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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

An Interview with Authors Jasmine Tritten and Jim Tritten

The husband and wife team of Jim and Jasmine Tritten share not only a love of one another from their home in Corrales, New Mexico, they also share a love of writing. Jasmine is an artist, as well as a short story and essay writer, and the author of the memoir The Journey of an Adventuresome Dane (read her 2016 interview). Jim, a retired U.S. Navy officer, has published six books and over three hundred chapters, short stories, essays, articles, and government technical reports. Kato’s Grand Adventure is the authors’ first children’s book collaboration. For a complete list of Jasmine’s published work, visit her SWW author page. You’ll also find her on Facebook. Jim’s work is listed on his own SWW page, and you’ll find him on Facebook and Twitter.

What is your elevator pitch for Kato’s Grand Adventure?
An adventure story written from the perspective of a kitten named Kato who gets lost looking for his sister. With the help of several animals he overcomes obstacles and finds his way home. Suitable to be read-aloud to children and grandchildren or as a first chapter book for anyone with a 4th–5th grade reading level.

Who are your main characters, and why will they appeal to the book’s audience?
Kato is the adventurous main character and the protagonist. He has all of the characteristics of a young child who will meet obstacles on life’s path. The story includes Kato getting help from some unlikely animals in nature who adults might consider predators.

What part did each of you play in creating the book?
We both worked back and forth on the text. Jasmine did all of the original artwork and designed the cover. Jim took care of the grunt work of uploading files to CreateSpace for a finished product.

What was the hardest part of collaborating, and what was the easiest?
Collaborating was easy since neither one of us was pressured by time. The hardest part was to learn how to write for an early reader. Jasmine and Jim have collaborated on other pieces which include the soon-to-be published “KALE—the Ultimate Vegetable” that will appear in Kale Chronicles (working title) to be compiled by the Corrales Writing Group.

How did you decide what aspect of the story to illustrate?
Jasmine first wanted to capture Kato to put him on the cover of the book. Next she decided to depict the other characters in the story that helped Kato, so the reader could imagine what they looked like. Finally she drew a couple of scenes with setting and characters.

What is the greatest challenge of writing for the children’s market?
The professional children’s publishing market is dominated by requirements set by school districts. We learned that Kato’s Grand Adventure would not fit because it did not follow guidelines for teaching in today’s classrooms. Somewhat disheartened by this reality, we simultaneously got appreciation for the story from potential purchasers who were not connected to the professional children’s market. Since receiving so much positive feedback from just plain folks we decided that an independently published book with original artwork by Jasmine would work. This year we were rewarded by recognition in the form of professional contest awards from the NMPW Communications Contest 2019—first place for Book Designed by Entrant and second place for Children’s Books, Fiction. The book design went on to win an honorable mention at the national level.

Tell us how the book came together.
The story idea originally came from a telephone call from Jim’s daughter telling us she and her daughter were going to pick up some new kittens at a neighbor’s house. That day we both happened to be en route for the first class of a University of New Mexico Continuing Education course of writing about animals. It sparked the idea of the story and we went to additional classes on how to write for children and additional drafts. We worked on it for many years and donated copies of the text to two different charitable organizations for fundraising anthologies. Finally we thought the text was as good as we could ever write it, and Jasmine turned to the illustrations and then Jim to the mechanics of book production.

What was your favorite part of working on Kato’s Grand Adventure?
Jasmine says: Doing the illustrations. Jim says: Hitting the button to publish.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?
Jim really likes doing the research and all aspects of the creating stage. Jasmine enjoys creating, rewriting and editing. Both Jim and Jasmine detest marketing.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
Jim is the recipient of the Alfred Thayer Mahan award from the Navy League of the United States. This is the highest honor awarded to authors who write in this field. Jasmine received an honorable mention award for her memoir The Journey of an Adventuresome Dane in 2016 from the New Mexico Press Women (NMPW) Communications Contest.

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
You can overcome obstacles.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received on your writing journey?
Keep writing no matter what happens in your life.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Jasmine is working on several short stories for anthologies and contests. Together they have outlined a new children’s picture book. Jim has completed two novellas (one is a romance and the other is an adventure) co-written with a member of the Corrales Writing Group. They have a contract for one of those books. Jim has another novella (historical fiction) out for consideration in two different contests. He is in the final stages of re-writing the first of three planned novels set in Sandoval County. The second novel is fully outlined and the third is in the concept development stage. In addition, he has a number of short stories and essays scheduled to appear in anthologies and journals.

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

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