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An Interview with Author Lynne Sebastian

Retired archaeologist Lynne Sebastian is a published author of nonfiction books, research papers, and journal articles who now considers herself a storyteller. After switching from nonfiction to creative writing, she published stories in the 2021 SouthWest Writers’ contest anthology, Ramblings & Reflections, and in Holes in Our Hearts: An Anthology of New Mexican Military Related Stories and Poetry (2023). Besides being a short story and nonfiction writer, she can also call herself a novelist since her 2023 debut release of One Last Cowboy Song. You’ll find Lynne on her SWW author page and on Facebook. Look for Lynne’s books on Amazon.

Please tell us about yourself.
I grew up in southern Michigan, but my family all live in the mountains of eastern Kentucky and have lived in those hills and hollers for many generations. I always wanted to live in the West, and I have had the great fortune of doing so for 50 years, the last 42 of those years here in New Mexico. My husband and I came to Albuquerque in 1980 so that I could enter the PhD program in Anthropology at University of New Mexico, and somehow, we never left. We have lived in Corrales, New Mexico since 1998.

In my archaeology career, I carried out fieldwork in all the Four Corners states and served as the New Mexico State Archaeologist and as the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Officer. I also had the honor of being elected as President of the Society for American Archaeology and as President of the Register of Professional Archaeologists. For the last 15 years before I retired in 2016, I worked as a consultant and expert witness on historic preservation issues for clients throughout the United States.

Tell us about your recent release, One Last Cowboy Song. How did you come up with the idea?
Funny you should ask. For several years, I have been in a creative writing critique group. One of the short stories that I shared with them was about a couple who would seem to have nothing in common and be unlikely ever to have met. And if they did meet, one would not necessarily expect them to have gotten along very well. The short story took place several years after they not only met, but fell in love and created a shared life that is unconventional but brings them great happiness.

My critique group colleagues said, “Oh! We like this story, and we love these characters. You should write more about them.” Flattered, I wrote a second short story about these same characters, and the group said, “This is great! But we want to know more, like how did they meet? And what is her backstory? And….” Soon, I realized I was writing a novel, and I had started in the middle. Which is not a process I recommend.

Where do you draw inspiration for your characters and settings?
My settings are, at least so far, versions of real places. One Last Cowboy Song is set in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, which is an area that I love very much. I’ve traveled quite a bit, and I’ve experienced so many wonderful, vivid, special places in this world. I’ve never felt any need to create a place in which to set a story, although I really admire people who can imagine whole worlds and bring them to life.

As for characters, they tend to be composites — imagined people who incorporate some aspects or characteristics of real people, often multiple people, that I have known. For example, one night as I was working on a piece of dialog spoken by the best friend of my male lead character, a rancher named Dale, I realized that every time I wrote or read Dale’s dialog, I was hearing in my head the voice of an old friend, an archaeologist who lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Dale doesn’t look anything like my friend, and his life experiences are very different, but their voices and way of talking are identical. I’ve no idea why.

What typically comes first for you: A character? A story idea?
I’d have to say that the story idea comes first and that the story idea often comes with a character, or characters, already attached.

When did you realize you wanted to write western romance?
I didn’t. This book would be characterized that way, I guess, because he’s a rancher and she’s an English professor, and it is — at its heart — a love story. But it’s also a story about the way childhood trauma can create patterns of behavior that work against our happiness throughout a person’s adult life. And it’s a story about resilience in the face of loss and grief. And about the way country and western music can capture a moment and carry with it a memory.

Do you think your previous occupation as an archaeologist working in New Mexico influenced your choice of genre?
No. My love for the West and its people predates my life as an archaeologist. But stay tuned for my next book. It is about being an archaeologist working in New Mexico.

What did you find most rewarding when writing One Last Cowboy Song?
Interesting question. My first thought was “FINISHING IT.” But that’s not really true. I did much of the work during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was a wonderful escape being able to slip away from the reality of life during that time and live for a few hours with Virgil and Amanda and all the other characters in beautiful landscapes and happier times (depending on how one experienced the mid-1990s).

Tell us how and why you chose the title of the book.
There is a country and western song called “The Last Cowboy Song” that was co-written and sung by the late Ed Bruce who was one of my favorite singer/songwriters. The song plays in the background at two key moments in the story, and the sense that Virgil and Dale are part of a dying breed and of a way of life that is passing on into history lingers in the background.

What prompted your first writing project?
I discovered that I’m really bad at painting. No, I’m serious. My plan was to take up painting with watercolors when I retired. I made a gallant effort, but finally had to admit that I have no talent for visual arts. Fortunately, just about the time I faced this ugly truth, I was taking a Writing Memoir class at UNM Continuing Ed, and a very nice lady in the class told me she thought I had a talent for creative writing and asked me if I would be interested in joining a critique group of which she was a member. Which brings me to the next question….

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
Join a critique group. The regular feedback, the gentle but firm critiques of other writers, the camaraderie (even when we were stuck meeting on Zoom), and especially the structure provided by having to produce something to share every two weeks were all essential to getting me through the process of writing three drafts of a novel-length work.

Would you mind sharing with us what you’re working on now?
Something very different. It is a combination memoir/creative nonfiction story about an archaeological project south of Farmington, New Mexico, in which my husband and I participated in 1981. It has it all — humor, pathos, danger, miserable weather, unique characters, unforgettable dogs, and cool stuff about archaeology. And like my first book, this work is the result of my having written a short story about an experience with a flash flood that we had on the project. And once again, my critique group colleagues said, “Oh, we like this! But we want to know more about these characters and why you were digging there and weren’t there any dogs in the field camp? And….” So, watch for another book-length work that will, hopefully, be finished this winter. Current working title is Stories from the Field: Archaeology and the Waterflow Mine.

Su Lierz writes dark fiction, short story fiction, and personal essays. Her short story “Twelve Days in April,” written under the pen name Laney Payne, appeared in the 2018 SouthWest Writers Sage Anthology. Su was a finalist in the 2017 and 2018 Albuquerque Museum Authors Festival Writing Contest. She lives in Corrales, New Mexico, with her husband Dennis.

An Interview with Authors Sandi Hoover & Jim Tritten

Sandi Hoover and Jim Tritten began their separate writing careers penning nonfiction. Both members of SouthWest Writers and Corrales Writing Group, Sandi and Jim published their first collaborative short story in the 2018 anthology Love, Sweet to Spicy. The novella Panama’s Gold: A Tale of Greed (Red Penguin Books, 2021) is the writing team’s sixth collaboration. Visit Sandi on Facebook and Amazon, and Jim on Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon. You’ll find them both on the Corrales Writing Group Facebook page.

What is your elevator pitch for Panama’s Gold?
Lanny Mitchell, a youthfully-retired environmental lawyer, and amateur birder, revisits Panama to test her idea of becoming an ex-pat. Chen Zhou represents his company and a Chinese gang whose objective is to secure an economic advantage for his country with raw materials critical in manufacturing smartphones, digital cameras, computer parts, and technology for renewable energy. Lanny unexpectedly encounters ecological issues and the activities of the gang. A dormant volcano leaks gases that kill local birds and threaten humans. The finding of Spanish gold and artifacts are linked to events before the Panama Canal was excavated, but also hint that perhaps governments hid deaths, using Yellow Fever as the cause of mortality. The Chinese gang-master does not tolerate failure and Chen Zhou is the target of his wrath after Chinese attempts to corner the world rare-earth market are thwarted by Lanny and local Panamanians. Finding the answer to environmental and economic concerns and helping friends who want the ownership to stay in Panama’s hands, drive the action to a satisfying conclusion.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Using a setting as a character in the book was a first for Sandi, but having fallen in love with Panama, it was a wonderful reason to mentally revisit the country. Jim was charged with making sure that male dialogue was accurate. We challenged his writing about flying with the helicopter crash; it needed to be realistic and yet understandable by every reader.

Tell us how the book came together.
The idea started with Sandi’s excitement over her lengthy trip to Panama and how we could use it for a story. Jim created a basic outline and Sandi wrote to fill it in. Jim created more detail and we just batted it back and forth until we decided to forge ahead. All the chapters were sent to the members of the Corrales Writing Group for critiques and then more rewriting.

Who are your main protagonists and why will readers connect with them?
The protagonist who drives the story is Chen Zhou, although the reader and the characters in the book do not realize that at first. Readers are likely to be surprised at the Chinese presence in Panama and will more likely connect with the book’s antagonist and main Character Lanny Mitchell. This would be similar to the James Bond novels and films where Bond is always the antagonist against the latest evil person in that one story. We think the ending will satisfy the reader when Chen Zhou gets his just reward.

What is the main setting, and how does it impact the story and the characters?
Panama’s location, its landscapes, forests, and volcanos let us create scenes that couldn’t be done elsewhere. This story wouldn’t happen without this setting. It would also not have happened without the assistance of our favorite SWW Panamanian ex-pat, Brinn Colenda. Living in Panama, Brinn was able to research and report on many critical details in the book. He is our unindicted co-conspirator.

Is there a scene in your book you’d love to see play out in a movie?
The first helicopter flight with Lanny and Jorge. It could be dramatic and beautiful and teasing with low level flight to show off the forest and the pilot’s skill.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for the book?
Who knew there were so many attempts to create a way for trade to cross the isthmus. The Spanish, of course, crossed and left a hint of a trail behind. Didn’t know at all about Stevens’ attempt at a railroad in the mid 1800s. Then the French tried and gave up, and finally the American effort succeeded with a high cost of lives lost.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Working with a publisher and learning from each other.

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

2020 New Releases for SWW Authors #4

Joseph Badal, Sarah H. Baker, Neill McKee, Jodi Lea Stewart, and several authors in the Corrales Writing Group represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW) with new 2020 books published in a variety of genres. The releases in this post couldn’t fit into this year’s interview schedule, but look for interviews or updates for most of these authors in 2021.

At the end of this post, you’ll find a list of interviewed SWW authors for books published in 2020.

Joseph Badal’s 2020 release, Payback (Suspense Publishing), is his newest standalone novel. When Bruno Pedace learns that his investment banking partners are setting him up to take the fall for their own corrupt practices, he does what he has always done — run away. But the documents he takes with him put a target on his back. He changes his name and, for nine years, goes underground, until an assassin tracks him down in California and badly injures him. Befriended by Janet Jenkins, a courageous woman who works in a battered women’s shelter, Bruno, for the first time in his life, with Janet’s help, fights back. He constructs an ingenious financial scheme to get payback for the crimes perpetrated by his former partners.

Visit Joe’s website at and his Amazon author page.

After publishing more than 20 novels, Sarah H. Baker has released the first in a speculative fiction series, Promise Me Tomorrow: Book 1: The Prisoner (August 2020). More than three generations after the collapse of civilization and decades of Utopian peace, New Village is suddenly attacked. Villagers are killed and precious supplies are stolen, but one of the injured bandits is left behind. Kole, Protector of New Village, can’t turn her out; she won’t survive. If he allows her to stay, will he be able to keep his children and the other villagers safe? All her life, Shylah has fought for everything: scratch, cover, her very life. But in this strange place, marks work together, and they even take care of their mutts. Won’t Bryce be pleased when he comes back to get her? Now she knows their secrets. They won’t survive a day.

Visit Sarah’s website at Promise Me Tomorrow can be found on Amazon.

In Guns and Gods in My Genes (December 2020), Neill McKee takes the reader through 400 years and 15,000 miles of an on-the-road adventure, discovering stories of his Scots-Irish ancestors in Canada and a trail that heads south and west into the United States. Much to his surprise, McKee finds his American ancestors were involved in every major conflict on North American soil: the Civil War, the American Revolution, and the French and Indian War. In the last chapters, he reveals his Pilgrim ancestors who arrived on the Mayflower, landing at Plymouth in 1620, and their Puritan descendants who fought in the early Indian Wars of New England. With the help of professional genealogical research, he tracks down and tells the stories of the heroes, villains, rascals, as well as, the godly and ordinary folk in his genes, discovering many facts and exposing myths.

Guns and Gods in My Genes can be ordered from Albuquerque bookstores (such as Organic Books and Bookworks), as well as from Neill’s website at and Amazon.

Jodi Lea Stewart published her sixth book, TRIUMPH: a Novel of the Human Spirit, in September 2020. 1903: Deep in the Louisiana swamps, five-year-old Willy is kidnapped by a Vodou Priestess. One day, he will fight bloody battles in France and come face-to-face with the horrors of Vodou. In bustling New Orleans, bachelor Jack — a former Texas Ranger — has an encounter with a young beauty hiding in his hotel room. What she wants and needs will change his life forever. 1958: St. Louis, two girls of different races, Mercy and Annie, meet in the fifth grade. Together, they secretly explore St. Louis via bus and streetcar, encountering cultural prejudices at every turn — including from within one girl’s own family. The turbulent times and the Civil Rights Movement will test the girls’ loyalty and affect their choices on the way to adulthood. In a saga spanning from 1903 to 1968, compelling characters navigate the stormy paths of life in New Orleans, St. Louis, and Texas until they all collide in a startling and dramatic way.

Visit Jodi’s Amazon author page.

Kale is a Four Letter Word (Artemesia Publishing, September 2020) is the sixth anthology published by the Corrales Writing Group (members Chris Allen, Maureen Cooke, Sandi Hoover, James John Tritten, and Patricia Walkow). Kale has invaded our culture as the go-to food for healthy living, appearing everywhere on restaurant menus, in grocery stores, and in beauty products like soaps and scrubs. For some, the vitamin load and beneficial fiber cannot outweigh the bitterness and texture of this member of the cabbage family. For those people, kale has ignited a passionate response, often reflected in internet memes and T-shirt slogans. This collection of short stories shows kale in a new light. A couple of tales are horror stories about kale’s effect on a life; another one describes a speculative history of kale; one is a murder mystery where kale plays an unusual role; and one is a fantasy about kale’s rivalry with cauliflower. This book also features delicious kale recipes.

Visit Corrales Writing Group’s Amazon author page.

SWW Author Interviews: 2020 Releases

Connie Flores
Our Fascinating Life: The Totally Accidental Trip 1979
Sue Houser
BR Kingsolver
Knights Magica
Dr. Barbara Koltuska-Haskin
How My Brain Works: A Guide to Understanding It Better and Keeping It Healthy
Manfred Leuthard
Broken Arrow: A Nuke Goes Missing
Shirley Raye Redmond
Courageous World Changers: 50 True Stories of Daring Women of God
J.R. Seeger
A Graveyard for Spies
Lynne Sturtevant
Hometown: Writing a Local History or Travel Guide and The Collaboration Kit
Patricia Walkow
New Mexico Remembers 9/11

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

An Interview with Author/Editor Patricia Walkow

Patricia Walkow is an award-winning author whose editing skills (as well as fiction and nonfiction contributions) have shaped dozens of anthologies including Corrales Writing Group’s Kale is a Four Letter Word (2020). Pat’s most recent editing project is New Mexico Remembers 9/11 (Artemesia Publishing, October 2020), an anthology of memoir and poetry from two dozen contributors living in The Land of Enchantment. You’ll find Pat on Facebook and her Amazon author page.

What would you like readers to know about New Mexico Remembers 9/11?
September 11, 2001 is seared into America’s collective memory. Although New Mexico is two thousand miles from the sites of destruction in Manhattan, the Pentagon near Washington D.C., and a verdant field in rural western Pennsylvania, on that day, our “home” was attacked, regardless of how many miles away from New Mexico those attacks occurred. As curator and editor of New Mexico Remembers 9/11, I wanted to create a body of work that enshrines the connectedness New Mexico has to the rest of the country.

One of the things I learned during the process was the extent to which the contributors—young and older—were affected, and how those wounds are not fully closed. It is my hope their poems and stories helped them make sense of it all. My wish is their evocative poems and prose will help readers who, to this day, still grieve.

What were you looking for in a submission to the anthology?
I was looking for prose and poetry. Happily, I received both. There were two requirements for submitting work: 1) the writer had to be currently living in New Mexico, even if they were not New Mexico residents on 9/11/2001, and 2) the submitter had to be a writer. That is why I opened up submissions to some local writers’ groups.

A few of the contributors were children or young adults on 9/11/2001. I wanted to hear their experiences and perspectives, and include them. As with any set of submissions, there is considerable variety in styles and abilities of writers. In the case of this particular anthology, the differences were related more to style than ability. As a result, I didn’t need to reject any of the submissions. However, I standardized some technical aspects, such as the use of dashes, fonts, indenting, etc. I read each story multiple times and provided a critique to the writer, identifying what was working well, what was confusing, or what was a problem. Using that approach, each story became more polished.

Although New Mexico Remembers 9/11 is not a SouthWest Writers publication, I approached this work with the spirit of SWW as a driving factor—writers helping writers—providing a publishing opportunity for those who submitted. Local publisher Artemesia Publishing (from Tijeras, New Mexico) took on the project. If that had not happened, I was fully prepared to release the book through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Tell us how the book came together.
I had the idea of a 9/11 anthology in my mind for a few years. I had co-authored a story with my husband, Walter, about our own 9/11 experiences. We had been separated by distance and wrote an account of our days from 9/11 until I finally arrived home on 9/14. Certainly, there are thousands of stories about those days. They needed to be written. Originally, I pitched the idea to my own critique group, but that didn’t go very far. So, I figured I’d suggest the idea to SouthWest Writers, opening it up to them, and also to New Mexico Press Women.

The entire book took about eighteen months from initiation to publication set for October 13, 2020. Originally, I thought I’d wait to publish it until 2021 on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Instead, I opted to publish it in 2020 and give myself through 2021 to market the book. Each submission was originally written by the author, reviewed and critiqued by me, revised by the author, then reviewed and critiqued again by me. A few required a longer cycle. The publisher had someone do the cover design, but I did legwork ahead of time. The flowing New Mexico flag is something I found and wanted on the front cover. The cover design process was easy and quick, since the publisher and I were pretty much on the same page about it.

Why were you the perfect editor for this project?
I can’t admit to being the perfect editor for this project. However, I’ve edited several anthologies, and most of them have won awards for editing. I used a couple of beta readers to help with the 9/11 anthology. In addition, publisher Geoff Habiger and I made a good go of it, but we did find some additional errors and had to make more changes. Editing is an iterative process, and over the years I’ve learned that what an editor sees on the screen is often seen differently in print. I always print a manuscript to edit it, mark it up, and only then make changes on the electronic copy of the manuscript. It uses a lot of ink, but so does printing a book with lots of errors in it. Often, I use Word’s voice feature to read the text aloud. That can catch errors the eye no longer sees.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
There are twenty-five contributors to the anthology. That is a larger set of writers to work with than I am used to, and the review process was quite intense for a while. One of the challenges I had was writers wanting to keep certain punctuation or phrasing I thought was more confusing than illuminating, and some of them just not right. For example, some used dashes inappropriately, or left double or triple blank lines as breaks…in general, a lack of consistency. But as editor, I considered it my job to create the consistency. Any anthology I curate and edit will have a polished, consistent look. Reading the stories, I noted discrepancies between “facts” about the events and documented facts. Each fact in a story was verified, and these verified facts were used, instead. Had a writer not agreed to this consistent look or had been adamant about using an incorrect “fact,” it would have been a deal breaker for including that piece in the anthology. Fortunately, that did not happen.

Do you have favorite quotes from the book that you’d like to share?
There are so many. Here are a few:

The ability of the human spirit to surmount the tragedy of 9/11 is not forgotten in New Mexico. ~ Elaine Carson Montague

We need to know we are something together which we are not and cannot be apart. ~ Ryan P. Freeman

…spirits dropping from the sky – no way to unremember… ~ Sylvia Ramos Cruz

Back before—
before the trajectory of history
took an unexpected turn.
~ Janet Ruth

What was the best part of putting this project together?
I got to know some writers in a deeper way than I had beforehand. The fact they entrusted me with some of their deepest feelings and beliefs is very humbling. It has been my honor to work with them.

What did you learn in editing/publishing New Mexico Remembers 9/11 that you can apply to future projects?
Know what you want the final product to look like and stick to that vision.

Do you prefer the creating, editing or researching aspect of a writing project?
Researching is fun. Writing is fun, but researching still continues as you write. Editing is not “fun” but it is part of the process. I prefer the writing part.

How has your experience writing nonfiction benefited your other writing?
Facts are important whether you are writing nonfiction or fiction. To make fiction “real,” I think you have to use real facts in stories, whether you’re talking about a sailboat, or a murder investigation. Some fiction I write requires a good amount of research. If you’re writing complete fantasy and create your own world…well, more power to you.

What advice do you have for beginning or discouraged writers?
Understand why you write. To express yourself? To heal wounds? To make money? To tell a great story? I don’t write for money (which is a good thing, I’ve come to realize). Most importantly: WRITE. Be brave enough to have people read what you write. What you think you are saying may not be the way it reads. Join or start a critique group. It’s a huge help.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Fellow SouthWest Writers member Chris Allen and I are working on a murder/mystery novel with a bit of romance. It is set in hills and mountains of southeastern New Mexico, Lincoln County. We are on our second draft and haven’t killed each other. Yet. (We work quite well together, actually). The book has a working title of Lake Fortuna.

I am also considering curating another anthology for publication in late 2022. There are several topics in mind, and if I do pursue this project, I will open submissions to members of SouthWest Writers and other writing groups.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
The first word in my 1st grade reader was “LOOK.” I am still looking with my eyes, with my heart, with my mind. It is an endless source of writing inspiration.

Read more about Pat in her two 2016 SWW interviews—one on writing and the other about her debut novel, The War Within, The Story of Josef.

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

An Interview Update with Corrales Writing Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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