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Author Update 2023: RJ the Story Guy

RJ the Story Guy (aka RJ Mirabal) is a retired high school teacher turned author. He has written three series: the completed Rio Grande Parallax trilogy (adult fantasy) and the ongoing Dragon Train Quest for young adults and Trixie the Brown Dog for children. His newest release is Dragon Train Rebellion (December 2022), the second book in his Dragon Train Quest series. You’ll find RJ on his websites at and, on Facebook at RJMirabalAuthor and TrixieTheBrownDog, and on Instagram and Twitter. To find out more about RJ and his writing, visit his SWW author page and follow the links to previous interviews.

Distill the story you tell in Dragon Train Rebellion into a few sentences and include the themes you explore.
Rebellion takes up the story of Skye, the big blue dragon, and her human friend, young Jaiden the farmer, as they prepare themselves and the rest of the small community of free dragons to fight to stay free. In addition, they want to free all their fellow dragons who are enslaved. The dragons want to live once again in the mountain caves as they always had before humans won the Dragon Wars a generation before. Jaiden is captured when he tries to rescue Skye’s children who were abducted during a human raid on the free dragons’ desert community. Things come to a head which will lead to all-out war. The main themes of the story involve the quest for freedom, the importance of friendship and family relationships, and dedication to a cause.

Jaiden returns as your main character in book two. What challenges does he face, and why will readers connect with him?
Jaiden, who is now 17 years old, struggles to take on the responsibilities of adulthood and strives to offer himself to a cause greater than himself and that is, in fact, seemingly against his own kind—humanity. He encounters an attractive and very capable young woman a few years older than himself and a teenage girl whom he barely knew back in his hometown. The difficulty of relating to members of the opposite sex are mostly a mystery and somewhat frustrating for him. He also wants to gain independence from his demanding and mercurial father but he fears he isn’t capable of standing on his own feet until he is challenged by his new dragon friends.

Who are a few of your other characters, new or returning?
Skye and her mate Caerulus turned out to be rather demanding of Jaiden, though Skye still handles him with the compassion of a substitute mother, but she isn’t quite as supportive as he expected her to be based on his earlier experience with her.

A new character is a silver dragon (about the size of a horse with the intelligence of a ten-year-old child) called Trigger. He and Jaiden train together because when Jaiden goes into battle he will ride Trigger. Trigger is annoying and mischievous but also proves to be brave and humorous. The two start to bond by the end of the novel. Another new character is Dog, a small gold dragon about the size of a dog and the intelligence of a four-year-old child. Because of his size, he can easily sneak around to explore and help Jaiden once they start to work together with Trigger, Skye, and Caerulus.

Wyetta is a young woman, probably about three to four years older than Jaiden. She is very self-sufficient and athletic which makes her both attractive and threatening to Jaiden. Her beauty makes her irresistible to Jaiden, though there is a mysterious air about her.

You’re currently writing book three of Dragon Train Quest. At what point while working on the first book, Dragon Train, did you know the story was strong enough for a series? What has been the most challenging aspect of writing this series?
When I came to the end of the first book, I knew I had to tell the story of how Jaiden would get involved in the dragons’ quest for complete freedom. The freedom of Skye’s family that she and Jaiden accomplished at the end of the first book was fine, but it wouldn’t be enough for either of them to simply quit while they were ahead.

The most challenging aspect of writing this series is to limit the complexity because this is a story intended for teen and young adult readers. I could easily take this story into levels of complexity and a cast of characters as extensive as a major epic fantasy. But I wanted to keep the focus on Jaiden, Skye, and others closest to him as he goes through his whole coming of age quest. He is a part of a monumental struggle for freedom, but I didn’t want to bog the story down with a lot of politics and cultural theories. Though those elements are present, the story sticks to Jaiden and his quest since he is the narrator throughout, except for a few rare occasions.

What makes this series unique among all the other dragon books on the market?
Though there are a lot of dragon stories, most of them focus on people’s struggle with the dragons with usually the dragons as antagonists. Some stories allow dragons to be intelligent, but I decided to make them very intelligent, wise, and highly moral. They only want their own freedom, not to destroy humanity through death, destruction, and dominance. They do not have unusual magic abilities, but they communicate with Jaiden mentally. They have a highly developed culture but virtually no technology since they don’t possess hands and the more compact bodies of humans. I slowly reveal interesting elements of their highly developed culture as the story progresses. Also, the setting for the series is not medieval as is typical for many dragon stories. In this world (which I don’t name) people have developed a 19th-century kind of life and technology but they haven’t developed steam power, so they use dragons for heavy labor to do farm work and to tow trains, etc.

Did what-if questions help shape your Dragon Train books?
Yes, the unique aspects of the series mentioned above were the what-ifs I started with. In fact, the title came to me before any story ideas once I began thinking about developing a dragon story. Somehow, the words “dragon train” came to me one night when I was falling asleep. Later, intrigued by the idea, I imagined why dragons would pull trains and it all went from there, including the characters, storylines, etc.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Dragon Train War, which will conclude the Quest series, is this year’s project. It’s been the hardest to develop because I had to do a lot of research about war, battles, strategy, weapons, and battle techniques, as well as coming up with a satisfying conclusion that deals with the contradictions and horrors of war that will be comprehensible to young readers. And of course, I had a lot of storylines and character development that began in books one and two to contend with! Sometimes, a one-off book seems very appealing knowing that I don’t have to develop characters, storylines, and themes beyond the conclusion of one book.

Is there something else you’d like to tell readers?
Love and value freedom before you lose it. Value the people in your life and make the unique contribution to life as we know it that only you can do. Accept some failure and celebrate your successes. And remember, people (in broad enough terms to include the other intelligence forms of life we share this Earth with) and your relationships with them are the most important things.

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

Author Update 2022: RJ the Story Guy

Retired high school teacher RJ Mirabal (aka RJ the Story Guy) is the author of an adult fantasy series (the Rio Grande Parallax trilogy), a young adult fantasy (Dragon Train), and the children’s book series Trixie the Brown Dog. His newest release is Trixie: Round Brown Ball of Dog (November 2021), the second book inspired by his adventurous rescue dog. You’ll find RJ and Trixie on their websites at and, on their Facebook pages at RJMirabalAuthor and TrixieTheBrownDog, and on Instagram and Twitter. To find out more about RJ and his writing, visit his SWW author page and follow the links to previous interviews.

What can readers expect from the second book in your Trixie series?
Trixie’s adventures continue as she looks for new things to do and has more Dog Fun with her people. She likes sniffing, walking, running, and playing but those take a back seat when the Brown Dog faces an unexpected challenge. Trixie still can’t talk the way her people do, but she communicates what she wants and how she feels through grunts, whines, whistles, barks, growls, and wagging her tail and body while singing her Dog Opera. Fortunately, RJ The Story Guy interprets all this for a reader’s enjoyment. Big things to overcome, toys to chew and tug, places to go, lots of exploring, and a new fantasy adventure await readers in Trixie: Round Brown Ball of Dog.

How did you get into the mind of the main character, Trixie the Brown Dog, and draw readers into her story?
I’ve always had a close attachment to animals because I am an only child who grew up in the countryside. My dogs and cats were constant companions. As a kid, there were always animals in our family, usually several, including cows and chickens for a few years. Apparently, by instinct, I watched and related to my animal friends very closely and came to understand what they were thinking. Even though the only language animals have is their body language along with barking, meowing, mooing, clucking, grunting, howling, etc., I could usually tell what their moods and desires were.

Since my wife and I have only Trixie as our family pet, we’re all in tune with each other. Once I could read her wants and emotions through her body language and dog vocalizations, I developed an understanding of her character and personality. At that point, especially during walks, I began to think of stories where she was the central character in a series of dog adventures. As a writer, I quickly realized I was developing a book about a rescue dog finding and relating to her new people in a unique way as a result of her personality and experiences. I naturally assumed other animal lovers of all ages would see their own dogs and themselves in the simple stories I told about her.

Was there anything surprising or interesting you discovered while doing research for this book?
My research was simply recording our experiences with Trixie. For Round Brown Ball of Dog, Trixie suffers an injury to what is a dog’s equivalent of the ACL (ligament) associated with the knee. What was surprising were the details of the surgery to repair the injury and how we had to follow a very restrictive regimen of recovery/therapy for several weeks. Going through that experience with Trixie was all the education I needed for story material. That and, of course, Trixie’s characteristic reactions to the gradual return to normal walking and playing. We were surprised that, although she was used to running hard and walking a lot, she adjusted to the restrictions fairly well. However, she was not at all happy about the pain and disability in the first several days after the surgery! Gradually she had a full recovery.

You wrote the Rio Grande Parallax series for adult fantasy readers and Dragon Train for young adult fantasy readers. Tell us why you went in a new direction with the Trixie books.
I wanted to explore a part of my deep experience with animals and make it accessible to others, especially children. The audience I had in mind was a child that had either little or no experience with a pet. I wanted them to learn how to relate to animals in a positive way. The Parallax series are very gritty stories with mature content while Dragon Train is an adventure story based on close relationships between people and other non-human beings.

The Trixie stories are meant to be fun with a few simple messages about love, loyalty, adapting to new situations, facing basic fears, and developing personal responsibility. The obvious target audience (including reading level) is children, especially those six to twelve years old. Yet, I’ve striven to make the stories high-interest for all ages since I envisioned adults sharing the stories with children and grandchildren.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m writing books two and three of the Dragon Train Quest Series. The second book, Dragon Train Rebellion, will trace the growth of the dragons’ rebellion against human enslavement and abuse of all three types of dragons. In my story, there are blue dragons who are intelligent and large, silver dragons who possess moderate intelligence and are the size of horses, while the small dog-like silver dragons have limited but very focused intelligence. Humanity is unaware of any dragon intelligence and self-worth, but my main character, a teenage boy, becomes aware of their true nature and joins the dragons to fight for their freedom. The third book, Dragon Train War, will explore the horrors of war and how enemies have to find a way to gain peace and guarantee freedom for the oppressed.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I want readers to know that I welcome comments, thoughts, and reactions to my writing. I would like to engage directly with “followers” who have enjoyed my stories. And I want to learn why my writing appeals to them. Of course, suggestions and ideas are always something I like to share so I can strive to meet readers’ expectations while following my creative pursuits. I guess I’m talking about a fan club. Anyone want to organize one?

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

2021 New Releases for SWW Authors #4

Linda Davis-Kyle, Mary A. Johnson PhD, Sharon Vander Meer, RJ The Story Guy (RJ Mirabal), Léonie Rosenstiel, and John L. Thompson represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW) with books published in a variety of genres in 2021. Their new releases couldn’t fit in this year’s interview schedule, but look for interviews/updates for most of these authors in 2022.

A list of interviewed SWW authors with 2021 releases is included at the end of this post.

Getting Ready to Write: Reviewing English Grammar (March 2021) by Linda Davis-Kyle. This colorfully illustrated e-book shares a useful, but fun, way to help pre-teens, teens, and beyond teens review grammar, mechanics, and writing basics. It shows beginning writers nine facets of writing they can control to strengthen their courage to write. It also fosters a “Never give up attitude” to help wordsmiths stay on track. Getting Ready to Write is a treasure of supplemental ideas for educators, writing coaches, and homeschoolers to add to their own lesson plans. The activities and exercises will also be handy for parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, foster parents, and mentors who are tasked to teach.

Visit Linda on and on Amazon.

Love and Asperger’s: Jim and Mary’s Excellent Adventure (Atmosphere Press, November 2021) by Mary A. Johnson PhD. What do you do when the man who courted you turns out to be different after marriage? When Jim began to behave strangely, Mary thought she had made a huge mistake. She had fallen in love and left all that was familiar in New Mexico, to marry and move to Oregon with this man she met online. One day, she had a surprising epiphany while doing laundry. How had she missed the obvious cause of his quirky behavior? In this memoir, readers experience the possible unraveling of the marriage ties. The future rests on Jim’s willingness to accept his diagnosis of Asperger’s. Come along on Jim and Mary’s adventures—some fun, some difficult, some comical, but all loving—as they eventually work together to engineer an excellent solution!

You’ll find Mary on her website at and on Amazon.

Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poetry (November 2021), A Collection of Works by Northeastern New Mexico Writers, is edited by SWW member Sharon Vander Meer (who is also a contributor). Tapestry: Tales, Essays, Poetry showcases thirty-two writers and sixty-nine distinct works of poetry and prose, truly weaving a tapestry of life and creativity. There is no duplication, proving once again that the art of writing is as diverse as the people taking up a writing implement or sitting down at a computer, and turning on their imaginations. This first collection from Las Vegas Literary Salon lets us know there are many writers in our communities with stories to tell. We share their stories here with gratitude to those represented in these pages.

Tapestry is available on Amazon. For Sharon’s other releases, visit her Amazon author page.

Trixie: Round Brown Ball of Dog (November 2021) by RJ The Story Guy (aka RJ Mirabal). Trixie’s adventures continue as she learns to have more Dog Fun with her people and looks for new things to do. Then everything is put aside when the Brown Dog takes on an unexpected challenge. Sure, Trixie likes fun, sniffing, walking, running, and playing, but those have to take a back seat for a while. Trixie still can’t talk like you, but she can get across what she wants and how she feels when she grunts, whines, whistles, barks, growls, wags her tail and body while singing her Dog Opera. Fortunately, RJ The Story Guy has interpreted all this for your reading enjoyment. Big things to overcome, toys to chew and tug, new people to bring into her life, places to go, lots of exploring, and a new fantasy adventure await inside.

Visit RJ’s websites at and Trixie: Round Brown Ball of Dog is available on Amazon.

Protecting Mama: Surviving the Legal Guardianship Swamp (Calumet Editions, November 2021) by Léonie Rosenstiel. Léonie, whose mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, struggles with an implacable, court-appointed guardian against the backdrop of centuries-old family myths and miscommunication. Mama wants their story told, but the courts demand that secrecy enshroud all guardianship records—forever. After years of struggle and Kafkaesque frustration, and with the help of a brilliant, unconventional attorney, Léonie goes to war with the establishment in an attempt to help others find their way through the swamp of legal guardianship.

You’ll find all of Léonie’s books on her Amazon author page.

Monkey Wrench (Truck Stop Book 2, April 2021) by John L. Thompson. George Olsen’s life is one big lie. As a witness in a mob money embezzlement operation turned deadly, he lives within the WITSEC program and has had plenty of trouble adapting to life. Never look back. It’s one of the sacred rules within the WITSEC program. But when he hears an old flame has moved back to New Mexico, he takes a chance and returns to his old stomping grounds only to discover that decision could prove to be fatal. People are looking for the half-million in embezzled mob cash buried somewhere in Torrance County. The same money Olsen and his friend found years earlier, the same money people have died for, and the same money wanted by an army of killers who will stop at nothing to get it.

John L. Thompson also published a nonfiction book, It’s a Lonely World: An Indie Author’s Journey (Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them), in August 2021. Are you the new guy trying to learn this self-publishing gig? Have you tried to self-publish your book and wonder why it has failed to gather sales and reviews? You got a book script, but don’t know where to start? Do you feel like self-publishing will mark you as an amateur? You and thousands of other Indie-Authors are not alone. For decades, the stigma of the term “self-published” has meant bad book covers, bad interior formatting, and a bad story in general. Back in the old days, there were no viable services accessible to the self-publishing author. You were lucky if you knew a guy who knew another guy who was an editor. This is no longer the case.  Thousands of editors, artists, and promoters are out there in the land of the internet to help you. With Amazon publishing thousands of titles per week, there is no reason why you, the Indie-Author, should fail in launching your book with, at the least, moderate returns on your hard work.

Visit John’s Amazon author page for all his releases.

SWW Author Interviews: 2021 Releases

Jeffrey Candelaria
TORO: The Naked Bull
Marty Eberhardt
Death in a Desert Garden
Melody Groves
When Outlaws Wore Badges
Holly Harrison
Rites & Wrongs
Robert Kidera
BR Kingsolver
Soul Harvest
Marcia Meier
Face, A Memoir
Victoria Murata
The Acolyte
Barb Simmons
The War Within: A Wounded Warrior Romance
Gina Troisi
The Angle of Flickering Light

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

Author Update: RJ the Story Guy

RJ Mirabal (aka RJ the Story Guy) is a retired high school teacher building a second career as a writer. He’s the author of an adult fantasy series (the Rio Grande Parallax trilogy) and a children’s book (Trixie Finds Her People) inspired by his adventurous rescue dog. His newest release is Dragon Train (2020) which takes young adult readers on a unique quest in a different kind of dragon story. You’ll find RJ at and on Facebook at RJ The Story Guy and Dragon Train Quest Book Series. Read more about RJ and his writing in his 2015, 2017, and 2020 interviews for SouthWest Writers.

­­­What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Dragon Train?
This is a story that brings together a motherless boy and a mother who fears she will lose her family. The boy’s mother died while he was a child, but he has no memories of her. The mother in the story (not related to the boy) has three children and a mate who are enslaved. She escapes bondage but fears her escape will mean death to her family unless she can rescue them. The boy and the mother team up to attempt a rescue mission. There’s adventure in that quest, but the relationship of a mother without her family and a young man longing for a mother allows them to develop a close bond. I want readers to quickly understand that and watch how the two work together to achieve their mission and find a meaningful relationship with each other.

Who did you write the book for?
The book is aimed mainly at young readers from ages 11 to 15, though advanced younger readers and typical young adult and older readers should find this appealing. Because of the main character and the many action scenes, I suspect boys would enjoy the story the most. The story’s audience includes anyone who likes dragons, a satisfying adventure, and those looking for stories of how mutually rewarding relationships can develop. Readers who enjoy fantasy and elements of magic will like the story because of the existence of dragons in a pastoral society much like the 18th Century. In addition, the fact that Blue Dragons are intelligent and can communicate with humans telepathically makes the story appealing for most any fantasy reader.

What sparked the story idea?
After writing a fantasy trilogy clearly aimed at mature readers, I wanted to write something more appropriate for young readers. I surveyed a number of books in that genre and realized that dragons appealed to me more than vampires, zombies, and the like. However, I wanted to take a new approach to the usual dragon stories, but what?

One evening, as I was dropping off to sleep thinking about dragons, the words “dragon train” popped in my head. Wow, where did that come from? I researched the internet and Amazon and didn’t find anything to do with dragon trains. Later, on an online European book site, Rakuten Kobo, I found a book with that title, but it was a very different instructional story for children. So, I was convinced I had a fresh idea. But do dragons ride on this train or… It occurred to me that because dragons are big, powerful, and can fly, maybe they could tow a train by pulling it as they flew a few feet above the tracks. Dragons could be a source of power in a world where steam power had not been invented yet. But would dragons really want to do that? If they were intelligent — and I was convinced they wouldn’t be interesting characters if they weren’t highly intelligent — would they put up with that? The answer is “no.” They would resist, but clever and devious humans could develop ways to control the dragons. And on went the thought process.

Who are the main characters in the story?
To avoid writing complicated explanations about how the whole situation in the story developed, I decided Skye (a Blue Dragon) and Jaiden (a fifteen-year-old boy) would first become friends. Jaiden, who lives in a small farming town, wouldn’t know much about the world and how dragons were forced to tow trains. This allowed Skye to explain all this through family stories about how the dragons lost control of their lives. Since I needed a major female character, I decided the Blue Dragon would be a mother. The boy begins to think of her as a positive mother-figure and the story develops from that. Jaiden immediately proves himself to be resourceful and fearless when he helps her escape. He continues to be useful as he helps Skye avoid capture by the humans. Her storytelling and their exploits allow the two to bond since each satisfies a need in the other. And since Skye wants to rescue her family before it’s too late, that provided an adventurous quest to attract a decent-minded, but bored, young man who longed for excitement.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for this book?
Since I had decided I needed a world whose technology didn’t include steam power, I needed to develop details of that world which meant research and some careful thinking about how Blue Dragons (the size of a barn) could be controlled by humans. The fun of fantasy is to create worlds, but you have to make it logical because sharp readers can find flaws if you make it too easy for one group of beings to control another group. However, the intelligence of my dragons, their ability to fly, and their strength allowed them to have dominance over humans just a generation or so before my story takes place, so there is considerable tension between these formidable enemies.

I decided against incorporating a lot of magic because so many fantasy stories depend on it for nearly everything. My challenge as a writer was to find ways that interesting beings and civilizations can overcome one another by means other than magic. However, I did give the dragons the ability to communicate telepathically so that Jaiden and Skye can communicate. That also allowed me to develop the dragons into complex characters. I also included other kinds of dragons such as Gold Dragons and Silver Dragons who are smaller, less intelligent, and have different behaviors than the superior Blues. More will be developed about those dragons in a sequel.

Tell us how Dragon Train came together.
From the inception of the idea to the finished book was a little over a year. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but with help of the critique group I belong to, the book fell into place quicker than I expected. Their careful reading and suggestions gave me confidence I was on the right track, if I can be allowed to make a pun on Dragon Train! I was concerned about cover art because I didn’t know anyone who could design and draw dragons. Through Divergent Art, a website collective of artists, I found a young lady known by the name Celebril, who creates beautiful dragons very much like what I imagined when I thought of Skye. I had an image in my head of Skye towing a train with Jaiden in the lead car holding the reins on Skye as if he were the pilot. Celebril was able to create a remarkable cover matching my vision and her rates were very reasonable.

What did you learn in the process of completely this project that you can apply to your future work?
To format this book and a previous book, Trixie Finds Her People, I acquired a program that allowed me to format the book precisely the way I wanted it to look. Since publishing Dragon Train, I have also learned how to completely format and create print-ready PDF files using a new program that works the same way as In-Design. I’m now ready to produce my own books from beginning to end and use Ingram Spark as my printing/distribution service provider.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
First, I eventually realized a writer must learn everything he/she can about writing before trying to get published. Not just the grammar and mechanics, but the process of writing smooth, economical sentences and paragraphs that clearly convey the vision of your story, characters, setting, and theme. And it’s important to find your “voice.” What is, and how do you communicate, your unique perspective of the universe and life as a human being? I found that exploring and discovering those things through writing short works and gaining feedback from fellow writers is how you can learn to write effectively. Without feedback, you’re existing in an echo chamber and may not communicate with anyone beyond the confines of your head. This is what SouthWest Writers, SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and my critique group have done for me.

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 #3

Authors William Fisher, Cornelia Gamlem, Larry Kilham, BR Kingsolver, RJ Mirabal, and Lynne Sturtevant represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW) with 2020 releases in the genres of historical fiction, business, biography, and several speculative fiction sub-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.

William Fisher’s debut novel, Cruel Road (October 2020), is a mid-eighteenth-century historical drama. John Fraser, Scots-Irish gunsmith and militiaman, faces a difficult dilemma when his new and pregnant wife is taken captive by a local tribal chief. This is the story of real-life John and Jane Fraser, among the first settlers of western Pennsylvania. Their lives are challenged by Indian conflicts, French and English fighting over territory, and survival in the Pennsylvania wilderness. The book is a dramatization of true events. Most characters are actual historical characters. John and Jane Fraser are the author’s direct ancestors. Some characters are fictional, and certain actions and descriptions are conjecture.

Visit Bill’s Amazon author page.

They Did What? Unbelievable Tales from the Workplace (September 2020) is Cornelia Gamlem and Barbara Mitchell’s newest nonfiction release. People have been misbehaving at work since work began. If you’ve ever been curious about workplace misbehavior, this book just might hold some answers. A compilation of stories collected from HR and other business leaders have been woven into a narrative that showcases the challenges HR professionals face daily in dealing with employees. They Did What? is funny, sad, and most definitely unbelievable—except it is all based on actual situations.

Visit Cornelia’s Amazon author page.

In Destiny Strikes Twice: James L. Breese Aviator and Inventor (November 2020), Larry Kilham tells the true story of the flight engineer on the first transatlantic flight in 1919 who went on to develop 130 patents for home and military space heaters. Dismissing a high society Long Island life, Jim moved to New Mexico in 1929 to start fresh in the unencumbered West. There he built his oil burner business with sales in the millions of dollars. The twists and turns through his adventure-packed life reveal lessons for everyone including many insights for aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs.

Visit Larry’s Amazon author page.

BR Kingsolver published three novels in 2020 (read the interview for Knights Magica here). The two most recent releases are in the new Rift Chronicles series. In Magitek (book 1, August 2020), the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Danica James’ grandfather wanted to end war. Instead, he broke the world. Through the Rift came demons, vampires, and monsters. Danica is a cop with the Arcane Division. She’s also a magitek. Her job is to clean up her grandfather’s mess. She’s not making much progress.

In book two, War Song (December 2020), Danica James is still a cop with the Arcane Division who works to protect humanity from monsters — whether they be human or creatures from the Rift. It beats sitting in a factory cubical all day, which is where magiteks usually work. Most of humanity hates the magic users who rule the world, but for a hundred years, the Magi have kept the demons, vampires, and other monsters in check. But now one Magi Family has allied itself with the demons in a bid for world domination. It was ugly before, but now it’s getting worse.

Visit the author’s Amazon author page.

RJ Mirabal’s newest release is the young adult fantasy Dragon Train (December 2020). Jaiden, a 15-year-old farm boy, dreams of a more exciting life in a world where people have enslaved dragons as beasts of burden, guard animals, and soldiers. He has never been more than a few miles beyond his farm and the quiet village of Hilltop. Yet Jaiden desires escape from his grouchy and somewhat abusive father. And then the dragon train makes an unscheduled stop in Hilltop. Skye, the huge Blue Dragon pulling the train, may die of exhaustion unless someone can help. Thus, a boy and dragon embark on an epic adventure in the hopes of fulfilling their longing for freedom, excitement, and happiness.

Visit RJ’s website and his book page.

Fairy Trouble (September 2020), by Lynne Sturtevant, is a contemporary Celtic fairy tale. People used to know the truth about fairies and they were afraid of them. When visiting homemaker Ginger Stewart encounters a troop of fairies in the wild, green hills of West Virginia, she learns magic is real. She also learns our ancestors were right. There are reasons to be afraid. Ginger is astounded when a fairy attacks her while she’s calling on an elderly client, Violet. Violet has spent her life hiding the fairies and protecting them from the outside world. But something has changed. The fairies have become angry and aggressive and she has no idea how to pacify them. As the mayhem escalates, Ginger and Violet negotiate a maze of folklore, ancient symbols, and dark family secrets. Will they find a way to restore equilibrium to the fairies before it’s too late?

Visit Lynne’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 Author Interview with RJ the Story Guy

RJ the Story Guy (aka RJ Mirabal) is a former high school teacher who began a writing career in earnest in his retirement years. After publishing a fantasy series set in an alternate New Mexico, his adventurous rescue dog inspired a new direction for RJ’s writing. Trixie Finds Her People (Trixie the Brown Dog, Book 1), released in 2019, is his debut children’s book. You’ll find RJ and Trixie on their websites at and, on their Facebook pages at RJMirabalAuthor and TrixieTheBrownDog, and on Instagram and Twitter. Read about RJ and his fantasy series in his 2015 and 2017 interviews for SouthWest Writers.

What is your elevator pitch for Trixie Finds Her People?
The ordinary life of a rescue dog may not seem adventurous—unless you’re that dog. When an uncertain older couple and their granddaughter Abigail adopt Trixie, their lives turn into a series of wonderful, humorous, and sometimes scary experiences. Chapters touch on everything from surviving frightening Big Booms of lightning to setting out on challenging fantasy episodes in Trixie’s dreams. Every day stirs the dog’s curiosity and sharpens her intelligence. Trixie Finds Her People launches readers (middle elementary ages 8 and up) on a journey of discovery, facing fears, and finding love. Interaction with Mommy, Poppa, and Abigail adds richness and new sources of fun for the lively, mixed-breed Brown Dog.

This is a departure from your previous projects of speculative fiction (not only in genre but audience). What challenges did this new direction pose for you?
I had to force myself to write more simply, use shorter sentences and paragraphs, and create imagery that was more immediate and straight-forward. I couldn’t indulge in the kind of inference and sophisticated vocabulary like I had in my Rio Grande Parallax series. Actually, that turned out to be a very worthwhile endeavor because I feel my writing is now more appealing. Writing this book challenged me to create clear images, dialogue, and action with more impact. Of course, there’s the obvious need to view everything I write through the eyes, ears, and imaginations of young readers. Somehow, I believe that should benefit all my writing from this point on.

Tell us how the book came together.
It started with my experience with my newly adopted rescue dog, Trixie. She is so bright, inquisitive, and funny that the idea of sharing most of my experiences with readers came to me within a few months of adopting her. I started observing her in terms of creating character and finding story lines in her explorations, personality, and antics. Very soon I thought it would be necessary to view the story from her point of view while still including human dialogue which she, logically, can’t fully understand but could sense the feelings behind human communication. It is not first person, but everything is presented from her point of view.

The writing process, once started, fell neatly into chapters each about 8-15 pages long, easily written in a sitting. Those episodes merged into a loose plot that took me through Trixie’s progress from being raised outdoors with 14 other dogs (and her 8 puppies) to becoming the sole animal living indoors with three people. Her life blooms in this new situation as each chapter adds more range to her lively, strong personality. Since I don’t usually write in long, day-after-day sessions, the episodic nature of the story made the writing easier when life interrupted. In less than a year, I had the first draft. From there I shared chapters with my critique group to begin the editing/revising phase before I prepared the book for publication.

What makes this book unique in the children’s market?
I believe a significant number of books like this either take on strong elements of fantasy or they are strict nonfiction or they become vehicles to explore current social justice issues. I decided I wanted a book that had a gentle, family friendly approach that inferred finding simple joy in life is as important as social significance. And, as for fantasy, I thought a little would be fun, so I wrote a few chapters that enter Trixie’s mind as she has various dreams. Dogs sleep a lot and the actions and noise they demonstrate during sleep suggest they have lively dreams, so I created fantasy stories that were suggested by incidents in her daily life.

Why did you use a pen name for Trixie Finds Her People?
I spent a lot of time promoting my adult fantasy trilogy as a story definitely for mature readers with a fairly sophisticated vocabulary. Since this new book is aimed at younger and family audiences, I had to separate it from the perception of my previous writing, so I went with the friendly pseudonym of RJ the Story Guy. I’m not going to great lengths to cover who I am, because I’m promoting the book to my earlier readers, but I’m also gathering new readers through promotions that emphasize this new persona.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Putting myself in Trixie’s body and mind and then reflecting her joy for life was my favorite thing. Of course, some of the episodes have scary moments, so I had to think how a dog would react to something like a thunderstorm and fireworks (which play a role in two of the most important chapters in the book). It’s always exciting to leave my ordinary life behind and enter another one when I write—one of the joys of writing which you can’t put a price on.

You have played the hammered dulcimer for years. Has the creativity and discipline you employ as a musician (or music itself) helped you in your writing journey?
Being a musician is another channel of self-expression, but it is through the creation or re-creation of sounds presented with emotion. Writing is the process of creating and re-creating events, emotions, and people through words. Similar, yet through different means of expression. Both writing and music require serious commitments of time, imagination, and revision. In the end, both are usually shared with others. You end up putting your deepest self out in front of other people. Music, unless recorded, is very transitory. But writing is for the ages, even if what we have written ends up collecting dust on shelves somewhere in forgotten rooms.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I have completed the first draft of a dragon story for middle-grade children, ages 10-14. In my Rio Grande Parallax adult fantasy, I created all my own creatures as well as used actual animals who happen to communicate like humans. Recently, I decided there was little point in resisting some durable creatures that already have a huge following among fantasy readers, such as dragons. Automatically, when people see a dragon on the cover and in the title of a book, they are intrigued. So, why overlook that attraction to acquire readers? I came up with a unique twist that I have explored with a dragon as one of my main characters and a fifteen-year-old farm boy as my other lead character.

Trixie continues to develop her personality and reactions to the world, so there are more dog stories to tell, both real and imaged. So far, response by readers has been positive, so why not tell more stories about Trixie and her people?

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

More 2019 New Releases for SWW Authors

Authors RJ Mirabal, Don Morgan, Robin Perini, and Vicki Turpen represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW) with 2019 releases in the genres of children’s books, mystery, romantic suspense, and science fiction. Look for interviews or updates for these authors in 2020.

A list of previously interviewed SWW authors with 2019 releases is included at the end of this post.

Trixie Finds Her People, written by RJ the Story Guy (aka RJ Mirabal), tells the story of Trixie the Brown Dog. This mama dog is rescued from a situation where she and her puppies were part of a hoard of 23 dogs. After her puppies are adopted, she joins a girl and her grandparents as her new family. At first, everything is new: living indoors in her new home, learning to potty outdoors, getting the occasional bath (not fun!), and being locked in the laundry room at night (really not fun!). Soon Trixie and her people’s lives turn into a series of wonderful, humorous, and sometimes scary adventures. In addition to her real life, Trixie embarks on three fantasy adventures while she sleeps. In the end it’s all about the bond of love between a rescue dog and her true forever family. Available on Amazon.

Visit RJ’s websites at and Read his 2015 interview and 2017 interview update.

The Voxlightner Scandal is book six in the BJ Vinson Mystery series written by Don Travis (SWW member Don Morgan). No good deed goes unpunished, as investigator BJ Vinson is about to discover. Writer John Pierce Belhaven was murdered before he could reveal the name of another killer—one connected to the biggest scandal to rock Albuquerque in years. Two of the city’s most prominent citizens—Barron Voxlightner and Dr. Walther Stabler—vanished in 2004, along with fifty million dollars looted from Voxlightner Precious Metals Recovery Corp. BJ agrees to help novice detective Roy Guerra reopen the old case which the wealthy and influential Voxlightner family doesn’t want dredged up. But Belhaven was part of their family, and that connection could’ve led to his murder. Or did the sixty-year-old author die because of a sordid sexual affair? Available on Amazon.

You’ll find Don on his website at Read his 2018 and 2019 interviews.

Robin Perini’s Forgotten Legacy is the second release in the Singing River series published by Montlake Romance (2019). Forgotten secrets. Forgotten lies. A family legacy…A determined killer. On the outskirts of Singing River, Wyoming, a couple dies in a fire that ravages their remote mountain home. Everyone believes it’s a tragic accident—except FBI profiler Riley Lambert. She isn’t convinced, and neither is her fiancé, ex-Navy SEAL turned sheriff Thayne Blackwood. When they discover that the couple’s daughter is missing, Riley’s dark memories of her own sister’s kidnapping ratchet up the urgency to find the girl—before it’s too late. Dodging danger, they follow a tangled web of clues pointing to a forgotten secret that Thayne’s Alzheimer’s-stricken grandmother holds dear. But when their deadly investigation veers too close to home and brings a twisted killer to Riley’s and Thayne’s doorsteps, can they save those they love and stop the murderer before time runs out? Available on Amazon.

Last Stand in Texas, by Robin Perini, was released by Harlequin Intrigue in early 2019. Two people whose dangerous pasts are never far behind… Will their secrets catch up to them? Stranded in small-town Texas, desperate to keep her daughter from her serial-killer ex, Faith Thomas must rely on covert operative Léon Royce. But he, too, is on the run, hiding his real identity and denying his real attraction to Faith. Protecting her and Zoe becomes his mission…one he’ll risk his life—and heart—for. Available on Amazon.

Visit Robin’s website at and read her 2016 interview.

The Delicate Balance is a post-apocalyptic thriller written by Vicki Turpen and Shannon Horst. The Earth is dying—its life forms bound for extinction—unless the most fundamental of changes is made: Carbon-based fuels must be abandoned. Chaos results—migrating hordes of starving people, abandoned hospitals and prisons (patients and inmates still inside), and deserted cities where only cockroaches still live. But then Jesse Forester, the U.N. scientist responsible for the changes that survival demands, finds hints that the data at the core of the new global policy may be flawed. And murders start happening. Rushing headlong into a frantic search for the truth, Jesse and his team discover pockets of people who are living rich and satisfying lives in Eden-like landscapes without any use of carbon fuels. As the plotters Jesse is seeking become more desperate, can these flourishing communities help avert humanity’s slow death from the poisonous fruits of climate change growing at its doorstep? Available on Amazon.

SWW Author Interviews (2019 Releases)

Sherri L. BurrComplicated Lives: Free Blacks in Virginia, 1619-1865
Kit CrumptonPlease Send Ketchup: WWII Letters from a B-29 Pilot
C. Joseph Greaves (Chuck Greaves) • Church of the Graveyard Saints
Scott Archer JonesAnd Throw Away the Skins
Jacqueline Murray LoringVietnam Veterans Unbroken: Conversations on Trauma and Resiliency
Neill McKeeFinding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah
Sharon Vander MeerThunder Prime Hunter’s Light
Don MorganAbaddon’s Locusts

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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