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Author Updates: Joyce Hertzoff & RJ Mirabal

Though Joyce Hertzoff and RJ Mirabal came to writing from different paths (hers as a science professional, his as an English teacher), they both ended up in the same place—the fantasy genre. This shared passion brings them together at SouthWest Writers (SWW) meetings, in critique groups, and as table-mates at local and regional book events. And they’ve both been hard at work on new writing projects since their first SWW interviews several years ago.

The Crimson Orb (2014), the first book in Joyce Hertzoff’s Crystal Odyssey Series, follows teenager Nissa and her older brother Blane on a journey to find her missing magic teacher, the wizard Madoc. The quest entangles them and a band of new-found friends in a search for the legendary Crimson Orb. The series continues in Under Two Moons (2017) with Nissa and the group searching for the source of Madoc’s strange books. After uncovering secrets about Nissa’s world, she and the others start on a path to recreate their history’s lost crystal-based technology. Joyce’s newest series begins with A Bite of the Apple (a Portal Adventures book, 2016) and another strong female character eager to find a place in her world. Anabet “Bet” Haines jumps at the chance to explore unknown lands as a portal traveler. When disaster strikes, and Bet is unable to finish her portal training, she is forced to accept an assignment to find a thief hiding in the strange, new world of The Big Apple.

You’re in the middle of writing two fantasy series. Do your characters surprise you as you write their stories or do you rein them in and make them behave?
In both series, my main characters changed and grew because of their experiences. How that affected their world view and self-confidence surprised me a little. Nissa, the main character in the Crystal Odyssey Series, has gotten past her desire to do “what the boys do.” Now that she can wield a sword and do magic, and also learned how useful sewing and cooking can be, she realizes every lesson in life is important. She’s also traveled far from her insular early life at the duke’s manor and discovered the astonishing history of her world. Bet (from A Bite of the Apple) began her first trip through a portal with little training, only her wits, four enchanted apples, and a small knife. Now she’s gained experience and shown her abilities.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for your books?
Neither of my main characters is particularly religious, but I had to come up with beliefs for some of the people they meet during their adventures. That wasn’t easy, especially since I didn’t want the religions to mirror those in our world. Similar to that, they meet many different kinds of people. I had to find a way to differentiate them all.

How has your writing style changed since you wrote your first book? What important lessons have you applied to your writing?
I don’t think my writing style has changed too much, but based on classes I’ve taken, books I’ve read, and especially critiques/feedback I’ve received, I’ve been able to break some habits (such as beginning sentences with “and” and “but”). I know now that I should include more descriptions than I did at first, and also show more of the characters’ emotions.

TheCrimsonOrbYour stories place female characters in challenging predicaments. Do you work from an outline (plotter) to craft your stories or write by the seat of your pants (pantser)?
Pantser all the way. I’ve tried to use outlines. Every time I’ve abandoned what I intended when my characters picked different paths. I know an outline would help me with plot and scene structure, but I’d rather impose those after the story is done. I usually start with a plot idea but rarely know how the story will end. It’s more fun that way. It’s amazing, in a way, since I tend to think logically, in a straight-forward line.

Since the last SWW interview in 2015, a new sub-genre of speculative fiction has become popular — science fantasy. Tell us how your stories fit in this genre.
I could talk about genres all day. I thought my stories were fantasies with scientific overtones, but as they went along, science took over. I guess I needed a logical explanation for the magic without it taking away from the fantasy aspect. In the Crystal Odyssey series, there’s energy all around, more or less, and the magic the characters learn is the ability of using their minds to use this energy. But crystals can also be used to focus the energy and that’s what was used for technology in the past. In the Portal Adventures series, the keys necessary to pass through the portals can be anything, but substitutes can be made by enchantments. No one knows how the portals work, or the keys for that matter, but in the second book I’m working on now they begin to question and study both.

I’ve been told my books are for a Young Adult audience, since my main characters are eighteen; I can accept that if that includes coming-of-age stories. I never thought of them in those terms, but as I analyze the themes in each, that’s what they are.

How are you coming along with Beyond the Sea, the third book in the Crystal Odyssey series? Do you have other projects you’re working on?
I’m doing the fifth or sixth edit on Beyond the Sea and trying to cut it from the initial 135,000 words to something more reasonable (now at 129,000 words). Each time I think I can cut a particular chunk from it, I realize how important that chunk is to the overall story. I’m also working on the sequel to A Bite of the Apple (called Winds of Change) as well as two near-future apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic stories (Addie’s Exile and The Train to Nowhere Somewhere). I’m also looking for places to publish two children’s stories: So You Want to Be a Dragon and The Ogre and the Two Sisters.

Read more about Joyce and her fantasy series in part one and part two of her 2015 interview, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter, as well as and

RJ Mirabal’s first book in the Rio Grande Parallax series, The Tower of Il Serrohe (2012), follows a disheartened and cynical Don Vargas through a portal into an alternative existence in the Valle Abajo (a place both alike and unlike his own Rio Grande Valley) where he takes on a quest to save the Valle clanspeople from the wily Soreyes. Extreme Dust Storms May Exist (2015) is the second book in the series that picks up five years after Don’s disappearance through the portal. The story follows his sixteen-year-old cousin Esther on a new quest against the Soreyes. In Zero Visibility Possible (2016) the Soreyes continue heaping terror on the clanspeople while Esther leads a group of comrades across the barren Malpais in search of answers to the mysteries of the Valle.

Of the three books in your series, which was the most difficult to write and which was the easiest?
Tower, the first book, was the hardest because I had to establish the world of the Valle Abajo: what it looks like and how it differs from the New Mexico we know; how the magic works there (more complicated and subtle than the “you can do anything with magic” approach of standard fantasy); the various storylines and how they intersect; establishing the identity of the clans of the Valle; and…where do I take this story? How do the characters and plot develop along the lines of my major themes? Once that was done, books 2 and 3 fell into place. Book 3 was the easiest to write because the arc of the plotlines in the first two books were already well on their way, so it was fun to work out how it all ends. I had a couple of alternative endings, but I went with what felt right and satisfying for me as well as what I hoped my readers would both like and find surprising.

Tell us about some of the new characters introduced in books 2 and 3 of the Rio Grande Parallax series.
Esther is a bright, enthusiastic honor student and athlete drawn through the Portal into an alternate world. Though inexperienced in warfare and diplomacy, she believes she can help the Valle clans fight the evil Soreyes. Markey, her life-long friend, helps Esther pass through the Portal. He entertains romantic thoughts concerning her, but keeps them to himself—barely. Donald is the nasty leader of a clan of outcasts in the heights of the Mountains of the Sky who threatens the clans of the Valle. Ramon seems to be an abnormality in the rather peaceful healer/counselor Pirallts clan. He proves to be quite irritating to other characters. Scarflue, a minor character in the first book, becomes the major foil in books 2 and 3 as the crafty and evil leader of the revived Soreyes.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for your series?
The main reason was to allow me to break my story out of the typical mold of the Medieval European-type fantasy setting. This also allowed me to establish new kinds of characters and races not found in usual fantasy stories (dragons, elves, dwarves, etc.). Finally, there’s so much about New Mexico that makes it a wonderful setting for a fantasy: magical sunlight, high desert, Rio Grande River valley and bosque, lava fields, and tall mountains. We also have diverse cultures and an enchanted (pun intended) atmosphere that’s ideal to spark the imagination, especially for me being raised here from infancy.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
Action scenes are fun, but challenging because they must seem spontaneous and believable. It’s easy if your main characters are powerful, but when they’re not, how can they survive, either immediately or eventually, and still be believable? If they can’t, how do you handle the demise of a main character that might be beloved by readers (and the writer!)? Exposition is hard too, because those passages can be deadly boring and slow down, or stop, the pace of the story. Yet, you need exposition from time to time. If it has to be inserted in the middle of more interesting events, will it deflect the thrust of the scene/plot?

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
When a reader is blown away by a big surprise or reveal in the story. I love when it works, so those compliments have been the most satisfying. Also when people “get” Don and don’t think of him only as a loser/jerk.

What writing project(s) are you working on now?
A rather modest little story of a rescued dog—Trixie—adopted by an older couple who discover all her doggy nature and personality as they make her a part of their family. At a certain point, fantasy will be brought into the story through her dreams. The story is intended for “children of all ages,” especially for adults to read to little children. I have some ideas to create short videos to accompany the book, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m also hoping to record more videos where I read portions from my current trilogy to post on YouTube as a way to promote my work.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I’m thrilled and humbled to announce that my third book, Zero Visibility Possible, is one of four finalists in the 2017 New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards, Science Fiction/Fantasy category. My first two books were also finalists in 2013 and 2016, so I hope the third one is a charm and that it wins its category!

Read more about RJ and his fantasy series in his first interview for SWW, and connect with him on his website

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 and writes about memoir at

Author Updates: Robert Kidera & Patricia Smith Wood

Robert Kidera and Patricia Smith Wood both write mystery thrillers set in New Mexico, and both have been busy writing and publishing since their respective interviews for SouthWest Writers (SWW) in 2015.

Red Gold (2015) is the first novel in Bob Kidera’s Gabe McKenna mystery series released by Suspense Publishing. The book introduces Gabe, a man dealing with grief and personal demons, who searches for a lost treasure (and reasons to live and love again) and finds a world of violence and deceit at every turn. In Get Lost (2016), Gabe fights bloodthirsty criminals while racing to uncover the connection between seven corpses buried in his barn and the murder of an old friend. The newest installment, Cut.Print.Kill. (2017), finds Gabe working as a movie consultant. Illusion, deceit, drug cartels. Murder and mystery. Gabe McKenna battles it all to uncover the truth in a web of lies.

With Cut.Print.Kill. just released, that makes three books published in the Gabe McKenna mystery series in two years. What was your secret to getting those books done?
I work on my writing every day—writing new chapters, editing existing ones, critiquing, researching, developing my social media platform, or reading in my genre. Usually a work day includes a combination of those activities. If you want to be a writer, you need to make it happen. And because my writing career was delayed until later in life, I came to it with a full load of stories and characters who’ve rattled around inside me for much of my life. It’s the application of a lifetime of daydreaming.

What do you focus on to keep readers coming back for more of Gabe McKenna?
There are only so many plot lines out there, so for me it’s all about the characters. I’ve created an ensemble of compelling and quirky people around Gabe. It makes for a richer, more engaging reading experience. Unlike other series (think Holmes & Watson, etc.), Gabe has a different “co-star” in each novel. It makes him more multi-faceted and gives each book its own flavor. One of the challenges of writing a series is character consistency from book to book, even as they change with every story. I have a backstory framework for each of my major characters that gives them distinct identities in my mind as I write.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
While I’m grateful for the recognition and awards I’ve won, what matters more to me are the comments from my readers about how much they’ve enjoyed my books and characters. One compliment I’ve received a number of times is from former New Mexicans who feel a reconnection with their pasts and this land from reading my books. It’s great to hear that!

If the stars aligned, what television or movie series would you love to write for?
There are so many. Guess I’m a frustrated screenwriter. For starters, any of John Ford’s westerns—damn that would be a dream come true. Guilty pleasure? I’d love to write a Charlie Chan script just for kicks. As far as television, I wish I could’ve worked on or written for Longmire, a series just concluded here in New Mexico. Or Bosch, Michael Connelly’s LA detective series now on Amazon Prime. Great stuff. My absolute, ultimate dream would be to write a new Philip Marlowe novel, like Robert Parker was allowed to do with Perchance to Dream. An ego-tripping pipe-dream, but why not aim high?

In your last interview for SWW you mentioned writing a historical novel inspired by short stories from Black Range Tales (a depiction of 19th Century New Mexican mining days written in 1936 by James A. McKenna). How’s that project coming along?
It’s still in the planning stages. I’ve gotten a stronger response to my Gabe McKenna novels than expected, so I’ll write a fourth book for the series (Midnight Blues). I hope to have it out by the end of 2018. It pits Gabe and The Onion against child sex traffickers in Northern New Mexico, so it’s got a rougher edge than my earlier novels. I’ll write my historical novel after that. I’ve even formed my own imprint, Black Range Books, to publish it. As to Gabe McKenna’s future, I’ll likely do short stories or novellas after Midnight Blues, if my readers are still out there.

Read more about Bob and his mystery series in his first interview for SWW, and connect with him on Facebook and his website

In the first novel of Patricia Smith Wood’s Harrie McKinsey Mysteries (published by Aakenbaaken & Kent), murder and attempted murder follow Harrie’s acceptance of an editing job for a book about The Easter Egg Murder (2013), a sixty-year-old unsolved case. In trying to discover who wants to destroy the book and its author, Harrie and her business partner Ginger face off against a killer with nothing to lose. Murder on Sagebrush Lane (2015) begins with the discovery of a child alone in Harrie’s flower garden that leads to murder investigations, attempted kidnaping, stolen top-secret data, and a killer out for more blood. In Murder on Frequency (2017), Harrie and Ginger investigate the mystery of an amateur radio (ham) operator still broadcasting five years after his death. The mystery points to the trail of a long-lost treasure and drags the sleuths into murder, abduction, and a showdown with the Mafia.

You’ve written three novels in the Harrie McKinsey mystery series. Did Harrie still surprise you as you wrote her story for Murder on Frequency?
Harrie always surprises me. It’s the strangest thing. I sit down to write and put my hands on the keyboard. I get a glimpse of an idea about what that chapter will cover, and before I know it, Harrie has taken over and gone off in a different direction. People often ask me if she is based on me. I usually say, “No,” but I suppose a tiny part of her is. The rest of her is some reckless adventurer I am absolutely not!

What was the most challenging part of writing Murder on Frequency, and what was the easiest?
I was concerned with keeping a balance between too much amateur radio and not enough to satisfy my ham radio friends. The hams have been among my most faithful fans and have asked to have ham radio be a part of the books from the very first one. I’m pleased so many people have given me feedback that there’s enough amateur radio in the book to satisfy the licensed hams among us, without overwhelming the folks who don’t know amateur radio still exists. The easiest part was finding ways for Harrie and Ginger to keep getting into trouble.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for your books?
Back in the 60s I discovered author Ursula Curtis. She frequently set her mysteries in Albuquerque, and I was so delighted to read them and feel part of the book because of the familiar setting. It occurred to me I could do that for other readers who live in New Mexico, and Albuquerque in particular. I also thought it would be fun to educate people in the rest of the country that New Mexico is actually a part of the United States, populated with people just like them. I’ve received good feedback because of that decision. Plus, I’ve lived here most of my life, and they say you should write about what you know.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
The most difficult scenes have always been the ones where Harrie (or some other character) is put in danger. I’m a softy at heart, and I never want my “friends” to be injured or traumatized. But in writing mysteries, you have to do that occasionally. So, I’ve tried to keep it minimal and focus instead on the characters using their brain power to extract themselves from danger. I also get annoyed with authors who consistently bash their protagonists over the head, and then they never suffer any permanent damage from it. To me that gives false comfort that head injuries are not that serious.

What writing project(s) are you working on now?
I’m currently deep into the fourth book in the series, Murder at the Petroglyphs. The subject was suggested by my dear husband, and I’m really enjoying it. I started using the Scrivener writing program with this book. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but the writing process is easier than in the previous mysteries. I’m having a lot of fun, and I’m loving the research portion of the writing this time. I’m aiming to have Petroglyphs ready by first quarter 2018.

Read more about Pat and her Harrie McKinsey series in her first interview for SWW, and connect with her on and on Facebook and Twitter.

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 and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Mary Jayne Rogers

Dr. Mary Jayne Rogers is a self-professed “super wellness nerd” with over thirty years experience in the health and fitness industry. From Overwhelmed to Inspired: Your Personal Guide to Health and Well-being (2016) is the culmination of her twenty-year desire to write a non-scientific book to encourage others on their journey to wellness. You can find Mary Jayne on her website and on Twitter.

Why did you write From Overwhelmed to Inspired, and who did you write it for?
I wrote From Overwhelmed to Inspired because I am deeply troubled by the state of our country and the world. I see people in my community locally as well as in my travels globally who, I believe, are suffering because they don’t have easy, accessible information about health and wellness. I believe as we become more conscious about our well-being, we begin to make better choices in our lives. This leads us to become better parents, better partners, better employees/employers, and better members of a broader community.

I wrote the book for anyone who is ready to take the journey with me to a place of feeling better, more vibrant, and self-aware. The book is relevant for people of all ages. However, because women tend to be the caretakers in our society, I have found it resonates more with women.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Ironically, I am an introvert and generally a person of few words. Because I have been a teacher for so long, I am accustomed to students simply accepting what I have to say in my precise and concise manner. It was difficult for me to open up about my personal experiences with eating disorders and many of the difficulties I have muddled through to strengthen my own compassion, mindful awareness, and personal “3 Selfs” (from the first section of the book).

When did you know you wanted to write the book? What prompted the final push to begin?
I have been in the wellness industry for 40 years. I have wanted to write a non-scientific book for almost 20 years. During that time, I have become a “super wellness nerd.” I really love discovering what is trending on the wellness front and use my educational background to determine what is true and accurate but also realistic and helpful to people on a daily basis. I had shared with a dear friend of mine, who is also a career counselor, my desire to have a broader format for a wellness discussion, including speaking engagements, radio, and TV. She simply said, “You have to write a book.” So I did.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing From Overwhelmed to Inspired?
There have been so many rewarding aspects to writing this book. First, it was difficult to distill the myriad of wellness information in a way that is understandable, meaningful to the reader, and different from other wellness books on the market. I feel I accomplished that and am pleased with the result. Also, my dear grammatically precise husband read for me dozens of times. It became a work of love for both of us, strengthening our relationship, but also beginning to inculcate him with this information in a way that wasn’t doctrinaire or overbearing, thereby (hopefully) encouraging him toward a healthier lifestyle. And lastly, I was glad to have finished the book during my mother’s lifetime. I mean after all, we all want to please our moms—right?

Do you have a favorite quote from the book?
This is so funny because the book is full of wonderful quotes from all sorts of people from Lucille Ball to Thich Nhat Hanh, but a quote of my own?

“…we are beginning to see that wellness is not really as much a state of being as it is an approach to living. We see that the activity of our minds is intricately related to our physical health. As we begin to adjust our mindset, our bodies will begin to feel lighter and more receptive to change. Changing your mind will change your body and change your world.”

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
On my Amazon page someone posted that she had undergone a great deal of trauma in recent years and that my book had been very helpful to her. I truly hope to make a meaningful difference in peoples’ lives.

Do you have advice for other writers still working toward publication?
2. Dig deeper. Allow the reader to get to know you.

What do you consider the greatest tool in a writer’s arsenal?
Dedication, commitment, and discipline to commit to a regular writing schedule.

Do you write other than nonfiction?
I love nonfiction, but I also enjoy poetry and songwriting.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am working on a memoir of my experiences and personal growth teaching in Japan which helped me transform from an anxious, shell-shocked introvert to becoming a highly respected international teacher and presenter, all the while acknowledging and laughing about my bevy of phobias and my continuing struggle to overcome them. Working title: Love Letters from Japan.

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 and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Janet K. Brennan

Author Janet K. Brennan is an international book critic/reviewer and the co-founder of Casa de Snapdragon Publishing—and she still finds time to write novels, short stories, and poetry. Her newest book, Harriet Murphy, More Than Enough (2017), is the second in her Harriet Murphy historical fiction series. You can find Janet on Facebook and her Amazon author page, as well as and her poetry website

Harriet Murphy, More Than Enough by Janet K. BrennanWhat is your elevator pitch for Harriet Murphy, More Than Enough?
The book shows how women living in an ever-evolving society can be strong and survive even the most complex and sometimes dangerous challenges that can come along in life. Harriet is a good example because she lives alone in the log cabin her father built for her family when they came across for the gold rush of 1849. Harriet Murphy stories are short stories tied together with the same characters. They are all resolved at the end. The first book, Harriet Murphy, A Little Bit of Something, took Reviewer’s Choice from Amazon, Small Indie Press Award from Bookwatch, and Reviewer’s Choice from Mid-West Book Review.

When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they take away from it?
I am hoping, of course, that they want to see another book that will pick up where this one left off. I want my readers to know that bad things happen to everyone but that we can rise above everything. I am hoping they will have learned something and say, “Oh my, I didn’t know that…I didn’t want it to end.”

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Writing historical fiction requires much research, and for me that includes travelling to the places about which I am writing. What I try to do is stay on top of what went on at the turn of the 19th century that was not only life changing but also interesting (new inventions, politics, entertainment, environment). This means many trips to different libraries and museums, interviewing people, going back into old newspapers, online research; but most importantly, travel; and to live in the area. I visited Old Pine (Foresthill, California). While there, a horrible forest fire erupted. I went up to the fire, met the firefighters, ate with them and took many pictures. It was a devastating experience as that is my muse.

What first inspired you to write the adventures of Harriet Murphy?
The story came to me, oddly enough, while I was on sabbatical alone on Longboat Key, Florida. While walking the beach a story began to evolve in my mind about a young woman who lived in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada long after her parents had passed. I began to wonder how the many challenges of such a life would affect the psyche and change the personality. While walking I spied a very overweight seagull, and when I went to take a picture I said, “Dang, you are a big bird.” As “dang” was not a regular part of my vocabulary, I realized I had already begun living the life of Harriet Murphy inside my mind. But the seeds of this book were planted the previous spring when I visited my sister in the foothills of the Tahoe along the American River in Placer County. The Tevis Cup endurance horse race was happening at the time. I had a few beers at the Red Dirt Saloon as I watched them head to the finish line. The seeds were quickly growing into a plant.

How did the book come together?
Each book takes about two years to write. Once the bones of the book are done, I go back into it to flesh it out and do a pre-edit. Then off it goes to my wonderful editor. When she is finished, it comes back to me and I make the changes. In the case of Harriet Murphy, this can be a difficult process because there is so much of the vernacular of the area included in conversation and it’s written in first person point of view. When finally satisfied with the finished product, off it goes to the printer for a first proof. This gives us a chance to go through the book and make any final changes. An author should always read the book out loud before final consent is given. Once I give thumbs up, off it goes to final print and into worldwide distribution.

Tell us about your main character. What is it about her that makes readers connect with her? How have historical characters impacted your story?
I believe all genders can relate to Harriet Murphy—many of my readers are male, and they often tell me this. Harriet Murphy is a very brave and tough woman who can be very vulnerable at the same time. She loves, hates, suffers and rises above. Of course, the main characters are those living in the town of Old Pine who are all the descendants of the original 49ers. In doing research, I learned that some very unusual characters, some quite famous, lived there or travelled through there. I have incorporated many of them into the stories I weave.

Why did you decide to use the particular setting you chose?
The foothills of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada are rich in gold mining history. It is a very beautiful area, which abounds in folklore with more than a few sprinkles of ghosties and Native American treasures. This is the exact area where the 49ers came along the American River to placer gold as well as dig deep into the hills and mountainsides for the treasure. Many of the original homes are still there. Some of the old mining encampments stand alone out in the middle of the deep woods. At every bend of the river, one can often find old mining equipment.

Was there anything surprising you discovered in doing research for this book?
I never realized just how isolated this part of our country was and still is. It also surprised me that these people, mostly Irish and Scottish, took a deep interest in the politics of our nation and travelled often to Sacramento and San Francisco to enjoy the rich arts programs that were offered there. Many of the towns, such as Placerville, still have hanging trees. The town was originally called Hangman’s Town for that very reason. The Washoe Indians believed that if a tree was forked, it held special spirits of the dead. These are the trees that were used to hang people.

Harriet Murphy, A Little Bit of Something by Janet K. BrennanThe character of Harriet Murphy was first introduced in Harriet Murphy, A Little Bit of Something (2009). What are the challenges of writing a series? Did Harriet surprise you as you wrote her story?
Special challenges might include making sure you do not repeat an incident from book one with slightly different details. It must all be uniform. A writer needs to allow their characters to age and evolve without losing the essence of the original character. Harriet often surprises me. However, I allow her character to move forward knowing that she is I. Therefore, in many ways, I see the things in myself that I do not know that I have the capability of accomplishing.

What are your strengths as a writer?
Well, I have been writing all of my life. When I finish a chapter, I am usually very happy with it, so I do not go through the self-doubt many writers go through. It is very satisfying for me. I go on a natural high. People often tell me they love the stories I weave and the characters I develop.

What first inspired you to become a writer?
I am a multi-published author and knew from the time I was seven that I was a writer. Not a doubt in my mind. When I was 10 years old I would go to the local paper mill, knock on their doors, and they would give me leftover paper from their cuts. Every Wednesday the people waited for me to come knocking, and they would greet me with stacks of paper. This was a treasure to me. My father often brought home notebooks from his law office that I also used. I wrote my first novel at the age of 12, followed by another and another. Then I became my Girl Scout scribe and high school editor-in-chief of our literary magazines and newspapers. College was the same. Then on to major publications in the United States and Europe. Writing literally identifies me.

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
I love to write about the strength and spiritual nature of human beings. In my memoir, A Dance in The Woods, I write about my own challenges after losing my daughter and how I managed to rise above and be successful.

You have published numerous poems, individually and in collections. How has your work as a poet influenced your fiction writing?
I love writing poems but really do not consider myself primarily a poet. For the most part, I am a novelist. However, when I do write a poem, it usually takes me about an hour to pull from my soul, then I go back into the work and begin eliminating unnecessary words. I feel that the fewer the words needed to say what you feel, the better the art form. Poetry can open your mind in a way that nothing else can. It reaches in and pulls out the essence of what it means to be human, good and bad. I think studying the art form of poetry, words and structure can allow one to become a better writer. Art of any kind stretches the creative within. Once a writer learns to reach in and touch their own soul, they will never fail.

What is your writing routine like? What is your writing process like?
No routine. I write when the spirit moves me. Deadlines are horrible for a writer. A good writer cannot produce well if they have a specific deadline. I sometimes find myself up in the middle of the night writing.

A Dance in the Woods by Janet K. BrennanWhich of your many projects did you enjoy writing the most?
My favorite is my memoir A Dance in the Woods. My most difficult was my memoir. It was very cathartic. But in going back into a horrific time in my life, I suffered many of the same physical and emotional times. I had spent a month in hospital in Italy and then another 20 years just trying to rise above PTSD. It took me 10 years to write my memoir I originally wrote in third person because it was too intense for me to face, but Tyndale Publishing wanted it in first person, so I rewrote in first person. I still go back into that book when I need to. It has gone on to win several wonderful awards. Another favorite is Tango Sunday. I love writing short stories, and this book compiles a good dose of short stories “on the edge.”

You’re the editor-in-chief of Casa of Snapdragon Publishing. Why did you start your own publishing company?
I actually own and operate two mainstream, traditional publishing companies. JB Stillwater Publishing is the newest one. This company specializes in poetry, health, and art. I started my own companies because at the time I was authoring for a major house and did not like the way they were doing things. There was no one-on-one. I could never reach anyone. Then they merged with another big publishing house and it got even worse. I did not feel that I actually had control over my own work. I felt I could do better for myself and many other wonderful writers.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
Diana Gabaldon (Outlander), Pearl S. Buck, Amy Tan, David Morrell, Florence B. Weinberg. All of these writers really know how to build a character and tell a story. I have met them all (except Pearl S. Buck) and can tell you they are very down-to-earth, interesting people. The trend now is to write as if you are writing for the screen. Short sentences, no descriptive details. I say, “if you are writing a book, then write a book. If you can’t do that…write a screenplay.”

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
Don’t take anything personally.

What are you working on now?
I do not believe in more than one project at a time. I am currently writing a book entitled Meadowland. This is a spiritual and metaphysical revelatory.

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 and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Claire Stibbe

Claire Stibbe is a British author of nonfiction, short stories, and novels who writes from her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her award-winning books include a historical fiction series set in Egypt and a crime thriller series set in New Mexico. Past Rites, the third of her Detective Temeke crime novels, was published by Noble Lizard Publishing (2016). You can connect with Claire on her website and blog, and on Facebook and Twitter.

What is your elevator pitch for Past Rites?
What do you get when you mix a psychopathic killer with a few teenagers dabbling in black arts at a boarding school? A recipe for murder! For those who like a walk on the dark side this might be your cup of tea or, more aptly, your poison.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I think the most difficult challenge was trying to answer some complex and seedy questions I had been asking myself for years. What are serial killers? Are their demons real?

How did the book come together?
The idea for this book came from watching serial killers being interviewed and learning how the roots of their catastrophic behavior often reach right back into their childhood. Often, I saw a pattern in the way their parents meted out discipline; it was abusive, unpredictable, unfair and wicked. Maybe there is an argument for serial killers being manmade not born. Huge developmental fractures occur when a child is isolated and in permanent terror. They will soon believe the emotionally barren world that surrounds them is normal. Serial killers are like ticking time bombs, but what makes them tick? Past Rites took about three years to research and about five months to write. I have five BETA readers and two Alphas plus two paid editors. All this can add a further two months before publication.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing it?
The most rewarding aspect of writing Past Rites is the conversation between the person I call Demon and the serial killer in the book. How the serial killer spars for bodies and how Demon haggles for souls.

All kinds of warfare are devastating, including spiritual warfare, where the assault takes place on the inside, in a person’s head. Past Rites is about one man’s internal war and the devastation it causes.

Tell us a little about your main character. After writing four novels in The Detective Temeke Crime Series (the fourth yet to be published), did your protagonist still surprise you as the story unfolded?
My protagonist is an old dog in the fight—a feisty and somewhat crabby Brit who has wound up in New Mexico much like I did. He sees the world through cynical eyes, believes in cutting corners, and has a passion for justice. Although there are some who would like nothing better than to cut him from the unit, Temeke is the one person who always seems to find a way to finagle the truth out of his crooks. He’s so bloody good at it and gets more proficient with each book. It always surprises me how he does it.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for the series?
New Mexico is a unique state. With its Pueblo Indian and Hispanic society, sand that looks like snow, unique rock formations and vast national forests, it makes for the perfect setting. Diverse cultures amp up the characterization and make the book more interesting. Having said that, I don’t tend to write in local accents or expressions since overseas readers lose the gist.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for this book?
Yes, I think the most surprising thing was the way the police department operates here in New Mexico. I am told that it’s unlike other states where some procedurals are concerned. Having graduated from the Citizen’s Police and Sheriff’s academies, I replicate the local procedures of investigation, but at the same time I don’t tend to place all the typical people at a crime scene because I don’t want to overwhelm the reader. For instance, Temeke’s assistant district attorney is not named even though she would be present. There are also some inconsistencies in the way Temeke conducts non-custodial interviews. I also describe Northwest Area Command as a two-storey building to incorporate Unit Commander Hackett’s extraordinarily large roost on the top floor. All these add eccentricities to the characters.

You have two other novels in your Detective Temeke series (The 9th Hour and Night Eyes) and a fourth (Dead Cold) on the way. What are the challenges of writing a series?
The most important challenge for me is to complete each case in one episode/book, leaving the core characters and their relationships to develop over the body of the series. The main protagonist, Detective David Temeke, must be both gutsy and shrewd enough for readers to want to return to meet him again. I have been told the series is addictive and that readers love the characters. Malin Santiago, another detective in Temeke’s unit, receives texts and emails from someone who appears to want to help her with each case. We don’t know who this is yet, but it provides a recurring theme throughout the series.

What do you love most outside of writing and reading?
Coffee. Must have a good cappi (cappuccino) in the morning. Peace. I love listening to the wind in the trees.

What first inspired you to become a writer? When did you consider yourself a writer?
My father was the biggest and brightest influence. He was taught by C.S. Lewis during his time in Oxford and frequented many of Professor Tolkien’s seminars. School holidays would not be complete without sitting on a tartan rug down the Lion’s Mouth (a wooded gorge in North Norfolk, UK), eating sandwiches and being bitten by midges, while listening to my father’s memorable voice reading The Lord of the Rings. It’s one of the many things I miss and one of the many things for which I’m so very grateful. My father wrote a book about his time in Wingate’s second expedition into Burma, and my twin brother is a bestselling author. I can’t say when I considered myself a writer because I’m still learning.

Of all the books you’ve written, which one did you enjoy writing the most?
Night Eyes. I love the dynamic between parent/guardian and child and the lessons learned. We live in a fatherless society where boys need a good and lasting influence. Adults shape children. Boys need dads.

Tell us about your writing process.
Since the books are character driven, I’m mostly a pantser. But there is a good deal of coffee drinking alone in cafés with a notepad where plotting and people-watching occurs. You catch the greatest dialogue when sitting close to two unsuspecting people. I have a set-in-stone timeline for each book. Some span two weeks, some are only twenty-four hours—it depends on the case.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
Paul Gallico for his astonishing powers of description. John Grisham for flawless plots. Dean Koontz for intricate characterization and Thomas Hardy for historical fiction.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
The best advice I have ever received was the familiar adage “less is more.” Another has to be “write what you know.” Extensive research and life experience goes without saying.

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 and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Charlene Bell Dietz

In her search for “the parts of life that really matter,” Charlene Bell Dietz discovered “if you throw your heart and soul into what you care about,” the little things you fuss over disappear. She developed a firm foundation for creating plots and characters during a long-term career in education, plus time spent volunteering in the scientific community and caring for elderly relatives. The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur (2016) is her debut novel inspired by the real life of her mysterious aunt. Look for Charlene on her website and on Facebook.

What is your elevator pitch for the book?
In this novel a workaholic bio-medical scientist, Beth Armstrong, is torn between saving her sabotaged ground-breaking, multiple sclerosis research or honoring an obligation to care for her chain-smoking, Cuba-Libre drinking, ex-flapper aunt.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur crosses the traditional genre lines because the story intertwines corporate espionage with a generational battle-of-wills family saga. Even though I received kind and even complimentary rejections, I discovered most agents and larger publishing houses weren’t willing to put time or money into something this different.

Tell us about your main characters. Will those who know you recognize you in your main protagonist?
Being a nursemaid ranks a notch above catching the plague on Beth’s scale. She’s an obsessive professional dedicated to keeping her science institute a world-class organization. Unlike Beth, her aunt would prefer anything deadly to losing her independence under the care of her compulsive niece. While a murderous culprit runs loose in the science institute, frustrating Beth at every turn, her raucous aunt entertains Beth’s neglected husband with nightly cocktails and stories from the Roaring Twenties.

No one who’s read this story has ever mentioned that Beth reminds them of me. That’s a relief, because at first Beth might not be likeable to readers. I write a lot of short stories, and having my characters change from beginning to end is always on my must-do list. In this book, and also in my next book, I hope readers notice how at the end even my secondary characters have grown and changed from the beginning.

Why did you choose Colorado for the setting?
For over twenty-five years I volunteered at Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute at Sandia Laboratories in Albuquerque as their lay person for the Institute Animal Care and Use Committee. I read researchers’ protocols, participated in their monthly meetings, and helped the committee with their biannual inspection of all the animals. Since my story took some artistic license with what I know about research science institutes, and because my story highlighted the economic espionage act with some nasty characters, I needed to remove any suspicion concerning my imaginary story with my connection to the Sandia Laboratory institute.

Denver became the logical place for several reasons. When I was in grade school, I spent many summer days running all over the city with my young cousins via city bus. As kids do, we believed we owned the place—from the Capitol building stairs to the Aladdin Theater on Colfax to the elevators in the Museum of Natural History. As an adult, I continued to spend time there visiting relatives. I know the city. The size of Denver allowed me to invent a science institute without identifying its exact location. I also needed a small, mountain town several hours away for my protagonist’s family home. I’d once lived in Cañon City, Colorado, so it became my Valley View—with artistic license again.

How did the book come together?
When my mother died, her mysterious elder sister needed help. You guessed it. Her photo is the one on the cover of my book. She kept most of her antics as a flapper secret, but after an evening of rum and Cokes, she dropped names of people, places, and dates. Without her knowing, I took notes on anything handy—napkins, grocery receipts, envelopes, whatever I could put my hands on. When she died five years later I didn’t really know her story, but it needed to be told. Most of it is fiction, but still researching, editing, rewriting, getting rid of all the bad advice and keeping the good parts, plus finding a publisher took me well over ten years.

What did you enjoy most about writing the book?
Listening to my aunt’s voice in my head as I wrote made the writing easy. She seems to have won the favorite character award for this story, and I know why. When this aunt kicked up her heals as a teenager running away to Chicago, she gave up her college career. Probably because she didn’t get a high school diploma, she read all the time so she could prove she wasn’t stupid. She did seem to know everything about everything. I’ve discovered tremendous enjoyment in writing about strong women who follow their passions.

Is there a scene in The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur you’d love to see play out in a movie?
From the first conflict on page one to the final emotional last page, I wanted the reader to live every scene. Because of this, my writing style doesn’t use a lot of physical descriptions except when connecting bits of it to motives, emotions, and the characters’ deep internal conflicts. In my opinion, the whole book would make a tension-filled, eye-appealing movie—especially if Maggie Smith played the aunt (big smile here).

Your second book in the series (The Flapper, the Imposter, and the Stalker) will be released in the fall of 2017. What are the challenges of writing a series?
In The Flapper, the Imposter, and the Stalker the reader learns more about the ex-flapper aunt as a young woman. In 1923 this beautiful, bright teenage girl flees to Chicago looking for happiness, love, and an escape from being murdered. Since it’s a prequel to the first book, I had no problem creating it as a standalone. In the first book I give the reader hints about some of the aunt’s antics in the Roaring Twenties. Readers of the prequel may believe they’ve heard some of these tales before; however, now they’ll learn the full story behind all of her misbehaving.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
Before being awarded the 2016 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award in the First Book category, or being selected as a finalist in the International Book Award, I would have said the best compliment happened when a professional editor told me she couldn’t get my characters’ voices out of her head months after she’d finished working with my book. All the other compliments I’ve received naturally made me feel good inside—but kind of like your mom saying, “Good job, sweetie, I’m proud of you.” You know authors; we have fragile egos when it comes to our work. Having those award judges select my book from all those submitted totally validated my writing ability.

You mentioned you took lots of notes when your aunt told some of her stories from her flapper days. What have you done with them, and where can readers buy your book?
The notes are amusing to read. I never knew what might come out of her mouth: funny, inappropriate, or heartfelt. I’ve slid each of them into sleeve protectors in a three-ring binder. Along with photos, these are items I take to show-and-tell after a book club has read the book. When a book club reads The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur, I’m excited to come, answer questions, and show them the rest of the story. Book clubs can message me through Facebook or email me at Op Cit in Taos and Santa Fe, along with Collected Works, has copies of my book, as does Bookworks, Treasure House Books, and Barnes & Noble in Albuquerque. Naturally, it can be ordered online, too.

What writing project are you working on now?
Whenever I need a break, I write short stories. Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers published one last year in their anthology. I’m submitting two more for consideration in other anthologies. In a few days I’ll get back to the third book in the Flapper series. This one takes place in time right after The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur. Right now I’m about fifty percent through the first draft.

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 and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Michele Buchanan

After retiring as a special education teacher, Michele Buchanan learned to play the Celtic harp and traveled a circuit of Renaissance Faires and Celtic festivals with her hand-made costumes. She now performs with Celtic Singers of New Mexico, lectures on Scottish history and harp history, and plays her harp for hospice, as well as festivals and fairs. Her debut novel, Scota’s Harp (Mercury Heartlink, 2016), blends history with legend and myth to tell the story of an Egyptian princess who becomes the namesake of Scotland. Look for Michele on her website and on LinkedIn.

What is your elevator pitch for Scota’s Harp?
Scotland is named for a tribe of warriors called the Scotti, who were named for their queen, Scota. Who was Scota? An Egyptian princess of course! Or so say the ancient oral legends of both the Irish and Scottish people. Because they had no written language, they relied on oral legends for their history. It is therefore very curious that the name of an Egyptian pharaoh occurs in the story, since no one could read Egyptian names until the Rosetta Stone was translated. Yet Nectanebus was a real pharaoh and a magician whom ancient people believed was also the father of Alexander the Great. Such legends needed exploring, and along with the famous Stone of Scone, I have woven these legends into a convincing historical fiction. If you love Celtic history, this book is for you!

What sparked the story idea?
As I began playing the Celtic harp upon retirement, people would ask where harps came from. By researching this question, I learned there were no harps in Europe until the Renaissance, and that harps came from the ancient middle east, across the Mediterranean, then eventually to the British Isles. Harps became nearly extinct with the reign of Elizabeth I who believed harpers were spies and decreed that all harps should be burned. The harpers were the bards who kept the oral traditions and histories alive. The Romans did their best to eliminate the culture by killing the Druids and harper/storytellers. So the history of harps has many political and cultural factors that are hidden. When I found out about harps, the story of Scota and her harp just had to be written.

Who are the main characters in the book, and what are they up against?
The main character is an American archaeologist/Egyptologist who gets hired to do some illegal excavation in Spain. This modern man and his contemporary people are countered by the love story in ancient Egypt between Princess Scota and her lover Gamal Miledh. Scota’s conflict is that she is to be forced into marriage with her father, a threatening dabbler in evil arts, who gained the throne by assassination and magic. It is the story of her escape and her desire to fill her destiny to be a queen. The American hero will be the central protagonist in the sequel to Scota’s Harp as he tries to overcome his PTSD suffered in Gibraltar. The novel is quite a travelogue!

The story takes the reader from ancient Egypt to modern Scotland, and places in between. Tell us about the settings and why you chose them.
In this book you have scenes from ancient Egypt and their religious practices, scenes from Scotland at the Battle of Bannockburn and King Robert the Bruce, scenes from modern Scotland when the Stone of Scone was stolen from London by college students, so there are varied points in history that support the thread of a princess from Egypt being connected to modern Scotland. You will read scenes about the Pharaoh receiving his mercenaries from “Sea People” as well as scenes of Elizabeth I screaming about Blarney Castle. The book is about half ancient Egypt and the rest a quilt of other historical places and events that bind the story together. I have included a glossary of Egyptian words, Scottish idioms, and historical events that help the reader know that I didn’t just make this stuff up.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing the book?
I found that I really like writing. I like telling stories, and especially like writing about hidden history. When I learn some anomalous thing, I just have to insert it into my concept of truth about the world. So writing and making coherent concepts about history was immensely fun.

How did the book come together?
I spent about a year actually writing and editing and organizing the book, but the story of Scota had been percolating in my head since I began playing the harp in 1996. The greatest challenge was weaving disparate legends into a coherent flow of time from 363 BCE to the present through an American archaeologist and his travels. The book jumps in time into different scenes and eras, but the sequencing took perspective in order to encompass the whole story. This book was not an easy subject to weave together, so it took more time than I expected. I finally did the self-publishing route, as no publishers or agents were interested in the story, which was quite disappointing.

Anything surprising you discovered while doing research for Scota’s Harp?
Yes! Scottish tartan weave was invented in far western China in a place called Urumchi. Tall red-haired Caucasian people lived there and invented the twill weaving pattern and the plaid designs. These people were valued mercenaries who eventually came to fight the Persians in Egypt.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
Reading reviews on Amazon does a lot for my ego, as strangers actually thank me for writing Scota’s Harp. I worked hard on the historical facts, so this was rewarding to hear people actually give me validation for this very obscure oral history. I once described a scene in the book to a little lady in a walker. The scene was where the pharaoh thinks he is cursed because his son, Alexander the Great, has horns at his temples. Statues depicting him show little protrusions hidden in curls, and it is a medical anomaly that people can sprout horns. Anyway, the lady said she would show me her scars. She took off her straw hat to show me the two circular scars where she’d had her horns removed long ago. She thanked me for writing the story!

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 and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Rose Marie Kern

Before retiring in 2017, author Rose Marie Kern was an air traffic control specialist for over 30 years. Besides being a popular speaker at aviation events around the United States, she writes monthly columns for several aviation publications and is an active member of SouthWest Writers. The newest of her nonfiction books is Air to Ground, an anthology of the articles she has written since 2006. You can find Rose on her website at

What is your elevator pitch for Air to Ground?
“Air to Ground” is a phrase used to describe the frequencies used by the pilots when they speak to Air Traffic. My book, Air to Ground, gives pilots a glimpse into the cold corridors of Air Traffic and allows them insights into the people who work in an environment so critical to their own. Intermingled with the technical information are stories and snippets of humor collected over the last 33 years. These little bits exemplify what happens in the Air Traffic workplace when the microphone is not keyed, humanizing the disembodied voices the pilots hear. Air to Ground contains current and historical data on the National Airspace System, the Air Traffic Control System, and aviation weather in a way that is friendly, easily readable and understandable to even the most novice pilot. It is not meant to replace the government’s directives, but to supplement them.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Aviation is a niche market—if you can call a quarter million pilots across America a niche. Because of that, getting a major publisher interested wasn’t worth the effort. I decided from the beginning that this book would be self-published and marketed through channels I’ve developed over the last 34 years.

How did the book come about?
Two years after Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 air traffic controllers, I entered that profession. Over 34 years I’ve been given three national awards and several regional ones by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and later, Lockheed Martin. I’ve worked in all divisions of Air Traffic Control (ATC) so I know how they all connect with each other and with the pilot community. Because of that knowledge base, I began writing articles 12 years ago about ATC, aviation weather, and the FAA. Now I have monthly columns in several publications and occasional pieces in other magazines. My editors say I get the most fan mail of any of their writers. One commonly expressed theme is they wish all the information I give out in my articles could be found in one place. Air to Ground is that place.

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting the book together?
The pilots and the editors of aviation magazines who have been behind me 100 percent.

Do you have a favorite quote from Air to Ground you’d like to share?
“Stress is relative.”

You’ve written two other nonfiction books besides Air to Ground (FUNdraising Events and The Solar Chef). How did writing/publishing these earlier books help with the Air to Ground project?
Both of those were also niche markets and also self-published. The Solar Chef was my first book—it was the only cookbook that focused exclusively on how to cook using only sunlight. I learned a lot about using existing interest groups as a marketing vector and how important it is to interact with your target customers. The Solar Chef is now in its 7th edition with an 8th on the way. FUNdraising Events was born because I’ve managed many such events for small to medium non-profit organizations over the years, and in every case my events have resulted in significant donations. Like Air to Ground, it was written at the request of those I’ve worked with. Working on those books gave me a lot of insight into Indie publishing, copyrights, and self-marketing.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
Several pilots have told me that when they get their copies of magazines, the first thing they do is open it to my column. One pilot even told me he’d recently cancelled all his magazine subscriptions except one—and he kept it because he really enjoyed what I had to say.

What are your hobbies or creative outlets?
Organic gardening, cooking, working with various green/sustainable living organizations, and donating my talents to SouthWest Writers.

Do you, or have you wanted to, write other than nonfiction?
Yes, I’d love to write fiction but despair of ever attaining the ability of my literary heroes to create whole worlds out of thin air.

What writing projects are you working on now?
In addition to my monthly articles, I am currently writing three more books. The first is my memoir: a young, divorced mother of two stepping into a totally unknown career with no prior experience after the ATC strike. The second is a college level text on the History of Air Traffic Control to be released in ATC’s hundredth anniversary in 2020. The third is a booklet on regional variations in aviation weather specifically for hot air balloon pilots.

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 and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Sue Houser

Born and raised in New Mexico, author Sue Houser writes about the Land of Enchantment in her nonfiction books Hot Foot Teddy: The True Story of Smokey Bear (M.T. Publishing, 2014) and La Conquistadora, The Story of the Oldest Statue of the Virgin Mary in the United States (Sunstone Press, 2011). Her first fiction title, also set in New Mexico, is The Corn Whisperer published by Irie Books in 2017. Visit Sue at her website and on her Amazon author page.

What is your elevator pitch for The Corn Whisperer?
In the book, written for children 7-10, young Charlie is apprehensive about visiting his grandfather who lives at a pueblo in New Mexico. However, Grandfather Joe is a storyteller. He tells Charlie ancient legends to help him live a better life in today’s world. And, as a result, Charlie and Grandfather Joe develop a close relationship.

When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they take away from it?
A realization that cultural myths and legends hold universal truths that apply to everyday life. In this trio of stories, the lessons are about becoming self-sufficient, accepting and valuing change, and forgiveness.

The seeds of the story began with a visit to a cornfield near Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico and connecting with the truth in the old saying “It is so quiet you can hear the corn grow.” Tell us more about how the book came together.
After the seeds of the idea began to germinate, I worked on the story for about a year and a half. At first, the book was one story. I sent it for a critique to the publisher (Irie Books) who suggested breaking the text into three separate stories, according to the seasons.

Why would this book appeal to both young and old?
This is an intergenerational story. It bridges the old ways with a modern lifestyle. I hope adults recognize the impact their own cultural stories can have on future generations and that children and adults alike become more aware of the sounds and beauty of the environment.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing it?
I gained a new respect for the co-dependent relationship we have with corn. Although corn fertilizes itself, it cannot re-seed itself. Corn depends on people to prepare the ground, plant the kernels, pull the weeds, and water the plants. In turn, corn provides us with food and food products. Corn provides feed for livestock, and if left in the field, corn serves as mulch for the soil. Cornstalks support the vines of beans and squash. Cornhusks are used in weaving and making dolls. Ornamental corn is used for decoration. Corn needs us, and we need corn.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for the book?
A New Mexico pueblo was the perfect setting for this story because the earliest evidence of corn being grown in this country was found in New Mexico and Arizona—as early as 2100 BC.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for The Corn Whisperer?
I learned that some Native American legends are told only during certain seasons. For example, the “Coyote Scatters the Stars” legend is a winter story—told during the time when the earth, animals, and plants are asleep, waiting for the return of the sun. I also learned that Native Americans consider oral stories to be more reliable than written stories. And even though there may be different versions of the same legend, each version is valued and preserved.

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 and writes about memoir at

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 and, 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

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:, (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 and writes about memoir at


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