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Author Update: Cassie Sanchez

Cassie Sanchez is the author of the award-winning The Darkness Trilogy, a fantasy blend of action, adventure, and romance. Conquering the Darkness (December 2023) is the final book in the series that wraps up Jasce’s journey of redemption and transformation to a satisfying conclusion. You’ll find Cassie on her website at, on Facebook and Instagram, and on her Amazon author page. For more about The Darkness Trilogy, read her 2022 SWW interview.

In your 2022 interview for SouthWest Writers, you describe the story you tell in The Darkness Trilogy as a man’s journey of self: his purpose, his worth, and his values. When readers turn the last page of Conquering the Darkness, what do you hope they take away from the book?
We all have demons to battle, but hopefully we don’t have to fight those battles alone. Jasce, the stubborn man that he was, finally realized his worth and conquered those demons with the help of those who loved him.

What were your greatest challenges in writing the series, as well as bringing the trilogy to a close?
With each book expectations were raised, which increased the pressure to deliver an engaging and complete story, especially with the final book in the trilogy. I needed to make sure Jasce’s story had a satisfying ending. Also, my world grew with each book, so the new world building was a challenge. Plus, I didn’t really know where this story was going (originally it was going to be a duology), so I had a lot to figure out as I wrote books two and three.

What is it about Azrael, your main protagonist, that makes readers connect with him? Also, introduce us to a few of your favorite secondary characters, and tell us if  you share traits with any of your characters.
Azrael/Jasce Farone is a character who battles his demons, which don’t we all, but he does it with the help of his friends. One of them being Kord Haring, who is a Healer and a man who never gave up on Jasce. Another fan favorite character is Prince Nicolaus Jazari, who provided the comic relief while also helping Jasce with his mission to save Pandaren. I definitely relate to Jasce but also Kenz Haring, the love interest in the trilogy. I seem to have put a few of my characteristics in her, namely sarcasm and her love for family.

Give us some details about how the book came together.
Conquering the Darkness took a little over a year from writing the first draft to self-publishing, including receiving feedback from my Beta readers and ARC readers, plus a developmental edit and a copy/line edit from my editor. I also had a proofreader give it one more look before I launched Conquering. I can’t tell you how many times I read this book, but it was to the point that even I was sick of my characters.

In your fantasy land of Pandaren, which setting would you love to visit and which would you love to send your worst enemy to?
I’d love to visit the kingdom city of Orilyon, which is on the coast. I’ve always loved the ocean, so it would be a magical place to visit. I’d send my worst enemy south to Balten (a kingdom outside of Pandaren) because it has an arctic climate, and the people are a warrior race. That just sounds intimidating to me.

What was the process like working with both a cover designer and a cartographer? Do you have lessons you learned that you could share with other authors?
My cover designer thankfully did all three covers in the series so they would match. Karen with Arcane Covers is amazing to work with and very patient. A professional cover that correctly represents your genre is so important, and authors need to make sure they find someone within their budget, easy to work with, and reliable. As for a cartographer, the map of Balten in Conquering the Darkness was created by yours truly using Canva.

Is there a scene in your book that you’d like to see play out in a movie?
I’d like the whole trilogy to make it to the big screen or streaming service. That’s my dream, to see these characters come to life. If I had to pick just one scene, then it would be the battle in the cave against a new creature I invented. That scene is tense and a little scary, plus you get to see everyone’s magic.

Of the three novels in The Darkness Trilogy, which one was the most challenging and which one was the most enjoyable to write?
Each book was challenging for different reasons, but the first book, Chasing the Darkness, was the most fun to write as there were no expectations. I loved getting lost in a new world and meeting new characters. Conquering the Darkness was probably the most challenging because I had to make sure I wrapped up everything in a beautiful, tidy bow.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
Recently at the Albuquerque Comic Con, I had someone tell me I was the reason they came to the event. That made my day. Anytime a reader tells me they couldn’t put my book down and which characters they loved always gives me such joy.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m working on a spin-off story featuring a fan favorite character, Prince Nicolaus Jazari. Currently, this is a single novel and not part of the series. Or at least that’s the plan. Readers will get to travel to Alturia where the Shade Walkers dwell along with water dragons.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Please stop by my website to learn more about my books and me, including all the events I’m attending this year. And if you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get two short stories and a downloadable map of Pandaren.

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

2023 New Releases for SWW Authors #4

Jane M. Bardal, Mark Fleisher, Sue Houser, Paula Paul, and Cassie Sanchez represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW) with 2023 releases in the genres of biography, poetry, middle grade fiction, contemporary fiction, and fantasy, respectively. Their releases couldn’t fit in this year’s interview schedule, but look for new interviews or updates for most of these authors in 2024.

A list of interviewed SWW authors with 2023 releases is included at the end of this post.

Colorado’s Mrs. Captain Ellen Jack: Mining Queen of the Rockies (The History Press, May 2023) by Jane M. Bardal. “You get off this property.” In 1887, Captain Ellen E. Jack backed up her orders with a shotgun as she stood at the entrance to her Black Queen Mine. To profit from the mine, she engaged in many other battles with lawyers and capitalists who tried to wrest her ore away. Mrs. Captain Jack contributed to the myth of the West by crowning herself the Mining Queen of the Rockies as she entertained tourists at her roadhouse near Colorado Springs. This is a captivating biography of a pioneering woman who fashioned a legacy through true tenacity and maybe even a few tall tales.

Colorado’s Mrs. Captain Ellen Jack is available on Amazon.

Knowing When: Poems (Mercury HeartLink, March 2023) by Mark Fleisher. Under the mantle of its intriguing title, Mark Fleisher writes of sadness and tragedy, lightens the mood with poems about love, nature, even baseball, as well as a mirthful look at technology. Fleisher’s blend of narrative and lyric styles cut to the heart of the matter, showing the ability to speak volumes in a minimum number of lines. His eclectic collection also invites the reader to contemplate questions posed in the title poem and other selections.

You’ll find Knowing When: Poems and more of Mark’s poetry on his Amazon author page.

Walter Steps Up to the Plate (Kinkajou Press, October 2023) by Sue Houser. Walter will do anything to help his mother when she’ s diagnosed with tuberculosis, but does that include standing up to Al Capone? Twelve-year-old Walter wants to spend the summer of 1927 watching his beloved Chicago Cubs play baseball. Instead, Walter must leave everything he knows and loves to accompany his mother to Albuquerque, New Mexico — a place he has never been to with relatives he has never met. To help with expenses, Walter gets a paper route. But the situation gets worse when his mother is admitted to a sanatorium and needs expensive surgery. A chance encounter with the gangster, Al “ Scarface” Capone might change his mother’ s fortunes and get her the surgery she needs. But to do it, Walter will become indebted to the notorious gangster.

Look for Sue at and on her Amazon author page.

The Last of the Baileys (March 2023) by Paula Paul. Trudy Bailey Walters, who is in her 70s, thinks the old house she just bought for back taxes might be haunted. Adam Bailey, who Trudy has known since childhood, says he will help Trudy find the source of the “haunting,” but he doesn’t want Trudy to know the truth. Although Trudy has no intention of taking in boarders, she soon finds several people living with her, including a young mother with a rebellious teenager and an undocumented immigrant who is searching for her child. While they all look for the source of the haunting, Adam convinces them to help find the missing child, including a reluctant Trudy. Illegal escapades, unexpected friendships, and startling conclusions ensue.

You’ll find Paula on her website at and The Last of the Baileys on Amazon. Many of her other novels are available on her Amazon author page.

Conquering the Darkness: The Darkness Trilogy – 3 (December 2023) by Cassie Sanchez. Ultimate victory is won within the battlefield of the soul. Without his magic or his memories, Jasce Farone finds himself in the frozen realm of Balten, suffering the lingering wounds from his last battle and haunted by a woman he can’t recall. He tries to be the man everyone expects him to be—the one they remember—but the spindly fingers of revenge wrap around his heart while a past he’s never confronted escorts him further into darkness. In his journey, Jasce will need to trust those who fight by his side while battling the demons within if he wants to preserve magic and prevent tyranny from spreading throughout the land. If he succeeds, then a chance at love and peace is within his grasp.

Visit Cassie on her website at, on Facebook, and her Amazon author page.

SWW Author Interviews: 2023 Releases

Marty Eberhardt
Bones in the Back Forty

William Fisher
The Price of the Sky: A Tale of Bandits, Bootleggers, and Barnstormers

Patricia Gable
The Right Choice

Cornelia Gamlem
The Decisive Manager: Get Results, Build Morale, and Be the Boss Your People Deserve

Joyce Hertzoff
Train to Nowhere Somewhere: Book 1 of the More Than Just Survival Series

Brian House
Reich Stop

T.E. MacArthur
The Skin Thief

Nick Pappas
Crosses of Iron: The Tragic Story of Dawson, New Mexico, and its Twin Mining Disasters

Marcia Rosen
Murder at the Zoo

Lynne Sebastian
One Last Cowboy Song

JR Seeger
The Enigma of Treason

Suzanne Stauffer
Fried Chicken Castañeda

Jodi Lea Stewart
The Gold Rose

Patricia Walkow
Life Lessons from the Color Yellow

R. Janet Walraven
LIAM: The Boy Who Saw the World Upside Down

Donald Willerton
Death in the Tallgrass

Linda Wilson
Waddles the Duck and
Cradle in the Wild: A Book for Nature Lovers Everywhere

An Interview with Author Cassie Sanchez

Cassie Sanchez is an award-winning author of romantic fantasy. Chasing the Darkness (Morgan James Fiction, November 2021) was her debut novel and the first book in The Darkness Trilogy. Book two in the series, Embracing the Darkness (October 2022), is described as the weaving of “a complicated, compelling story…a powerful saga of change, redemption, and transformation.” Visit Cassie on her website at, on Facebook and Instagram, and on her Amazon author page.

What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in The Darkness Trilogy?
The Darkness Trilogy, starting with Chasing the Darkness, is about a man’s journey of self: his purpose, his worth, and his values. It’s a romantic fantasy full of magic, sword fights, and love.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
As a debut author, navigating the publishing world, building my platform, and marketing were very challenging with the first book. With the second, the challenge was that there were now expectations that weren’t there before. Imposter Syndrome is very real and has a tendency to rear its ugly head, often.

What sparked the story idea for Chasing the Darkness? What about book two, Embracing the Darkness?
One day, my two sons were playing a video game and a character in that game got my attention. The creativity bug struck, and I wrote a scene about an assassin betrayed by his team and left to die in a dungeon. This became chapter four of Chasing the Darkness and from there the story evolved. Embracing the Darkness is a continuation of my main character’s story, but now he faces new challenges yet with old temptations and habits tightening their grip.

You published the first two books in the trilogy about a year apart. How did the books come together?
I began writing Chasing in early 2020 and signed with Morgan James Publishing in February 2021. The eBook released in November and the paperback released February 1, 2022. I was already working on the second book when the first released, but I’d say it took me around a year and half to write each book from start to finish, including the editing and cover design process.

Who are your main characters? Did they surprise you as you wrote their story?
Azrael, the Angel of Death, also known as Jasce Farone, is my main character. He’s a morally gray assassin who’s fiercely loyal and yet has some anger management problems. Kord Haring, my gentle giant, became a fan favorite, which surprised me. He is a very likable character and honestly, I’m not sure how I did that. He’s the wiser, older brother of Kenz Haring, the love interest in the story. I’ve found that many women love Kenz while quite a few men are annoyed by her (including my husband). She’s got a chip on her shoulder and a need to prove herself but would do anything to protect her family.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for the series?
Probably the fact that I did it backwards since the world developed as I wrote the story. I assume most fantasy authors already have their world and magic figured out before their fingers hit the keys. I had my magic system down, so to speak, but the world grew as my characters traveled across it. The one thing I did have planned was the Desert of Souls. In this desert grows a plant that suppresses magic. It was a way to add tension with the setting.

With two books in the trilogy published and the third in the works, what has been your favorite part of putting this project together so far?
I love the writing (or should I say the rewrite/editing phase). The first draft is so hard for me. I also love meeting new people at book signings or Comic-Cons. Of course, winning awards or getting positive reviews adds a lot of joy to the process.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I still struggle with calling myself an author, but I’m getting better at it. Once I saw my name on the cover of Chasing the Darkness the reality began to set in. Now that I have two books under my belt and the third in its beginning stages, it’s easier to say, “Hi, I’m an author.”

What marketing techniques have been most helpful to you?
Instagram (Bookstagram) has been hugely successful for me. I had learned to engage and post consistent content about myself and my brand way before I ever talked about my book. I was on Instagram for around nine months before I mentioned Chasing the Darkness. I’m now trying to build some momentum on TikTok but coming up with content is a challenge.

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
Redemption, identity, and forgiveness are themes that occur in the first two books, and I imagine will also run through the third.

Tell us about your writing process and/or your writing routine.
I’m more of a plotter than a pantser but still give myself a lot of wiggle room to let the creativity flow. My best times for writing are in the morning. By the afternoon, my brain is usually fried. And I absolutely need coffee and my writing playlist to write.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m currently working on the third (and final) book in the series. It will be called either Defeating the Darkness or Destroying the Darkness. Which one do you like better?

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Stop by my website to learn more about me and my books at Also, sign up for my newsletter to stay in the loop of all things Darkness and get two short story prequels for free.

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

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