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An Interview with Author Janet Wahl

After retiring from a long career in education, Janet Wahl used her 15-year study of Montague Ullman’s dream work to start a new career. Now she is a ThetaHealing® Master and a certified provider of hypnosis with clients seeking to dig deep into their own dreams. She has three published nonfiction booksDream Digging Guide 1: Discover the Messages in Your Dreams with the Ullman Method (2015) and Dream Digging Guide 2: Discover the Hidden Beliefs in Your Dreams (2016), plus the Dream Digging Journal (2017) to accompany the second book. You can find Janet at DreamDigging.net and MindBalance.biz, as well as on Facebook.


Give us a summary of the books in your Dream Digging Guide series.
Dream Digging Guide 1: Discover the Messages in Your Dreams with the Ullman Method describes with examples the structured dream group process developed by Montague Ullman, MD. Monte, as he was known to friends, realized that people in psychoanalysis were not making as much progress as he had hoped. Dream work seemed much more effective, so he created a highly structured process that could be facilitated by lay people, those without a mental health license. His premise is that dreams are personalized metaphors invented by our “incorruptible core”; therefore, dream images carry messages that our waking mind, although ready to hear, might be reluctant to hear. A group can help the dreamer discover those messages because we are all connected via the collective consciousness; we all relate to dream imagery.

Dream Digging Guide 2: Discover the Hidden Beliefs in Your Dreams provides a step-by-step process to discover subconscious beliefs and verify these beliefs so they can be changed. We are unaware of most of these beliefs, some of which block our potential. For example, our waking mind says we deserve prosperity, but our subconscious mind says, “No, prosperity is dangerous. Someone will rob and kill you if you are successful.” And the subconscious always overpowers our waking minds. It holds these beliefs to keep us safe. Dream images and metaphors along with beliefs come from our subconscious minds.

A structured dream journal, Dream Digging Journal is now available to guide dreamers who want to find these beliefs. Only when we find these sabotaging beliefs can we change them, the subject of the forthcoming Dream Digging Guide 3.

In sum, each Dream Digging Guide describes a process to discover different concerns. Dream Digging 1 helps the dreamer uncover messages which have yielded solutions to problems, warnings of disease, inspiration for visual arts, music, and film. Dream Digging 2 helps dreamers discover beliefs that sabotage success. The ThetaHealing® Technique is an effective method to change unwanted beliefs.

What first sparked your interest in the study of dreams?
I have always been curious about dreams since my recurring childhood dreams. I didn’t take them seriously until I brought a vivid dream to my therapist hoping that he could help me interpret it. He referred me to a dream worker who in turn referred me to one of the masters: Monte Ullman. (His papers are at siivola.org/monte.)

What challenges did writing this series pose for you?
Because I wanted to use examples from my life, I had to overcome my reticence of revealing myself and dream meanings. Dreams are very personal, sometimes showing us what we would prefer to hide. I had to get comfortable with sharing my private “stuff” in order to give some powerful examples of the impact dream work had on my life.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing the books?
It helped me form dream groups. It is very rewarding to help others discover the meanings of their dreams. Dream messages help people heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This was the purpose of writing the books.

Tell us how the guides came together.
I took my first manuscript to a critique group that read the entire book. Their suggestion was to divide it into three books because each has a different target audience. Dream Digging Guide 1 was my first book, so I had to learn the entire publishing process. It took me a little over a year to refine the first guide, find a cover designer and editor. The second guide took less time because I used the same designer and editor. Dream Digging Guide 3 will contain examples of how ThetaHealing® belief work can change sabotaging beliefs found in dreams.

Any “Oh, wow!” moments when doing research for the guides?
Not really. I’m a plodder by nature, so I just take things as they come. Encountering people who believe that dreams are just random, meaningless brain wave spikes did help me hone my audience. I guess that was my, “Oh, wow! Not everyone thinks dreams are important.”

Do you, or have you wanted to, write other than nonfiction?
I never intended to be a writer. I wanted to teach others how to find dream messages and beliefs hidden in dreams. That is my passion and joy. Writing facilitates it.

How does someone go about finding a dream group?
I conduct dream groups in Albuquerque, so you can be invited to participate to see if it is something you want to pursue. After the trial, I ask for a commitment to come on a regular basis so the trust in the group is maintained. I am also offering online dream groups. Call or email me for more information: janet@dreamdigging.net, (505) 508-5805.


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 Gail Rubin

Gail Rubin is not only an author, columnist, and radio/television host, she’s The Doyenne of Death®. As a Certified Thanatologist (death educator) and a Certified Funeral Celebrant, Gail brings light to a serious subject, helping others plan for the inevitable as well as remember the lives of loved ones. Her award-winning nonfiction books published by Light Tree Press include A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die (2011) and Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips (with Susan Fraser, 2015). Her newest book, Kicking the Bucket List: 100 Downsizing and Organizing Things to Do Before You Die, was published by Rio Grande Books in 2016. You can find Gail on her websites AGoodGoodbye.com and GailRubin.com, and on her Amazon author page.


What’s your elevator pitch for Kicking the Bucket List?
Kicking the Bucket List is two-thirds about downsizing and one-third about organizing for end-of-life issues. We’re more inclined to deal with our material goods than our mortality, and this book helps get the conversation started.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
At first, it seemed like coming up with 100 items for this particular Bucket List was going to be a stretch. It turned out I had to pare down and combine items to make everything fit. Each item needed a photo or other artwork. I found a great resource for free Creative Commons images at Pixabay.com, and I took my own photos around the house of my own junk and my cats.

How did the book come together?
Barbe Awalt and Paul Rhetts, the publishers at Rio Grande Books, have published a series of Bucket List books since 2015. It started with Barbe’s The Basic New Mexico Bucket List: 100 Things to Do in New Mexico Before You Die. Each bucket list item has one page, with a paragraph or two of description, a link to a website for more information, and a color photograph. By the time Barbe approached me about doing a book for the series, other titles in the pipeline focused on hot air ballooning, cowboy life, space buff activities, and other New Mexico topics. This was the first of the books to focus on a practical issue everyone will eventually face.

We met to discuss the book in August of 2015, and signed a contract in September. I first focused on doing an outline of tips that went from “why downsize” to “how to downsize” to “creative ways to downsize” to “organizing for end-of life issues.” Once I started the writing, found appropriate website links and gathered photos, it came together within three months. Paul said the editor commented this was the most polished manuscript she’d ever seen, so the editing process didn’t take long. I thank my critique group for helping make it so polished. And we have SWW member Steve Brewer to thank for the title. I believe alcohol was involved.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing Kicking the Bucket List?
As a professional speaker, the book has given me a new way to speak about mortality issues. I now have a PowerPoint presentation with photos from the book that I can customize to focus more on downsizing or on end-of-life issues, depending on the emphasis desired by the organization having me speak. The talks have been very well received, and I’ve sold a number of books after these presentations.

Do you have a favorite quote from the book you’d like to share?
I love the promotional blurb provided by Caitlin Doughty, YouTube “Ask a Mortician” star and author of New York Times bestseller Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons From the Crematory: “The connection between downsizing and death acceptance has never been more obvious. Clear your mind and conscience by sucking it up and doing the things Gail suggests.”

How many of the 100 items from the list have you checked off?
You would think The Doyenne of Death® would have completed all of the items, but no, I’ve still got drawers, closets, shelves and rooms that have excess goods that need to go. I have done a number of the end-of-life organizing items, though.

Any “Oh, wow!” moments while doing research for this book?
Oh, wow—I still have a lot of stuff to get rid of.

What inspired you to write about planning for death?
I got married for the second time in 2000, and had a really creative and fun Jewish Western wedding. Everyone had such a good time, I wanted to write a book about creative life cycle events and call it Matchings, Hatchings and Dispatchings, about weddings, births and deaths. From 2006-2007, I did a monthly feature in the Albuquerque Tribune by that name, and it was the columns on death and funerals that got the most reader response.

The responses told me there’s a real need to have conversations about death, and humor is a good way to start the conversation. I focused on funeral planning, since there were already plenty of books on wedding planning. The course of my career changed when I wrote A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. I went from being a public relations professional to a Certified Thanatologist (a death educator), a Certified Funeral Celebrant, a licensed insurance agent, a very busy blogger/podcaster/YouTube creator, and a contributing writer for funeral trade press.

How did The Doyenne of Death® come about?
My brother Mitch suggested the moniker, and I thought it was great. It wasn’t until I ran out and spent a lot of money getting the phrase trademarked that I realized most Americans don’t know what a doyenne is, although Europeans are familiar with the term. So, in addition to being a death educator, I’m educating people that a doyenne is a woman who’s considered senior in a group who knows a lot about a particular subject.

What marketing techniques have been most helpful to you?
I do drawings at my presentations for a free book or the 4-DVD set of my TV interview series that incorporates information from A Good Goodbye. The information requested includes name, email, phone number, age, city and state. If they include their email, they are added to my email list. I also provide check boxes to indicate if they’d like more information on A Good Goodbye programs and having me speak at other organizations.

I also offer several free documents on my website that people can access by opting in to my email lists. These include a 50-point Executors Checklist from Kicking the Bucket List, a free cremation e-book and a 10-page planning form from A Good Goodbye. Those offers help build my email list, which is almost 6,000 contacts at this point. Including lists or forms for download on the website was a must-have as I planned the marketing for the books. Visit my site, see what these forms look like, and sign up at www.AGoodGoodbye.com.

You’re active in Toastmasters. How has participating in this organization helped in marketing and promoting your books?
Being a good speaker is essential for writers to sell and promote their books. I joined Albuquerque Challenge Toastmasters in 2012, and it has made a huge difference in my competence as a speaker. I encourage all Albuquerque writers to visit our meetings to see how ABQ Challenge members help each other become better speakers. We meet on the second, fourth, and fifth Saturday of the month from 8:00 to 10:00 am (doesn’t conflict with SWW meetings) at Cooper Art Center (as in SWW’s Susan Cooper, the Queen of Mold). Learn more at www.ABQChallenge.org.


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 Avraham Shama

Former dean and university professor Avraham Shama is the author of four nonfiction books and numerous articles. His short pieces have been published internationally and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Christian Science Monitor. The memoir Finding Home: An Immigrant’s Journey (2016) is his newest book, “a powerful tale of dislocation, despair and transformation.” Born in Iraq, Avraham now lives in the United States.


What is your elevator pitch for Finding Home: An Immigrant’s Journey?
Remember Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned and washed to the Turkish shore? Finding Home: An Immigrant’s Journey is about another child who survived the trauma of exile to tell his story. It is an intimate, lyrical memoir of an Iraqi child looking for home, a powerful tale of dislocation, despair and transformation shared by refugees and immigrants at all times, including those refugees seen on TV almost every night. Narrated in the first person, it captivates the reader with its candidness, honesty and hope. The protagonist is a seven-year-old Jewish Iraqi child living a peaceful life with his parents and many siblings in the countryside near the Hanging Gardens of Babylon by the Euphrates River. When things change abruptly for the worse in 1951, he and his family flee to Israel, where they spend years living in tents and shacks in sub-human conditions in transition camps. He becomes a day laborer, survives a terrible disease, becomes an adult with a different name and personality, gets a college education and a doctorate, and ends his search for home in the United States, amazed and happy with his life.

When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they take away from it?
I hope that at least some aspects of the book will resonate with all readers and remind them of events in their own lives. Several American-born readers of the book, seemingly not connected in any way to this story which spans Iraq, Israel and the United States, felt an immediate connection with it. They told me some of the family dynamics portrayed in the book, as well as the fears, aspirations and hopes of the protagonist were reflected in their own lives. I guess that is why we all read: to see ourselves in others, know that we are not alone, feel human and connected with fellow human beings, especially when life’s events are difficult, even impossible.

What was the hardest part of writing your memoir? The most rewarding?
When I was very young and living in a transition camp I contracted typhoid fever and almost died. For many years, I did not dare think about that deadly experience. Every time the thought of writing about it crept to my mind, however faintly, I would run away to save my life. Deep down, however, I knew one day I would face that brutal experience. This happened a few years ago in my old age, when I confronted it and found a way to convey the many weeks of confusion, fever and psychosis to readers. I tried many different writing styles until I found a suitable one. Writing about this set me free and helped me understand myself. For me, memoir writing was a path for knowing myself better, which was most rewarding.

When did you know you wanted to write your story? What prompted the final push to begin?
I have published many academic books and articles, but I always knew that someday I would write my memoirs—not only mine and my family’s, but of a whole generation of 120,000 Jews who had to leave Iraq empty-handed like refugees and start over. But I did not want the exposure which comes with writing my own memoirs. I was much more comfortable writing academic books because I was not personally invested in them. Then I took a class about memoir writing and immediately began writing.

Tell us how the book came together.
I say I “began writing,” but reality was a lot more complicated. My research required several overseas trips to interview relatives and other sources about life in Iraq before I was born and the difficulties of life in Israel later. This was important and urgent as many of my relatives were already very old. Then, of course, I had to make decisions about what to include in the book, how to tell the story, etc. This was a process of trial and error, sifting and distilling until I found my voice and rhythm. I wrote in the mornings, edited in the evenings and decided how to tackle the next morning’s writing in my sleep. And my conversations with my characters in my sleep were most satisfying. As usual with me, my better writing is my re-writes, many re-writes, and extensive editing way before a draft is submitted to an editor. My guiding principle, always, was to engage readers in the conversation, to lure them into the plot and to make them crave hearing the narrator’s familiar voice chapter after chapter. I decided to publish the book through CreateSpace and to hire an Albuquerque artist to design the cover. I had two excellent editors who contributed to the readability of the book and whom I sometimes drove crazy because I kept changing my mind, sometimes about small details that most readers would not notice. In all, the book took about three pregnancies from start to finish.

What surprising facts did you discover while doing research for Finding Home: An Immigrant’s Journey?
In researching the book I found out that beginning in 1947 the Jewish Agency, and later the state of Israel, secretly sent Zionist messengers to Iraq to convince the Jewish population there to migrate to the infant and poor state of Israel. Their means of persuasion included setting fires to Jewish Synagogues and businesses. The Iraqi Jewish population immediately assumed those fires were set by hateful Muslims and decided that Israel was the only safe place for them. Imagine that: Jews from Israel killed Iraqi Jews and harmed their synagogues and businesses in order to push the rest of the Jewish population of Iraq to move and populate the barren land of the new state of Israel.

Do you have a favorite quote from the book you’d like to share?
Thinking back about my favorite quote from the book, I realize it did not pertain to an action, a deed or something that one of the characters said. Rather, it pertained to a feeling, a mood that concluded turmoil or an inner emotional explosion. When such an emotional chaos happened and the characters found a way not to fall to pieces, they reaffirmed their lives by saying “all is good, right and proper.” Like a mantra, this had the effect of cooling their inner fires and establishing peace and acceptance. I found this very reassuring, even rejuvenating. Strangely, I began using it myself. And it works!


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 Dan Wetmore

Through his writing, retired Air Force officer Dan Wetmore strives to add something new to the storehouse of human stories. He also embraces Horace Mann’s advice to “be ashamed to die until you have achieved some victory for humanity.” My Mother’s Gentle Unbecoming: The Absentings of Alzheimer’s (Saint Andrews University Press, 2016) is Dan’s first book of published poetry. You can find him on LinkedIn and his SWW Author Page.


What is your elevator pitch for My Mother’s Gentle Unbecoming?
This collection of poetry is a chronologue of my mother’s stair-step descent into the privations of Alzheimer’s Disease; an attempt to be an oblique voice for one who’s unavoidably voiceless, and not have such a taking pass without being taken to task.

When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they take away from the book?
Appreciation that the lion’s share of a life are the ripples we imbue in others; that beauty can be found in the seemingly most ugly, even if it’s nothing more than the shadow of sadness outlining former joys; and that a lamentation can be as much a tribute of recollection as can a remembrance.

How did the book come together?
It started as conversations with myself, trying to come to grips with such a perverse affliction, to sort out the paradoxes and anticipate what lay in store. The printed page was the best scapegoat I could find for the frustrations of these days, in hopes that casting words out to wander in the wilderness might somehow free those of us closest to her from our own aimless stumbling. And seeing so many friends and their parents in similar straits, hoping that sharing the words might include the catharsis I found in them.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Trying to avoid slipping into self-pity and let the proper focus shift away from my mother. Working to plumb the grief’s depths without becoming maudlin; keeping the sentiments from becoming a caricature, or worse, an exploitation.

In poetry, how important is accessibility of meaning? Should a reader have to work to understand a poem?
My answers might seem contradictory. Accessibility of meaning is very important if the object is to be read (as opposed to those who write solely for catharsis). But despite creating an obstacle to that, the reader should have to work to understand a poem. Mainly because things we’ve striven for mean more than those which are simply handed to us. But also because if the reader hasn’t traveled beyond where they were previously, if a lightbulb hasn’t come on—a new idea apprehended or phrasing experienced—it’s been nothing more than a passing distraction. Maybe I’m channeling my mother that way: having spent hours preparing the best meal I can, the last thing I want is for you to wolf it down without savoring it.

How does a poem begin for you, with an idea, a form, an image?
With an idea or turn of phrase. For me, poems are always exercises in concision (I’ve bought into Polonius’ assertion that “brevity is the soul of wit [insight vice humor]”), completeness, and sometimes the quixotic. I try to wring every nuance from an idea, in the most succinct way possible and if possible make it memorable/stamp it uniquely my own through an improbable juxtaposition. In poetry’s relatively few words, there are few to spare as guard rails (for the author or the audience), and I enjoy the adrenaline of walking the tightrope which is seeking the one word which has all (and only) the desired connotations, without which I and the reader will both fall.

Since you began writing poems, has your idea of what embodies poetry changed?
At age six, rhyme and meter—poetry’s unique traits—held the whole of their value for me (the evident perspiration found in technical precision). Now I believe the way seen defines the short lines as much if not more than the way said; the subject viewed peripherally, obliquely, intimated rather than stated. Also, since poems are snapshots of the world through the lens of the author (of the human condition and other verities), their aesthetic value lies most in how true a likeness rather than how well liked a particular truth.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
For the sheer lyricism of well-crafted prose, Mark Helprin and Anthony Doerr. For remarkable situations, ingenious plot twists and concentrated character studies, I can’t pass up the science fiction of Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, and Robert Heinlein. For exploring and embracing the self-deprecating absurdness of the human condition, Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut take the cake.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? What is your writing routine like?
It’s a draw between creating and editing. Like ice cream, one is mint chocolate chip and the other is caramel praline. The creating is exploratory and marveling at the unanticipated newness coming from a mind you thought you already knew in full. The editing is imposing order and wresting control from chaos, enjoying power over the world of your words. Sadly, my writing routine is 10 percent writing, 90 percent editing. Long blocks late at night when distractions are at a minimum are best, but a few minutes with a scrap of paper on a cross-town bus or waiting in a restaurant are good to jot down plot anchors or snippets of dialogue. When limited time provides the freedom of low expectations, the rewards are inversely high. And a sense of the illicit always helps to catalyze writing. I write best by procrastinating something else!

What do you want to be known for as an author?
Managing to weave seemingly disparate elements into something cohesive; unique turns of phrase and insightful reflections on the human condition. One of my high school teachers told me writing should do one of two things—take a reader someplace they’ve never been, or show them one they’ve been to but in a way they’ve never seen it before. I’d count either as success.

Do you have other creative outlets besides writing?
Building furniture, genealogy, and restoring old cars. Probably because they and writing all share the aspect of trying to give something to the future, whether being a steward of the past and care-taking what’s lent to us, or adding something new to the stores of the human story; trying to embrace Horace Mann’s admonition to “be ashamed to die until you have achieved some victory for humanity.”

What writing projects are you working on now?
My first novel, which has been dogging my steps for more years than I care to admit, but is finally nearing its end through the combined exhaustion of the material and myself.


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 D.E. Williams

D.E. Williams began her writing journey at the age of ten and has followed its winding course through decades of life’s detours. A dying friend’s wish (see the end of this interview) gave her the push she needed to complete her first novel and seek publication. Child of Chaos (2015), book one of The Chesan Legacy Series, went on to win the award for best sci fi novel in the 2016 New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. You can find the author on her website at DollieWilliams.com and on Facebook.


What is your elevator pitch for Child of Chaos?
Fighting a forgotten past and a prophetic future, a young assassin struggles to free herself and save her friends, but she just might destroy the galaxy in the process.

What sparked the initial story idea?
The idea was originally a short story titled “The Freedom Maneuver” that I wrote back in the 80s. It was badly written and never published, but the characters never left me alone. I had to tell their story.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
When I first started writing Child of Chaos, I let the characters have control and it roamed all over the place. The central plot was there, but very well camouflaged. Reining the characters in and sticking to the plot became the greatest challenge.

How did the book come together?
It took about seven years to write the book, then I realized it was really two books, and it took another four years to separate them and refine book one.

Tell us about your main characters. Which point of view did you enjoy writing the most?
Tridia Odana is a 17-year-old assassin raised in a militaristic society, the Odean Hierarchy. She’s very good at what she does, but hates it, because she’s also telepathic and gets hit with her victim’s dying thoughts. Her best friend is framed for a heinous crime, but the only way to rescue him is to rise to the Master Assassin’s rank—something no female has ever done. A prophecy unknown to Tridia predicts she will either cause a horrific war across the galaxy, or she will ensure galactic peace. One of the few who know of this prophecy is Brenden Aren, a former Master Assassin sworn to kill her to prevent the worst from happening. For the most part, I write from either Tridia or Brenden’s point of view. Tridia’s POV is by far the most fun, and Brenden’s is the most challenging. I mean, I’ve been a 17-year-old girl, but I’ve never been a cold and dangerous male assassin.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for this book?
I gave a lot of thought to defining the Hierarchy’s rules and regulations and what it was like for the soldiers who lived with them. It was difficult balancing the nature of my characters to make them believable in that society, as well as being able to function outside of it. I wanted them to have personality beyond being killing machines and to be able to show emotions, even though those emotions are often subdued by their training.

Do you have a favorite quote from Child of Chaos?
“You can’t fail more badly than being killed.” ~ Tridia Odana

If the stars aligned, what past or present movie/television series would you love to write for?
There are so many! I would love to rewrite the ending of St. Elsewhere, the old hospital drama. That show ended so badly. I enjoy anime and some of those series don’t end—or don’t end well—they just stop. I’d like to write or rewrite endings for several of them. Then there’s the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise that I would really love to get my words into! Most of all, I would absolutely love to be involved in The Chesan Legacy Series movies, with Child of Chaos being the first in the franchise. (You did say, if the stars aligned!)

Tell us about your writing process and your writing routine.
Definitely a pantser who loves to write late at night. I have to do the original writing with my feet propped up—but all editing is done with my feet firmly on the floor. Go figure!

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write, and what do you do to get over this hurdle?
I struggle with action scenes—which is really funny, because for those who have read Child of Chaos, it’s pretty much non-stop action. My mentor Kirt Hickman gave me some very good advice that I cling to. He said an action scene isn’t only about what they’re doing, it’s also about what the characters are thinking and feeling, and a writer has to show those things, as well. The reader needs to be a part of the action, not just watching it. So I write the scene with the moving parts first, then go back and add the internals. If it doesn’t move me, then I’m pretty sure it won’t move anyone else. I keep at it until I’m hooked.

What typically comes first for you: a character, a scene, a story idea?
The characters always bring their mixed-up stories into my head, expecting me to sort them out.

What do you love outside of writing and reading?
I sew and do a few crafts from time to time. Apart from reading and writing, my first love is movies. I’ve gotten much more select in what I watch over the years. I rarely watch an R movie. If it’s got filthy language, gratuitous blood-letting, or explicit sex, I’m not interested. I will see anything put out by Disney, Dreamworks, and Studio Gibli. Usually, if it’s a superhero or adventure movie, I’m there. Same for Star Trek and Star Wars. And if it has human-sized green amphibians who wear colored masks and use martial arts weapons, I’ll stand in line for a ticket. (Yeah, I’m worse than any three kids I know.)

Do you have a favorite how-to writing book you’d like to recommend?
Revising Fiction: Making Sense of the Madness by Kirt Hickman. I’ve given away several copies to aspiring writers and recommended it to several others.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
Keep writing! And David Morrell said something at the SWW Conference a few years ago that set me free. He said to write your story. Don’t try to write what’s popular right now. Don’t try to write what you think someone else wants to read. Write the story that’s given to you.

What writing project are you working on now?
Chaos Unleashed, book two of The Chesan Legacy Series. My target release date is June 15, 2017. But I have this day job that pays the bills and keeps me occupied 10-12 hours a day, so I do editing and rewrites when I can. It will definitely be out before Bubonicon at the end of August.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Child of Chaos is a self-published book, and the reason for that is a poignant one. My most ardent supporter was always my best friend Mary Cellino who started reading my stuff in college, way back when I was doing it for fun—and it was pretty awful. Even so, Mary encouraged me to pursue writing as a career. I didn’t, but I did keep writing, and she kept reading and encouraging. In 2012 she was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer. We knew it was terminal. When I asked her if there was anything on her bucket list we could do, she said the only thing on it was to own a copy of my published book. [Insert knife in heart here.] How do you deny that last wish to your best friend? I got serious about cleaning it up and submitted it to Penguin publishing in the fall of 2014. The editor held onto it for eight months before telling me that it was an intriguing story, but she just didn’t fall in love with it. That was in May 2015. By this time, Mary was failing fast, so I decided to self-publish because no publisher could have gotten it out fast enough. In late September, I told her the book was scheduled for release on December 15th of that year. She died on October 25th. I got the first proofs back a few days later. There was a copy on the altar next to her urn at her Celebration of Life Service. I knew it didn’t matter to her that she never held the book in her hand. She’d read it in all of its lesser stages through the years, and she knew it would be printed. She also knew if she hadn’t asked for it, I would probably never have actually published it (at least not for many years). There are others who worked very hard with me to make Child of Chaos the really good book it is, and I acknowledge them every chance I get (Clare Davis, Shari Holmes), but it wouldn’t be in print right now without Mary’s request.


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 Steve Brewer

Author Steve Brewer brings decades of journalism experience to his fiction work. Twenty years and nearly thirty books after hanging up his journalist hat, he still writes tightly plotted, fast-paced mysteries and thrillers (as well as crime novels under the pen name Max Austin). Shotgun Boogie and Homesick Blues, both published in 2016, are the first two books in his Jackie Nolan thriller series. You’ll find Steve at SteveBrewer.blogspot and on his Amazon author page.

Here’s a peek at the series:

Jackie Nolan knows how to handle semi-trucks, shotguns, and the assortment of nasty characters who cross her path. She’s a good guy who doesn’t mind breaking a few laws to make life easier for family and friends, and herself—hijacking semis to pay off a truckload of debt (Shotgun Boogie) and stealing a dead woman’s identity to start a new life (Homesick Blues).


What inspired you to write Shotgun Boogie, the first book in the Jackie Nolan thriller series? How did Homesick Blues come about?
I’d been working with an editor at the Alibi imprint of Penguin Random House, and I knew he was about to ask me (over lunch) what I planned to write next. All I had in mind was a guy named Jack who boosted semis for a living. The editor asked if I could write a female protagonist. I said, “Funny you should ask! I’ve got this female character named Jackie who steals trucks.” He loved it. Unfortunately, his position got axed before we actually signed a contract. By then, I’d written TWO Jackie books. I decided to publish them myself. Apologies to those who already heard this story at SouthWest Writers’ 2016 Self-publishing Conference (watch the YouTube video here), but that’s exactly how it happened. Of course, then I had to come up with a woman named Jackie who knew how to boost trucks. She turned into a very capable woman.

You seem to enjoy writing from an antagonist’s point of view. Is that why Jackie has a bit of a dark side? Was there a learning curve involved in writing a woman protagonist?
Jackie definitely has a dark side, but she’s motivated by good (mostly financial) reasons. Her parents’ healthcare has put her deep in debt, and her boss is only too happy to make money on the side from stolen trucks. Jackie gives in to the pressure and starts stealing semis from local truck stops. By the time the novel opens, she’s actually begun to enjoy it. I’ve written female protagonists before (A Box of Pandoras, 2012), and lots of strong female characters, so the learning curve wasn’t huge. Once she started talking in my head, we were off and running.

Why did you choose Albuquerque as the setting for the series? How true did you stay to the city?
The nice answer: I love Albuquerque, and always get a kick out of sharing its features and foibles with readers. Also true: I’m lazy and I don’t like to travel. Most of my books are set wherever I’m living at the time. I stay true to the city, though I do change the names of some businesses, etc. We are a city with a big freeway interchange at its heart, and the truck stop there is a fascinating subculture.

Are there scenes from either book that you’d love to see play out in a movie?
All of them! These novels are written so tightly, they’re almost like movie scripts already.

What interesting facts did you discover while doing research for Shotgun Boogie and Homesick Blues?
1) Hookers who work the truck stop parking lots are called “lot lizards.” Lovely, eh? 2) Most semis these days have automatic transmissions. 3) Lots of truckers, particularly the young ones, are minorities. When I was growing up, truckers seemed to be universally white. They certainly were portrayed that way in the movies. Breaker, breaker, good buddy!

How has your 30+ year experience as a journalist benefited your fiction writing?
It taught me to write fast, and to do thorough rewriting.

You’re an instructor at the University of New Mexico’s Honors College. In what areas do you wish your students were better prepared for their writing journey?
Students in public schools aren’t forced to write as much. Now, more emphasis is placed on testing. So even Honors students, who are the cream of the crop, get to college needing to improve their writing. I teach them to write for a general audience, and to keep it clear. I also teach courses called Meet the Authors and American Crime Fiction. Lots of fun!

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write, and what do you do to get over this hurdle?
Sex scenes are tough. I try to keep ’em brief.

Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you started your writing/ publishing career today?
Most everything. I’ve been through half a dozen publishers and five agents. I just keep writing.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m finishing up work on a novel called Side Eye (to be published in June 2017). It’s about an 18-year-old delinquent who gets hired to be the driver for an old mobster who’s losing his eyesight. Set in Albuquerque, with lots of action.


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 Joanne Bodin

Poetry is a driving force for author Joanne Bodin, but when a prose story calls, she follows. Heeding this call has resulted in two novels: the award-winning Walking Fish (2010), and her newest, Orchid of the Night (Mercury HeartLink, 2017), a psychological thriller. You’ll find Joanne on Facebook and her website JoanneBodin.com.


What is your elevator pitch for Orchid of the Night?
Trapped in a world of shadows, secrets and lies, Kyle O’Sullivan must flee for his life. Finding solace in the gay community of Ixtlan, even his new identity as Tom Tanner cannot protect him from his tragic fate.

What came first for you: a character, a scene, the story idea?
Orchid of the Night was inspired by true events that took place in Albuquerque with the New Mexico Orchid Guild about ten years ago when I was their vice president. Our then president died mysteriously, and we later discovered he was a pathological liar who was not who he said he was. No one ever found out his real name. He was a brilliant man who knew everything about orchids. We held a memorial service for him since there was no next of kin, but we also realized we had been dealing with an imposter. So the main character came first based on the Orchid Guild president.

Tell us about your main characters.
There are two protagonists. Part one of the novel is about Kyle O’Sullivan who grows up in Maui. He is teased by his classmates early on because of his red hair which stands out against the mostly black hair of the Hawaiian kids. Kyle befriends Danny Leavenworth, who is also a misfit. Both Kyle and Danny are highly intelligent and find ways to escape the doldrums of school by becoming best friends as well as sexual partners. As the story unfolds, (with no spoiler alerts) the two become entangled in a complex relationship which forces Kyle to flee for his life. He relocates to the mainland and ends up in Tempe, Arizona with a new identity as Tom Tanner. Part two of the novel deals with the second protagonist, Officer Andy Gomez, a Yaqui Indian sent to Tom’s home for a wellness check in Tempe after Tom doesn’t show up for work. What he finds when he arrives forever changes the officer’s life. The prologue of the novel is taken from the actual description given by the detective in Albuquerque who called me after he was sent on a wellness check regarding our guild president. The second half of the novel deals with how Officer Gomez becomes obsessed with the case as he sinks deeper into the life of Tom Tanner and finds connections to his own life.

Why did you use the particular settings you chose?
I chose Maui because our guild president talked about having an aunt in Maui who raised him after his parents died. It turned out to be a lie, but at least I had a place to start. I chose Tempe because there is a Native American Yaqui population there, and I wanted the book to take place in the Southwest. The Yaqui connection is important to the story because I needed a place for Kyle/Tom to go for safety. He goes to Ixtlan, a gay sanctuary modeled on one in New Mexico, one of the first founded in the early 70s. During the time of the Gay Liberation Movement, gays were often sent for conversion therapy to “turn them straight,” or they were kicked out of their homes by their parents, or killed. Sanctuaries saved many lives and offered a safe place to be a gay person. Also, these early sanctuaries modeled themselves on Native American values like sustainable living and spirituality. They grew their own food and lived off the land. Over time, some of them were accepted by the locals, like the fictional sanctuary of Ixtlan.

How did the book came together?
Only a few Orchid Guild board members knew the details surrounding the death of our president. When I knew I wanted to write the novel, I held a meeting at my house and discussed this project with them to see how they felt. Once I began the story, it basically wrote itself. In my dreams I heard the characters tell me what they wanted. In fact, much of the backstory, which is represented in the book with italics, came from dreams. I used those vignettes throughout the book because the backstory is what drives the characters, and I used a different style of writing called poetic narrative. This book is considered a psychological thriller, but is written as a work of literary fiction. The book took about three years to write, most of it taken up with research. After hiring the professional editor who edited my first novel, Walking Fish, I sent query letters to agents and presses for over a year, and received about 25 rejections. In 2016, I got a contract with an Australian press that had relocated to northern California. They were bought out by a press in Madison, Wisconsin. All went smoothly until about five months ago. The book was ready to be published, but I hadn’t heard from the publisher. I decided to get the rights back to my book, which took some legal help, but in the end everyone was happy. I found a publisher in Silver City, and they did a fantastic job. It all turned out for the best.

What is the significance of the flower on the book cover?
The orchid on the cover is called a Dracula vampira. For those knowledgeable about orchids, it is in the Pleurothallid Alliance, and is called the orchid of the night, or the Dracula orchid because of its bat-like shape and because it hangs upside down from trees in the wild (and from moss-filled baskets in greenhouses). I decided to use this orchid as a metaphor for the self-loathing of the protagonist Kyle O’Sullivan because of the dark and seedy life that Kyle descends into when he lives on Maui. The orchid is also used as a writing convention that appears throughout the story as the plot unfolds.

Share some results of your research for Orchid of the Night.
I discovered there was a POW camp in Papago, Arizona near Tempe, used during World War II for German prisoners. I turned it into a gay sanctuary, Ixtlan. The Dracula vampira orchid that Kyle takes with him when he leaves Maui for Tempe cannot be grown in a desert climate, so I enlisted the help of an expert. Together we came up with the correct environment Tom Tanner could use to grow the orchids in the desert. The journal entries of Kyle/Tom’s uncle were actually written by my Dracula vampira expert from real expeditions to collect plants for his greenhouse in San Francisco. The founder of the Ixtlan gay sanctuary is based on research into the actual people who were involved in the early 70s in the San Francisco Gay Liberation Movement.

WalkingFishWhat do you want to be known for as a writer?
I have been writing poetry since I was seven. I prefer writing poetry, but when inspiration hits, I can’t ignore it. Both Walking Fish, my first novel, and now Orchid of the Night, wouldn’t leave me alone until I started to write them. Then I was hooked and couldn’t stop. I am glad I did tell their stories because both novels focus on flawed individuals who face almost insurmountable obstacles, and who must find ways to survive. I also like to write character-driven stories that are research-based and that deal with marginalized populations.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Writing for me is like breathing. I need to write throughout the day. In some ways, writing is an extension of my emotional life. When I can’t write because of daily interruptions, or family problems, or illness, etc., I get anxious. Writing is the calm I need to maintain physical and emotional balance.

What do you love outside of writing and reading?
I find that taking watercolor painting classes at the New Mexico Art League gives me the perfect balance when I am working on writing projects. Writing uses a certain part of the brain that needs to rest, to take breaks before the muse emerges again. By painting in watercolor, my brain feels renewed, almost like meditation. I also play classical and jazz piano to relax and replenish.

After publishing three books, what have you learned about marketing?
The process of writing a novel is one thing, but once it is out in the world it becomes like your child. You need to nurture it, make sure you do it justice. I see myself as a conduit for telling stories. Both novels, Walking Fish and Orchid of the Night, began to have an energy of their own once they were finished. Marketing your work is like raising your child. You want to make sure you find the best situation so the story gets out there. With social media it is much easier than it used to be when authors had to appear in person at book signings. Now you can market from your desk if you want. But, marketing is a full-time job. I approach it as a real job, and each day I check off something on my marketing list so that over a few months I have actually accomplished quite a bit. Also, entering the book into contests is part of marketing. In New Mexico we are fortunate to have the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. There is also the IPPY (Independent Publisher Awards), and depending on your genre, many other award venues to enter. These contests do cost money, but nothing feels as good as placing as finalist, or winner, and receiving stickers to put on your book. Then your book becomes even more marketable, and it rises to a higher level of readership. So, if you are in the writing business and take the time to follow through with marketing your product, you will reap the benefits of what can be a lonely, labor-intensive, competitive, and frustrating profession. But, most writers have no choice. If they don’t write, they don’t thrive.

Your book of poetry, Piggybacked (Mercury Heartlink, 2011), was a finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, and you’re a past vice president of the New Mexico State Poetry Society. What can writers learn from studying poetry?
Writing poetry is very different from writing narrative. Poetry often relies on imagery and metaphor, whereas narrative is more linear and plot-driven. Poetry is something that came naturally for me when I was in grade school. It seemed to allow me to delve into my imagination as a child and to come up with images that expressed my inner feelings; things that I couldn’t put into sentences or conceptualize at that age. The study of poetry takes a certain kind of dedication. It either calls out to you or not. Poetry can be a bit esoteric and, frankly, I only have patience for certain types of poems that speak to me personally. However, poetry is the language of the people. Even today, the success of poetic forms such as the spoken word, slam poetry, and even hip-hop, aligns with the poetry of the early bards, who went from town to town reading or speaking about the politics of the day.

Any advice for beginning or discouraged writers?
Passion, Patience, and Perseverance. Without those three things an emerging writer will not have the stamina to pursue their dream of writing.

What are you working on now?
I am working on a type of hybrid memoir that includes poems, narrative, archival material, and research. It deals with my experiences growing up in post-war Burbank, California in the 50s; with my experiences during the 60s at UC Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement; and with my life in West Hollywood during the New Age Movement.


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 Larada Horner-Miller

Author and poet Larada Horner-Miller spent 27 years as a middle grade teacher before getting serious about writing. Whether through poems or prose (or three volumes of her grandmother’s recipes), she celebrates family and the small ranching community where she grew up. The historical novel When Will Papa Get Home? (2015) is her sixth published book. You can find Larada at LaradaBlog and Larada.wix, and on Facebook and Twitter.


What is your elevator pitch for When Will Papa Get Home?
Having come from Mexico to a homestead on the high plains of southeastern Colorado with her family, Maria is determined to rise above prejudice and other obstacles in this engaging historical novel.

When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they will take away from it?
I hope the reader takes away a respect for Maria’s struggle and how she worked through a horrible injustice to her family. I also want people to want more about Maria, her family, and what happened next.

What sparked the initial story idea for the book?
The spark for this story was a routine visit to my favorite homestead on our family ranch, the Philly Place. I had heard the tales about Philly my whole life from my Dad and Granddad. Philly was accused of being a cow thief and was in jail when my granddad bought his homestead. I found a blue marble between the front door and the outside step and wondered who the marble belonged to. This story came from that familiar tale and that blue marble.

Tell us about your main character in When Will Papa Get Home?
The story unfolds through the eyes of Maria, the daughter of Philadelphia Gonzales. We meet her initially as a grown, successful woman in Denver, Colorado. In a flashback, Maria tells the story of her family’s immigration from Mexico to southeastern Colorado and her life on the plains living in a homestead. The story focuses on her struggles and finally her maturation through the false accusation of her father being a thief, his imprisonment, and her life with her mother without Papa.

Explain the importance of the book’s setting.
The setting for most of the story is a homestead on our family ranch in southeastern Colorado, and then the move to Trinidad, Colorado. Maria loved the life on the open plains with its freedom and abundant wildlife. Her horse, the land, and working beside her Papa nurtured her soul. The abrupt thrust into the city life of Trinidad jolted her. She yearned for bygone days that were less stressful roaming the mesas she loved. The contrast between the two settings illuminates the two lives Maria lived as a child: from carefree and open on the plains to the confined regiment of city life with schoolwork consuming her. Her major goal in Trinidad was to learn English and better herself so she didn’t end up like her Papa—defenseless because he didn’t speak English. She also focused on becoming literate in Spanish, to be truly bilingual at a time when being bilingual had little merit.

How did the book come together?
I started the book in 1983 while attending Colorado State University as an English major. I revisited the story periodically and edited the 10,000-word manuscript several times over thirty years, but stalled out in the editing cycle. When I retired in 2013, I finally got serious about my writing. In 2014, I self-published This Tumbleweed Landed, a memoir collection of poetry and prose about the same ranching community in my novel. After that successful self-publishing experience, I worked for a year to beef up When Will Papa Get Home? I added references to historical figures, and the complete immigration from Mexico to Mora, New Mexico, and then to Branson, Colorado. I also added the details of building an adobe-and-rock homestead house and outhouse. I researched these keys points, made several road trips, and took photographs for historical accuracy. A photo album was included at the end of the book to provide visuals. Finally, When Will Papa Get Home? was released in November 2015.

Your publication Let Me Tell You a Story is a booklet written from your father’s perspective recounting the facts of how your grandfather put a family ranch together during the Great Depression. What was your goal in publishing this booklet?
My mother and I put Let Me Tell You a Story together for my Dad’s 75th birthday in 1993. My Mom wrote out the story as my Dad told it to her. Then I typed the manuscript on the computer, and Dad and I edited it. He selected the pictures included in the booklet, and initially we printed just enough copies for our family and close friends. After selling 25 extra copies, I republished it on CreateSpace. My Dad was so proud of his father’s accomplishment of putting together a ranch during the Depression when others were losing theirs. This booklet was a celebration of that success story.

What authors have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
Tony Hillerman’s celebration of the Southwest and the Native American world deeply touched me and encouraged me to write about an area of the Southwest I know and love. As an English major, I took extra classes to study Shakespeare and loved his playfulness with language. Mary Oliver focuses on nature in her poetry—growing up in southeastern Colorado gave me every opportunity to enjoy nature at its best, and I’ve enjoyed adding nature scenes to my books.

How has your work as a poet influenced your fiction writing?
I am a poet first and that influences my word selection. I have adopted the slogan, “Words matter” as my blog slogan and that says succinctly what counts in writing whether it is poetry or fiction. Also, I have been told the imagery in my historical fiction reminds the reader of poetry.

What advice do you have for discouraged writers?
I wrote two books and waited 30+ years to publish them. Don’t wait! I stashed those manuscripts away in a desk drawer for years, but they were not silent. They whispered to my spirit, but I ignored them. I married. I divorced. I walked away, turning my back on my creations. I sent out a query letter on This Tumbleweed Landed and received a request for the full manuscript. Then came the rejection—that put an end to my writing career for several years. I filled my life with other activities, but my books kept up their vigil. They haunted me, wanting to be released from that dark prison. Finally I couldn’t stand their noise anymore. Their endless clamor ended because I listened.

What writing project are you working on now?
My new book, I Grew Up to Be the Woman I Always Wanted to Be, will be released May 2017. It is a grief memoir of poetry and prose about the loss of my parents and how I handled it. It offers ideas on how to handle being an adult orphan and coming through to the other side.


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 Yvonne Williams Casaus

For over a decade, counselor and play therapist Yvonne Williams Casaus has helped children, adolescents, adults, and families in her private practice. Now with her first book, A Drop of Water: A Spiritual Journey (2016), she continues her outreach as she shares about healing, grief, and personal growth. You can find Yvonne at LaughingAtMyself.lol and on Facebook and Twitter.


What is your elevator pitch for A Drop of Water: A Spiritual Journey?
A Drop of Water: A Spiritual Journey is a tangible way out of depression, trauma, and loss. I was spiritually inspired to share from my knowledge as a therapist and suicide loss survivor. I lost my first husband, the father of my children, to suicide. It is my own personal story that I share to help others. My love of water transforms it into a lighthearted, uninhibited, and fun poetic journey.

When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
I hope they will learn that we can all overcome profound tragedy, grief, and depression because we are all connected. We all feel loss; we all have dark nights of the soul. It will remind you that no matter how lonely you feel, you are never alone. Of the 8 billion species on earth, there are 7.24 billion people of different cultures, ages, and genders. What is the universal link that connects us all? Water. A drop of water, an ocean of water, we are all connected.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you? 
Writing the book definitely took me out of my comfort zone. I never thought I would share my personal story of loss. It was so painful I never imagined I would put it on paper. However, it has been very healing. I have now met so many people who have been affected by suicide. It is considered a taboo subject, but it is so important to start talking about it and end the stigma of mental illness. It was also challenging because I wrote it while working full time as a mom, wife, counselor and play therapist, so I really had to learn to manage my time.

How did the book come together?
I had a calling for many years to write a book. I did not know what I would write about, but I felt there was a book inside me that needed to come out. I truly believe it was spiritually inspired. I attempted to write it many times. Finally, during a weekend writing retreat the words came out so quickly I started typing with my eyes closed. The first draft was written in a weekend. The editing process took much longer. It took a year to create a cover, edit, and self-publish the book. I learned a lot in the process.

Do you have a favorite quote from your book that you’d like to share?
From the Chapter “Dancing”: “Feel the vibration, the connection, the knowing. We are all souls, connected and growing.”

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for this book?
The entire process of writing this book has been a surprise. One of the most delightful things I discovered was that I could write in rhyme. I have never rhymed, so I was literally laughing out loud and laughing at myself while writing this book. That is why my website is LaughingAtMyself.lol. I discovered that my ability to laugh at myself has been a huge part of what has helped me heal and grow. I found it extraordinary that the joy I felt was in direct proportion to the pain I experienced during my grieving process. I was also completely taken aback by the statistics—nearly 800,000 people die from suicide each year. When you’re dealing with a loved one’s suicide, you think you are the only one.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing A Drop of Water?
The most rewarding aspect is knowing my words are helping people. So many people have reached out since I opened up about my loss. I have gotten amazing feedback about how my book has helped others struggling with depression. I am proud to be fighting the stigma of mental illness. I hope these words will give people courage to talk about how they are feeling and ask for help if they are struggling. I was honored to be asked to run a writing workshop for Long Term Survivors of Suicide at the Grief Resource Center. I have also been featured in many blogs, television, and radio programs to discuss suicide, depression, anxiety, and grief.

Do you write other than nonfiction?
Yes, I am halfway through my next project which is a fantasy novel dealing with spirituality. It is a young adult book. I work with many adolescents so I was drawn to this genre. I have really enjoyed writing paranormal fiction and creating my own fantasy world. So far there is a lot of suspense, romance, betrayal, and vampires. All of which I love to read.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Writing has helped me heal more than I thought I could. Sharing my deepest, darkest moments with the world has to be the most terrifying thing I have ever done. I have gone skydiving, and I have snorkeled with sharks. I am pretty adventurous. I don’t mind heights, and I love big, scary roller coasters. However, I tend to be a very private person, so sharing the loss of my husband to suicide was not easy for me. It has given me more courage and confidence in myself. I learned that I am much stronger than I ever imagined.

What advice do you have for discouraged writers?
Just write. Editing can come later. Write from the heart and let the words flow quickly. I found that if I stopped to correct my mistakes, it would take me in a different direction. We all have stories to tell. I say, “Do it!” Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is doing what you are called to do in spite of your fear.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Besides my young adult fantasy novel, I have been working on blog posts for my website. And I was recently awarded an Honorable Mention in a SouthWest Sage short story writing contest. My story “Awakening” is featured in the February 2017 edition of the Sage (page 8).


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 Zachry Wheeler, Part 1

Science fiction novelist Zachry Wheeler is a web applications developer and self-professed nerd who also writes nonfiction articles for BrewChief.com and HerringtonPost.com. You’ll find him on his website ZachryWheeler.com and at SFF conferences throughout the Southwestern United States (see his website’s Events page). Transient, published in 2016, is his debut novel.


What is your elevator pitch for Transient?
I got a lot of pitch practice at the Albuquerque Comic Con this year. It sold a lot of books, so I guess I’m doing something right:

“You can think of Transient as a re-imagination of vampire lore through the lens of science fiction. Now here’s the fun part. I took the widely abused trope of a young adult vampire romance … and shoved it face-first through the meat grinder of post-apocalyptic science fiction. The story is dark, sinister, and morally ambiguous. Consider it the anti-Twilight.”

Tell us about your main character in the book.
From the rear cover blurb: “Jonas is a young transient deep undercover in downtown Seattle. He lives underground, works at night, and drinks his daily blood rations, just like any normal eternal. He is a model spy, but also an apostate among extremists, torn between ideologies (as well as lovers) from either side.” That sums him up quite well and foreshadows his struggles as the protagonist. You can think of him as a young idealist trying to navigate a world of extreme moralities. He’s an easy character to connect with because, at a baseline, we all just want to get along.

How did Transient come together?
Transient took 10 years to publish. When I wrote the first draft, I wasn’t a writer at all. I was barely a reader. I just had an interesting idea that I put down on paper. And boy was it terrible. It was a study in how not to write. I used every crutch and cliché you could imagine, but I didn’t know any better. Once I learned how bad it was, I set it aside and went on to other things with the assumption I sucked at writing.

I credit beer for teaching me how to write (totally serious). I started a craft beer review site (BrewChief.com) shortly after I wrote the first draft of Transient. I had no intentions of becoming a writer at that point; I just wanted to talk about the wonders of the craft beer movement. A thousand articles later, I realized my writing had improved dramatically. I decided to revisit the Transient manuscript and was surprised by how much I had learned. Not only could I see what was wrong, I knew how to fix it.

What is your writing process like?
Stephen King said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” That’s me in a nutshell. I’m a very motivated person, a task master who is uncomfortable with idle time. I write every day, and I never have trouble getting started. The only x-factor is topic. Writer’s block is not something I experience. I’ll get hung up on an idea from time to time, but instead of faltering, I just shift focus onto another writing avenue while it simmers. I own and operate several online writing ventures, including BrewChief.com and HerringtonPost.com. So if I get stuck on something in a novel, I’ll go write an article or blog post to reset my brain.

What comes first for you before you write: a character, a scene, a story idea?
Definitely the story idea. Every novel I write can be boiled down to a “what if” question. I refuse to outline my stories, so the characters and plot emerge organically.

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your work?
I don’t construct messages or themes because I never want to come across as preachy. I let the settings and the characters do that for me, no matter how ambiguous (I downright loathe some of my characters). However, I do employ some recurring elements. I enjoy taking jabs at religion, both critically and comically. I also like to explore misanthropic personalities.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write, and what do you do to get over this hurdle?
Sex scenes are quite vexing, mostly because everyone’s sexuality is so different. The things I enjoy will turn off someone else, and vice versa. To get around it, I just set up the foreplay and kill the scene, leaving the reader to their own imagination.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
My favorite author by far is Douglas Adams. I adore his entire catalogue. When writing humor, there are a few ways to do it right and a million ways to do it wrong. Adams had an unapologetic wit and a storytelling voice that hooked you from the first sentence. I dedicated my latest work to his memory (a science fiction comedy entitled Max and the Multiverse).

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
To be honest, I still don’t. I consider myself a compulsive dabbler.

What writing project are you working on now?
I just released my latest, a young adult science fiction novel titled Max and the Multiverse. It was so much fun to write that I immediately launched into the sequel. From the back cover of Max and the Multiverse: “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… Determined to escape his mundane existence, Max and his cyborg cat venture into the black, only to entangle themselves in an intergalactic conflict. A ruthless criminal overlord, a corrupt planetary system, an ornery walrus, a secret society of super nerds, and a pair of plucky orange lesbians round out this crazy, clumsy adventure.”

To learn more about Zack and his writing, go to Part 2 of this interview.


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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