognize it’s His voice. They might credit their own mind and ingenuity without realizing it’s God’s ingenuity that He is passing along to them.


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




An Interview with Author Don Morgan

Don Morgan is a versatile author of 13 published novels written in different genres under the separate names of Donald T. Morgan, Don Travis, and Mark Wildyr. As Don Travis, he’s released four mysteries through Dreamspinner Press, with a fifth scheduled for publication in 2019. His newest book, The Lovely Pines (August 2018), is the fourth volume in his BJ Vinson Mystery series that follows a private investigator and his partner as they solve crimes across the Land of Enchantment. You’ll find Don on his website at DonTravis.com and on Facebook and Twitter.


What is your elevator pitch for The Lovely Pines?
When Ariel Gonda’s winery, The Lovely Pines, suffers a break-in, the police write the incident off as a prank since nothing was taken. But Ariel knows something is wrong—small clues are beginning to add up—and he turns to private investigator BJ Vinson for help. When a vineyard worker is killed, there are plenty of suspects to go around. But are the two crimes related? As BJ and his significant other, Paul Barton, follow the trail from the central New Mexico wine country south to Las Cruces and Carlsbad, they discover a tangled web involving members of the US military, a mistaken identity, a family fortune in dispute, and even a secret baby. The body count is rising, and a child may be in danger. BJ will need all his skills to survive, because between a deadly sniper and sabotage, someone is determined to make sure this case goes unsolved.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I know nothing about the wine industry. Heck, I don’t even drink it, except for an occasional glass of red with a good bleu cheese salad, but wine making needed to be at the center of the novel. Why? Because my books feature New Mexico as a continuing character. Each book showcases a different part of this beautiful state. And because I wanted a pivotal character to be Ariel Gonda, the book had to revolve around wine. Why Ariel Gonda? Simple, I liked his name when he showed up (by reference only) as the treasurer of the Alfano Vineyards in The Bisti Business, the second book in the series. Simple-minded, I know, but there you are. I also wanted to concentrate on the Albuquerque/Bernalillo/Placitas area of the state, and that’s wine country. Ergo… I’m trapped into writing about wine. Ariel and his wife and nephew are Swiss nationals, which lent a bit of uncertainty between the European concept of primogeniture and our own hereditary laws and customs.

How did the book come together?
As I said above, the novel came out of a desire to develop the character of the Swiss winemaker and to roam around the area north of Albuquerque east to the Sandia foothills. I began the book on April 13, 2016 and completed the first draft in March of 2017. I did two additional drafts, finishing the last on April 17, 2017. (Successive drafts tend to go fast). I am able to quote specific dates because I note successive drafts with a beginning and a completion date. I will often do as many as five or six drafts, but this book didn’t take that many.

My editing style is right out of the public school English Grammar classes of the last century, full of commas, too many exclamation points, and the like. By the time my publisher, Dreamspinner Press (DSP), completes their three edits (and I really appreciate the fact they go to this extreme), it’s more or less Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) mixed with DSP house style. Because my head editor knows how much I despise CMOS, they diplomatically claim the changes they want are to conform with house style. Not surprisingly, they win a few editing points, and I win a few. That’s the way it should be, right?

Tell us about your characters.
The protagonist of all the books in this series is Burleigh J. Vinson. (Do you blame him for going by BJ?) He is a former Marine, ex-Albuquerque Police detective turned confidential investigator (he doesn’t like the label private investigator) who is gay but moves comfortably through every strata of Albuquerque society. He neither flaunts his homosexuality nor conceals it. He would probably prefer to still be an Albuquerque cop, but a bullet wound put an end to that career. Paul Barton is a UNM grad student majoring in journalism. He intends to become an investigative journalist, which is likely one thing that draws him to the intrepid investigator BJ Vinson. They meet in the first book, The Zozobra Incident, where BJ has difficulty in determining if Paul is one of the good guys or one of the bad guys. Either way, they establish a powerful connection which grows into love.

Lt. Eugene Enriquez is BJ’s former riding partner when they were both APD detectives. They remain close, helping one another with problems. Ariel and Margot Gonda are the owners of The Lovely Pines Winery and Vineyard in fictional Villa Plácido, New Mexico. Charlie and Hazel Weeks are BJ’s business partners. Charlie is a retired cop, and Hazel is the office manager of Vinson and Weeks Confidential Investigations. The antagonist in the story is not revealed until the final pages of the book, so I’ll not mention that individual here. The remainder of the characters are drawn from the winery workers, former owners of the Lovely Pines, two AWOL soldiers, and other fringe players.

In listing major players, I would have to include the Land of Enchantment, the 47th state of the United States. New Mexico—the fifth largest and fifth least populated of the states with a landmass of 121,699 square miles and a population of around 2,000,000—is one of the Mountain States located in the southwestern section of the nation. A “wowser” of a state!

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for the series?
Is it not apparent that I am in love with this country? I was born in woodland Oklahoma, attended college in Texas, settled in fabled Denver after service in the army, but was bowled over when I drove south into the Land of Enchantment. I had found a home.

Did you discover anything surprising or interesting when doing research for the book?
I always learn something that surprises me, and a lot that interests me, when I begin research for a book. I learned Bernalillo was originally an Anasazi settlement a thousand or so years before the Spanish settled the abandoned site. Likewise, Placitas was originally one of the “ancient ones’” settlements. Did you know that? Despite the present-day hype about New Mexico wineries, I didn’t know that our state was one of the first major wine-producing areas in the northern hemisphere. To a history buff, that’s fascinating. To a writer, it stimulates the imagination.

What sparked the initial story idea for the BJ mysteries? When did you know BJ had enough life in him to carry an entire series?
As is typical for me, a character appeared in my mind first, a man searching for his environment. BJ Vinson was born whole, so to speak. The Santa Fe Fiesta was approaching, so naturally there were advertisements with depictions of the Burning of Zozobra on the tube. So I began to draw connections, and The Zozobra Incident emerged. I tend to become emotionally vested in my characters, so it was clear the story of BJ Vinson and Paul Barton was not finished. Thereafter, I looked for various interesting parts of the state on which to hang a story. By the way, I generally tend to write a prologue and then build a story based on the mood set by the prologue. The prologue for Zozobra sets the scene as New Mexico and then foretells the nature of the book by a forced car crash on La Bajada. The Bisti Business shows a murder in the Bisti-De Na Zin Wilderness area. City of Rocks sets a more jocular tone—the theft of a duck from a ranch in the Bootheel section of the state.

Of the novels you’ve written, which one was the most difficult to write and which was the most enjoyable?
The most interesting of the BJ Vinson mystery novels thus far is the fifth (yet to be published) called Abaddon’s Locusts. Interesting because it allowed me to bring two characters from previous novels together—Jazz Penrod, a mixed-blood Navajo kid, and Mrs. Gertrude Wardlow, an elderly widow who’s a retired DEA agent living across the street from BJ. These two are the most beloved characters from my books according to readers’ comments. Abaddon allowed me to bring them together even though Jazz lives in Farmington while Mrs. W. lives in Albuquerque. It took a ring of sex traffickers to do that. The most difficult to write was the first novel because I had to flesh out the main characters. Once I had living, breathing characters, it was easier to let them tell me how to write them in successive books. (If you think I’m kidding, then you’re not a writer.)

You help writers perfect their craft at a local community center. What is it that many beginning writers misunderstand about telling a story?
Dennis Kastendiek and I teach a writing class called Wordwrights at North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center each Monday at 1:30 p.m. What I find to be the most common misconception for beginners is assuming that the incidents (real or imagined) they choose to put down on paper are as fascinating to others as they are to themselves. While that may or may not be true, it is the manner of the telling that determines whether or not the writing is truly interesting. It’s a simple concept, but so many of us (even experienced writers) have to relearn this each time we sit down at our desk.

What first inspired you to become a writer?
Tubercular as a child, I lived in the library, not on the sports fields. I became interested in various cultures—especially Native American—and started doing essays. Then they became little stories…none of which survived. Nonetheless, I kept writing, except for a brief foray into oil painting. I wasn’t bad at painting, but it didn’t scratch my creative itch like writing did, so I picked up the figurative pen again.

What else do you want readers to know?
The fifth book in the BJ Vinson Mystery series, Abaddon’s Locusts, will be released in early 2019, and I am presently working on the sixth book with a working title of The Voxlightner Scandal. What some readers might not know is that I also write erotic historical fiction under the name of Mark Wildyr. I have published eight books under that name. My original publisher seems to have virtually gone out of business, so I’m beginning to think I need to reclaim the titles and look for another publisher. Under my own name, Donald T. Morgan, I have self-published an eBook called The Eagle’s Claw. I have a sequel on paper that needs a lot of work. I also want to write a prequel on which I have done nothing yet. In addition, I have six unpublished novels (four of which make up a series) and decided I’d like to get those in publication. So now I’m going through the painful process of looking for an agent or a publisher. By the way, I’ve never felt the need for an agent before since I write for a niche market. Not so with the Morgan novels. Ergo….


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




An Interview Update with Corrales Writing Group

Corrales Writing Group formed in 2012 and meets twice a month in the village of Corrales, New Mexico to review members’ writing and plan projects. This closed group is currently made up of authors Chris Allen, John Atkins, Maureen Cooke, Sandi Hoover, Thomas Neiman, Jim Tritten, and Patricia Walkow. Together they produce an annual anthology that includes essays, short fiction, memoir, and poetry. Their newest book, Love, Sweet to Spicy, was published in 2018. Follow Corrales Writing Group on Facebook and read part two of their 2016 interview for their take on group structure and indie publishing.


Why did the group pick the theme of love for the 2018 anthology?
Since the group formed, its members have written stories about love from time to time. It wasn’t necessarily about romantic love. Some stories were about parental love, love for a pet, and then, of course, romantic love. We had enough content to create an anthology on the theme, but we also wrote new stories, a few of which were collaborative efforts.

Five of the twenty pieces in the book are collaborations. What was the easiest part of collaborating for Love, Sweet to Spicy, and what was the most challenging?
The most challenging part of writing a collaborative piece was the need to leave our egos in a parking garage on Mars and work toward the common goal of creating a viable story. Imagine a blank canvas and asking three artists to create a visual work. Just like visual artists, writers have different styles. The commitment the writers make must be to the story itself, and not to their own opinions, methods, or styles.

Specifically, our group experimented with ways to get past the ego issue and settled on a method that worked for us. Each person in the group came up with a brief concept of a story with enough detail and character description to serve as a workable writing prompt. We then broke into teams of two or three members, but the individual whose idea it was did not participate in writing that particular story. Getting everyone to agree to this approach was probably more difficult than the actual writing. Once everyone tried it the first time, the method worked fine and all the finished stories were accepted for publication in anthologies or journals not associated with the Corrales Writing Group. Most won prizes in the annual New Mexico Press Women Communications Contest.

The easiest part of collaborating was the synergy and brainstorming that occurred when we created something together. Also, assignment of who did what was never an issue. Everyone did their fair share of work. Another enjoyable part was pairing male and female writing teams to ensure characters stayed true to their gender. This often led to interesting conversations that generally included something like, “Well my husband would never say that, or never do that,” followed by validation from group members of the opposite sex. We had a lot of fun kicking those situations around.

We initially designed our collaborative stories with more romance and just a hint of sex. Later, we experimented with more sexuality than romance. In the end, we found a balance between romance and sex in the stories based on suggestions from our beta readers.

Pick a piece from the anthology written by another member and tell us what you enjoyed most about the writing or the story.
CHRIS ALLEN: I loved the piece “The Anniversary Letter” by Pat Walkow. It describes a husband-wife connection in a wonderfully amusing way. It is made all the funnier knowing it is a memoir. Pat perfectly captures the dialogue of a couple after years of marriage.

JOHN ATKINS: “Last Days – A Dog’s Perspective” by Chris Allen recounts the final days of a beloved pet’s life. I’m drawn to stories about a person’s love for a pet. I particularly like Chris Allen’s approach. She gives the reader a unique look at a dog’s end of life routine as seen through the body and mind of the pet. Her writing tells a story all too familiar to many people, but from a point of view that makes it all the more moving.

MAUREEN COOKE: I particularly enjoyed Tom Neiman’s “A Heart’s Journey.” He writes eloquently about the love for his wife Gretchen and his concern when Gretchen underwent heart surgery. What makes this piece stand out is that Tom and Gretchen married in their later years, or as Tom writes, “…this wasn’t our first rodeo.” I enjoy reading about a real, as opposed to a Hollywood, love story. Tom’s devotion to Gretchen and her healing from heart surgery jumps right off the page.

SANDI HOOVER: “The Power of a Smile” is a beautiful homage to a loved one. Jim Tritten’s trick of not revealing—until the end—the person being written about is so artfully done that the reader floats along on the river of words, simply enjoying the emotions, the love felt for the object of the story.

TOM NEIMAN: “Enough to Kill,” written by Sandi Hoover and Jim Tritten, was developed from my original idea and they took it from there. When I read the first draft, it was as if my baby had grown into adulthood. I was so proud of how the authors stuck with my premise and developed it into their own.

JIM TRITTEN: I am not one who reads, writes, or normally critiques poetry. “What Love Is” by Sandi Hoover challenged me to understand, appreciate, and attempt to comment on an unfamiliar genre. I remember reading this piece for the first time. Here is what I sent the author: “My first thought was that the recipient of such feelings is a very lucky person.”

PAT WALKOW: I particularly liked two stories. “I Remember Hoover” is John Atkins’ story about love for a dog named Hoover. I found the dialog realistic, the emotion real, and the pace perfect. “End of the Story” is Maureen Cooke’s accounting of the end of a once-loving relationship. It is beautifully written and heart-wrenching.

Since the last interview in 2016, Corrales Writing Group published Passages as well as Love, Sweet to Spicy. What’s new with the group? Any lessons learned from the publishing side?
We’ve grown from six to seven members. In addition to individual work published in various print and online anthologies, members of the group have two major projects going. A group of four writers is working on a murder/mystery/romance novel, and a pair is working on an adventure novella. The writing will be reviewed within the group just as other pieces have been reviewed in the past: a series of questions will be answered by reviewers, changes will then be made by the writers, and the piece will be reviewed again. And possibly yet again!

We’ve learned a few key things:
1. It is best to have one person take the lead on being the editor of a specific anthology, with a secondary editor. Of the seven members of the group, five have now edited an anthology and become familiar with CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing.

2. Read, reread, and reread before you publish. Then give it to others to read, reread, and do it again. No matter how many eyes have looked at the book, some silly flaw will escape until it is purchased, and then it blinks in neon. Fortunately, with independent self-publishing it is easy to fix.

3. Marketing consumes an awful lot of time, and we need to step up our efforts. We are actively engaged in finding places to present our work as performance pieces. A presence on Amazon, Facebook, Hometown Reads, and other social media outlets is necessary, and we share our work there. Our website is in progress.

The constant delight is still the fun we have, as well as the intelligence and humor of the members of the group. We have formed close bonds.

Six of the seven members of the group were featured in part two of the previous interview. Tell us about John Atkins, the newest member.
He’s retired, having spent more than 40 years in project and technology management in healthcare, hardware/software, and energy companies. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of New Mexico with a degree in Communication. His work has appeared in Love, Sweet to Spicy, as well as The Esthetic Apostle and 50-Word Stories. He’s well into the second draft of a speculative fiction novel and continues to serve as transcriptionist to worlds and characters that demand attention. None will leave until they have been written, rewritten, and polished until the turds they once were shine like the jewels they demand to be.

Give us a summary of your group’s accomplishments since forming six years ago.
The Corrales Writing Group (CWG) as a whole has published five different books. Two of our anthologies were produced both in black and white and color versions and all are available as Kindle books. Four members who wrote collaborative short stories had six chapters picked up and published elsewhere in other books. Six members had six chapters from our anthologies published as short stories in journals. Four of our individual members had six chapters published in other anthologies and thirty-seven of their CWG chapters published as short stories in other journals. The group’s books have won six awards, two additional awards for editing, and were finalists in two other competitions. Chapters or short stories based upon CWG chapters have won eighteen individual awards.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
As part of the Corrales Writing Group, our members have written more than 100 pieces of humor, fiction, memoir, essay, and poems. We also reprinted Passages and Love, Sweet to Spicy in color to honor local artists who contributed photographs of their work to our anthologies. Individual authors have additional articles published in magazines, newspapers and journals.

Also, every Tuesday a few members have lunch at Las Ristras Restaurant in Corrales from 11 am to 1 pm on Taco Tuesday. It’s a meet-and-greet with other authors…sort of a round table discussion. Send a message to John if you’d like to drop by and chat.


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




An Interview with Author J. L. Greger

Award-winning author J. L. Greger uses her travel experience and past life as a scientist and research administrator to add authenticity to her thriller/mystery novels. She Didn’t Know Her Place: An Academic Mystery (2017) is her newest release and the sixth book in the Science Traveler series (available at Amazon and Treasure House Books in Albuquerque). You’ll find the author on her website at JLGreger.com and on her Amazon author page.


What is your elevator pitch for She Didn’t Know Her Place?
Would you rather be fired or face criminal charges? Dana Richardson faces this dilemma. A research center, which reports to her, is falsifying data to help industrial clients meet federal pollution standards. The last woman who tried to investigate the problem died under suspicious circumstances.

When readers turn the last page of the book, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
I hope readers rethink their attitudes about right and wrong. Many laws and regulations are examples of bureaucratic red tape and a waste of time and of money. However, can you lose your sense of right and wrong if you ignore too many of these seemingly petty laws and regulations? When should a boss act or a colleague report these misdeeds? The decisions aren’t always black and white.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Many of the events in this novel occurred. I had to constantly remind myself I was writing a novel, not a factual account of events.

How did the book come together?
This was the first novel that I wrote. I set it aside in 2011 but revised it extensively three times after writing and publishing other novels. Finally, I decided to revise it one last time in 2017.

Tell us about your main character.
Dana Richardson, on the surface, appears to be a successful woman scientist. Many readers will wish they had her power at work and her chutzpah. However, she is haunted by feelings of inadequacy because of frequent gender harassment and a strict upbringing. The net result is she often clashes with male colleagues, who assume they are entitled to take convenient but illegal shortcuts.

What makes this novel unique in the mystery/thriller market?
Science isn’t a collection of boring facts but the search for truth in the physical world. I try to infuse this sense of wonder about new scientific discoveries into all my novels. In She Didn’t Know Her Place, I focused on the importance of honesty in environmental testing.

Did you discover anything surprising while doing research for this book?
My professional experiences as a scientist and research administrator were the research for this novel. I was always surprised how many “nice” leaders had ugly secrets and how many scientists had heroic pasts.

You’ve written six books in your Science Traveler series. What key issues do you focus on to keep readers coming back for more?
First off, my science traveler is Sara Almquist. She’s an inquisitive busybody who just happens to be a skilled epidemiologist with practical experiences worldwide. Her enthusiasm for science and travel is contagious.

Second, I include recent scientific discoveries in every book. For example, I featured new research on weight control in Murder…A Way to Lose Weight (2nd Edition, 2017) and on cancer immunotherapy in Malignancy (Oak Tree Press, 2014). Readers often comment that they always learn something new while reading my novels. These two books won the Public Safety Writers Association Annual Contests in 2016 and 2015, respectively.

Third, I’ve traveled extensively and take Sara to my favorite locations, including Albuquerque. For example, Sara escaped villains by running across the roof of St. Francis Church above the Witches’ Market in La Paz, Bolivia in Ignore the Pain (Oak Tree Press, 2013). (I only walked across the roof.)

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
Scientific research and mystery writing share many characteristics. Both are exciting but hard work.

Of all the books you’ve written, which one did you enjoy writing the most?
Riddled with Clues (Aakenbaaken & Kent, 2017) was the most fun to write for two reasons. My dog, Bug, and I do pet therapy at the Veterans Hospital in Albuquerque. In this novel I shared our experiences with amazing veterans in the psych and rehab units (without breaking HIPPA regulations). Second, I used a friend’s notes on his experiences as a medic in the secret war in Laos in the 1960s to create the clues for this modern-day mystery.

What writing project are you working on now?
A Pound of Flesh Sorta, the next book in my Science Traveler series, is partially set in a meat-packing plant in New Mexico. In one sense, it’s an update of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, but with a Southwest twist.


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




An Interview with Author J. Allen Whitt

J. Allen Whitt served three combat deployments as a Navy officer aboard an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War. He went on to obtain a PhD and spent almost 40 years teaching sociology, urban studies, and statistics. After publishing social science research he moved on to essays, memoirs, short stories, and poetry before tackling long fiction. Notes from the Other Side of the Mountain: Love Confronts the Wounds of War (2013) is Allen’s first novel. You’ll find him on his website at JAllenWhitt.net.


What is your elevator pitch for Notes from the Other Side of the Mountain?
After separating from his high school girlfriend due to a misunderstanding, Gary Reed is called to serve in Vietnam. Four years later, traumatized by the carnage of war, he returns to his beloved mountains of New Mexico, hoping to reunite with Kristina Preston and find peace. Yet she too has hidden injuries, and they must struggle to overcome their past hurts and survive unexpected twists of fortune in hopes of building a life together.

When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they take away from the book?
Empathy for the novel’s characters, an identification with the life struggles we all face, and hope for recovery. In addition, I try to show the powerful influence our natural environment has upon our perceptions, appreciation of beauty, and ways of living.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
To create authentic and well-rounded characters that develop and grow through their early years into adulthood. My intention was to show the loves, conflicts, injuries, joys, failures, and successes that we all understand, as well as to provide the reader with insights into the complexity of the characters’ own circumstances, personalities, and actions. We understand their life-pleasures, see their reactions to loss, experience their sadness and humor, learn the fate of their dreams, and follow the consequences of their traumas of life and war.

Tell us a little about your main characters.
Both Gary and Kristina begin as small-town, New Mexico kids who mature through their life experiences, become aware of the larger world, do the best they can to surmount difficulties, try to maintain and enhance their love for each other, and achieve well-being and happiness. They have their strengths and shortcomings, as do we all.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for the book?
I fell in love with the unique beauty of New Mexico when I moved to the state as a teenager. So much so that I present our mountains, rivers, forests, and sunsets as quasi-characters in the book. It is a perfect setting. It is no accident that many works of art are created here, and many movie companies film here.

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting the project together?
It was immensely enjoyable to create characters that became—and remain—real to me, to show the allure of our landscape, to let my words flow (when they are in the mood) onto the page, and to learn more about myself in the process. I like to explore the power of words and their capacity to define and extend our common human experience. By writing you can go inward, as well as expand into the world, even into universes that never were, and into those that may come to pass.

What sparked your interest in writing fiction?
In my former academic career, I wrote many things in that vein and won some awards for doing so. That was motivating. However, I have always been interested in stories. Perhaps this came from my grandmother who was raised in the Ozarks. Her father was a Civil War veteran and post-war law enforcement officer reputed to be an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok. Sadie, whose husband was a riverboat pilot, was steeped in the oral tradition of that region. She enthralled me and my cousins with stories her father passed along. She added her own embellishments, I am sure, but they made a deep impression upon me. Near the end of my academic career, I began writing accounts of my travels in Africa, South and Central America, Thailand, China and Europe. That was the start of my creative writing. Very different from what I had previously written, but more enjoyable. I took correspondence courses (University of Iowa, Gotham Writers Workshop). I received highly positive feedback. When I retired and moved back to New Mexico, I sent a couple of my pieces to SouthWest Writers for critiques. The feedback was again encouraging. One reviewer suggested I consider writing a novel—a possibility that had never entered my consciousness. I tried it, enjoyed the engaging, year-long process. Moreover, I have published memoirs, essays, stories, and poems in literary journals, magazines, and online. And here we are. A new career.

Tell us about the Veterans History Project and your involvement in it.
Sponsored by the Library of Congress, Veterans History Project (VHP) is an attempt to capture (through interviews and documentation) the experiences of American military veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, as well as more recent—and continuing—wars. The interviews and other material are posted on the Library of Congress website so that historians and ordinary citizens have access to veterans’ experiences that might otherwise be lost to future generations. I have done around 15 interviews for VHP. It has been a moving and enlightening privilege for me. These veterans have earned our profound gratitude and admiration, often more than we know. For example, Fred Foz escaped from the Bataan Death March and became a Philippine resistance fighter. At the Jemez Pueblo, I interviewed Geronimo Fragua, one of the first to enter the liberated Dachau concentration camp near the end of World War II. After the interview, it was my great privilege to deliver the keynote address for an event at Jemez which honored several World War II veterans from the Pueblo. I have also interviewed veterans who, like me, served in Vietnam.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire about their writing?
Shakespeare, for sure. The flow and rhythm of his lines, his ability to portray human emotions, characters, and action in a few apt words, as well as the scope of his vision and the vast range of his writing. Also, I love Twain for his superb way of discovering, defining, and revealing the frontier American vernacular, for his ability to place the reader into his scenes and rich world, and for his humor. From recent times: John McPhee, Flannery O’Connor, Edward Abby, Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner, Steven Crane, Elizabeth Kolbert, Tim O’Brien, Jean Shepard.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
In my prior career, I was a co-recipient (with Joyce Rothschild) of the C. Wright Mills Award for The Cooperative Workplace: Potentials and Dilemmas of Democratic Organization (Cambridge University Press, 1986). This honor is given by the Society for the Study of Social Problems for the best book on the topic published each year. My doctoral dissertation was published as a book (Urban Elites and Mass Transportation: The Dialectics of Power, Princeton University Press, 1982). Regarding Notes from the Other Side of the Mountain, an expert on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder who reviewed the novel complimented my depiction of PTSD. Even more than that, several reviewers of my novel called the work poetic. As a devotee of poetry in my childhood, I suppose that has influenced my writing. I was happy to hear that.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Two recent writing successes profited by feedback from my local critique group, The Write Stuff. The short memoir, Black Tears, won a First Place at the National Veterans’ Creative Arts Festival, and “The Door Gunner,” my saga poem, won a Special Poetry Award through an Ageless Authors contest. My thanks go to Evelyn, Curt, Ross, Michelle, and Lynne for their help.


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




An Interview with Poet Raymond C. Mock

Raymond C. Mock is a retired technician turned poet. His first book, A Tried Heart (Mercury Heartlink, 2017), is a collection of poems penned over several decades. Covering a variety of themes, Ray’s poetry is organized chronologically in the order written and reveals “a common story, although uncommonly expressed, of struggle growing up.” Look for A Tried Heart on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can contact the author at rcm100@netzero.net.


How would you describe A Tried Heart?
The book description calls it heartfelt experience and observation. Personally, I see it as an autobiography in poetry. Then again, it’s everyone’s biography. It’s a story, I believe a common story—although uncommonly expressed—of struggle growing up. And heart makes it a common story.

What do you hope readers will take away from it?
I hope the title is telling, that readers will sense themselves in the title and find themselves in the book, that they will relive their moments of heart as they read mine.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Initially, it wasn’t a work, just a love, a joy, a discovery of writing and self. Through it, I taught myself poetry and found a road to growth. Following retirement, I joined writing groups that taught me to polish the work. Then came the challenge, publishing.

Tell us how the book came together.
With a significant number of poems from over thirty years of writing, I considered putting a book together, but it was my lunch friends at the senior center who encouraged me to publish. After placing some poetry in the center’s newsletter, they asked me to bring a poem a week to share. They would comment, in general, that they didn’t like poetry but that they liked my poetry—a double compliment.

For the book, I selected poems strong in heart, with surprise, poems of commonality told with unique expression, poems of growth, new experience, and poems short and sharp. I eventually contacted a publisher who had published an anthology in which I had contributed four poems. After hearing his ideas of what a good book entails, I felt we had that in common. He suggested an editor and then did the book layout and cover. As he finalized the book, he said he truly liked the poems, and he hoped I was as excited about the book as he was.

What was the most rewarding aspect of publishing A Tried Heart?
After years of feedback from friends and writing groups, and of hearing authors speak at SouthWest Writers, I felt confident about the poetry (and the book design was pleasing). Personal reviews and reviews on Amazon keep supporting this perspective.

Do you remember what inspired you to write your first poem?
In my thirties, a thought worthy of a poem crossed my mind one evening. It was about getting off my rear end. The poem wasn’t very good, and it didn’t rhyme. So…Okay, I’ll rewrite the worst line and keep rewriting the worst line until it rhymes. By the time it rhymes, it should be good. That’s what happened, and that’s still what happens. I had stumbled onto a writer’s commandment: revise, revise, revise. But that first poem wasn’t good enough for the book.

How important is accessibility of meaning in poetry?
I try to be clear, but sometimes not everyone understands. The writing groups have expressed this at times. And some poems are privy, speaking to a target group.

How does a poem begin for you—with an idea, a form, an image?
I don’t sit and brainstorm. Poems come to me—spontaneity, inspiration, heart. Poems need to be real to write and read that way. I wait for my heart to be moved, but I need to get out of the house for an event to find me. And when it finds me, that is what I try to write. Readers tell me, “I feel it,” or, “You feel like you’re there.” It works for me.

Since you began writing poems, has your view changed of what embodies poetry?
I began writing poems with a very rigid structure—count the syllables, make it rhyme (but don’t predict). I thought that was poetry, and the early poems in my book reflect that (the poems being in the order written). With time, I’ve come to value the beauty of the story more. Again, my book reflects it. But if one goes off-road, the beauty had better be worth it.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received on your writing journey?
The writing groups have been most encouraging. Their comments are generally right on, and they’ve taught me to listen for that slight nuance in the writing that tugs at one and says it’s wrong.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your writing?
Let me share two hard-learned, yet unconventional lessons. I used to think that my need for inspiration or heart was a handicap, but I’ve come to accept it as a strength—it makes me different, makes my book different. And I’ve learned to accept writer’s block. When I start writing again, I’m a level above where I was. Periodically, one will be closed for reconstruction, but it’s always worth the wait.


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




Author Update: Melody Groves

Author Melody Groves is a novelist and nonfiction writer whose freelance articles can be found in publications such as American Cowboy, Wild West, True West, and New Mexico Magazine. Her three nonfiction books cover historic bars of the Southwest, the ins and outs of rodeo, and America’s first overland mail route. She uses her passion for the Old West, along with experience as a gunfighter and a bull rider, to infuse her Western novels with authenticity. While hard at work on the next two installments of her light-hearted She was Sheriff series, she continues the Colton Brothers Saga with book five. Her newest release, Black Range Revenge (Five Star Publishing, 2018), pits youngest brother Andy Colton and his siblings against an Apache leader bent on revenge. You’ll find Melody on her website MelodyGroves.net and on Facebook.


The Colton Brothers Saga follows four brothers in their quests for a better life in the Old West. What was your favorite part of putting together Black Range Revenge?
I don’t usually write paranormal, but the idea of a ghost, or spirit, excited me, so I put one in. I enjoyed highlighting the youngest brother, Andy. And I finally gave James some closure to his previous Apache captivity.

How do you decide which brother to focus on in each book? Describe your main characters and what’s most important to each of them.
While I try to give the brothers “equal time,” the character who steps forward first gets to tell his story. Hope that doesn’t sound too crazy. Trace is the oldest at 27, married, two little girls. Family is most important to him. James, four years younger than Trace, married, no kids, tends to be a bit unstable mentally. He is impatient, short-tempered and doesn’t think things through. Luke, two years younger than James, is the black sheep. A rabble-rouser and definitely a ladies’ man, got married and became a dad at 17. He still chases skirts and his morals are not those of the rest of the family. Andy, at 19 by the book’s end, is adventurous but a heckuva nice guy. He’s liked by everyone he meets. He’s probably the definition of innocent. All four boys are strong and not afraid of work. They have a strong sense of family entrenched by their folks.

Which character did you love to torture the most, wished you could slap some sense into, or couldn’t wait to be done with?
James immediately comes to mind. He doesn’t always think things through and tends to react which gets him in trouble. Of the four boys, he’s the most sensitive, which makes his torture by Cochise (in book 2) terrifying—for both of us. James has PTSD because of that experience. Sometimes I wanted to throttle him, at other times I wanted to tell him it would be okay. Trace handled his captivity much better.

What unique challenges did this project pose for you?
The area of New Mexico where the story takes place has changed over the past 150 years. The town of Santa Rita, which is in the book, is completely gone now. The town of Mogollon was just a single cabin in 1850 and maybe two cabins by 1863. I had to be sure the history was accurate.

How long does it take you to put your novels together, including researching, writing, and editing?
I’ve been up in the Black Range of New Mexico many times since I’m from Las Cruces and my parents and I used to camp in that area. So, I’ve sort of worked on the research for Black Range Revenge for several decades! As for writing, it takes me about nine months to finish a book, especially since I work on other projects along the way. My editor at Five Star Publishing works with me until it’s “perfect” which takes a couple of months. Then, when it’s polished, it goes through another editor before it’s scheduled for publication. This whole process takes about two years. Two loooonnnngggg years.

Was there anything interesting you discovered while doing research for Black Range Revenge?
I think the most interesting was realizing how many different groups of people have been up in that area—Anasazi, Apache, Mexican, miners, European immigrants, Americans, etc. The history is fascinating and reaches back at least 500 years. I’m thrilled to write about it.

Of the three nonfiction books you’ve written, which one did you enjoy writing the most?
It’s a toss-up between Hoist a Cold One!: Historic Bars of the Southwest and Ropes, Reins, and Rawhide: All About Rodeo. The rodeo book was my first, and since I was deep into rodeo, I was thrilled to talk to the true professionals in the sport. I met some amazing athletes and came face to face with crazy livestock. Researching gave me tons of stories that I survived to tell about. The bar book came about because I stood at a bar in Clayton, New Mexico and heard the fascinating story behind why it was there in that restaurant/hotel—it was won in a card game and hauled across the llano by ox wagon. I thought there had to be other stories behind the historical bars in the Southwest, and I was right. That book took 3 1/2 years to research. But it’s turned out to have a life of its own and has sold quite well. UNM Press published both of those. (Her third nonfiction book, Butterfield’s Byway: America’s First Overland Mail Route Across the West, was published by The History Press in 2014.)

What is the hardest thing about writing?
Getting the words right.

Are you a pantser, a plotter, or a hybrid of both? What does a typical writing session look like for you?
While I’m a pantser, my characters guide me. I do, however, take a page from another writer’s method and briefly (I mean briefly) describe what’s going to happen in the next few chapters. That has helped keep my characters and me somewhat guided. But I’m a firm believer in letting your characters “do their thing.” I’ve learned they are much more interesting than anything I can think up. As far as a writing session, I like to use mornings to write, then do research and everything else in the afternoon. I have my own office, which helps a lot. I also do tons of book reviews, so my day starts out with several cups of coffee (you see this theme in all of my books) and about an hour of reading a Western—certainly gets me in the Western mind-set.

What do many beginning writers misunderstand about telling a story?
That’s easy. That they’re TELLING a story, not educating nor preaching. If a reader learns something, fine. But our job is to spin a tale, put readers in a different place and time from their own. Entertain them. We are entertainers, storytellers, not priests or professors.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m about five chapters away from finishing Lady of the Law, the sequel to She Was Sheriff (Five Star Publishing, 2016). And I’m plotting the third book in that series. I have another novel at Five Star Publishing, and I expect to receive a list of first edits any day now. Big news—working on a graphic novel! It’s based on the book currently at Five Star. I found an amazing illustrator who lives in Phoenix. We’re both so excited about finishing our first graphic novel! I also write for magazines, so I’m working on those articles as well. And I’m having tons of fun researching a novel about my relatives emigrating from Ireland and landing in New Orleans.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I’m a native New Mexican (there are so few of us!), but graduated from high school in the Philippines at Subic Bay Naval Base during the height of the Viet Nam war (we were the closest ship repair facility). So, my high school experiences were way different from most people.

I started writing Westerns when I was in junior high but was told “nobody reads those any more.” So I struggled with writing other things until I said the heck with that and wrote shoot ‘em ups. Well, Westerns today are quite popular—#2 in sales under graphic novels. Who knew? I write the traditional cowboy/barroom brawl story, which I love. I also love stories about family, in particular the relationship of brothers. I throw in enough history to make it historical fiction.

One thing most people don’t know about me is that about ten years back I decided to become a bull rider. I went to a bull riding school in Colorado (twice) and learned how. Yes, got thrown off every time, but I’ve had the experience—and the bumps and bruises to show for it. If I were in my teens today, I’d be riding bulls every weekend. It was that awesome! I live my life knowing I faced fear and conquered it. Nothing compares to riding those one-ton bulls.

Find out more about Melody and her writing in her 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. Kathy has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




An Interview with Author Judith Liddell

Judith Liddell and co-author Barbara Hussey bring a love of bird watching and years of experience trekking through the Land of Enchantment to their two well-researched birding guides published by Texas A&M University Press. Their first book, Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico (2011), covers the Rio Grande corridor, Sandia and Manzano Mountains, Petroglyph National Monument, and the preserved areas and wetlands south of Albuquerque. Birding Hot Spots of Santa Fe, Taos, and Northern New Mexico (2014) is their second guide which focuses on 32 sites not covered in the first book. You’ll find Judy on her websites at JudysJottings.com and WingAndSong.com.


What unique challenges did you face while writing Birding Hot Spots of Santa Fe, Taos, and Northern New Mexico?
It was extremely important that we assured the accuracy of all information about each birding site in the book. Our readers have appreciated our attention to detail and reviewers have commented on how well researched the guide is. Another challenge was finding local birders who could review what we had written to make sure it matched their experiences. The positive outcome was that in developing these relationships, many have become good friends.

You co-authored the book with Barbara Hussey. What was that experience like? How did you divide the duties of writing the book?
Before we started writing, we had a strong friendship that valued each other’s talents and strong points. As we discussed the division of labor, it was fairly easy to decide what each of us would do. I had been writing before we started, so it was natural for me to assume the task of writing the copy. Barbara is a detail person and an excellent proofreader. I would write a section, put it in DropBox for her to review, and she suggested changes in language or sentence structure. Barbara took on the responsibility for writing the directions to each site and making the rough draft drawings of the maps. In addition to having a wealth of information about bird species, Barbara has a strong interest in geology which enabled her to add relevant information about the habitat and natural history. We visited each site several times together which facilitated our decisions about what information to include. We used this formula successfully for both books and are still fast friends.

Tell us how the book came together. How did you know it was done and ready for the editor/publisher?
When we were writing Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico and deciding whether to include the area around Cochiti Lake, we laughed and said, “We’ll save that for the next book,” never dreaming there would be a second one. As soon as the first book was published at the end of October 2011, people began asking us when we were going to write another book. We sent a proposal to the publisher in December of that year to determine their interest. The editor gave us the green light early in 2012 and sent us a contract. It took two years to research, write and edit the manuscript. Since we used the same successful format as our first book, we knew it was finished when we had all the required information for each part of the book and were within the page limit of our contract.

What makes this birding guide different from similar books on the shelf?
Our birding guides are the only ones written by women—and the only ones that include information about restroom availability. In addition, our guides are useful to a wide variety of outdoor recreation enthusiasts. A friend who is a fisherman bought our guide because it provides him information about fishing sites, as well as lets him appreciate the bird life he observes while fishing. It was important to us to help birding enthusiasts understand the relationship between the birds they see and the habitat where they are found. This information in most guides is not tied together.

What did you learn from writing your first book, Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico, that you applied to the newest guide?
Based on the way we ended up organizing the information about each site for the first book, we were able to devise a template that we took with us when we visited the sites for the second book. This enabled us to make sure we gathered all relevant information. This was extremely important because if we had to return to a site when we were in the final process of editing to secure missing information, it would have required a lot of time and travel. We also realized we needed more maps than we had included in the first book.

I’m sure you discovered many interesting facts while doing research for your guidebooks. What one or two things stand out in your mind?
I was fascinated by the historical information I learned while researching each site. For instance, there is a branch of the Old Spanish Trail that runs along the south side of the Rio Chama downstream from Abiquiu Dam. We tried to include this type of information in the overall description of a site. Two of the sites are located on Pueblo lands. We met with staff from the Natural Resources Departments of both Cochiti and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblos to appreciate their perspectives and reflect their wishes about how visitors should visit.

Do you have your own favorite birding hotspots?
In Central New Mexico—Ojito de Padua Open Space and, of course, Bosque del Apache. In Northern New Mexico—Valles Caldera National Preserve and the Cochiti Lake area.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
“I feel like I am right there with you, when I read your writing.”

What encouragement or advice has helped you the most on your writing journey?
While I have written on and off my entire life, I knew I wanted to devote serious time to writing during my retirement. I stumbled on SouthWest Writers about three years before I retired and attended a meeting. When those at my table asked what kind of writing I did, I responded that at the time it was primarily technical writing related to my job, but I wanted to write more descriptively. Someone suggested I write every day. When I protested that I couldn’t do that while I was still working, the fellow writer suggested I write every week. I took the challenge and wrote about an interesting experience each week. To make sure I didn’t slack, I emailed my writing to a group of friends and family and asked them to provide feedback. My brother-in-law meticulously read each one and offered feedback, both positive and negative.

Any new writing projects you’d like to tell us about?
I am writing family history and memoir stories that will eventually be put into a book for my children, grandchildren, and nieces.


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




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