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Author Update 2024: Sue Houser

Award-winning author Sue Houser reveals elements of her home state of New Mexico in every fiction and nonfiction book she writes. Her newest release is Walter Steps Up to the Plate (Kinkajou Press, October 2023), a middle-grade historical novel in which baseball, 1920s Albuquerque, and Al Capone play major roles. You’ll find Sue on her website at SueHouser.com and on Facebook. Read more about her writing in SWW’s 2017, 2020, and 2023 interviews, and visit Amazon for all of her books.


What was your intent in writing Walter Steps Up to the Plate, and who did you write the book for?
During COVID, I read an article about Albuquerque in the early 1900s and how many people came to Albuquerque seeking a cure from tuberculosis. I wanted to convey to middle-grade readers that another pandemic years ago had interrupted children’s lives.

How did you develop your main character, Walter, from an ordinary twelve-year-old boy to a hero?
I modeled Walter after two grandsons who live near Chicago. Like other children, the boys attended school online, and their after-school activities, including orchestra and baseball, were suspended. My older grandson actually took a job delivering newspapers, as did Walter. Fortunately, no one in their family became seriously ill. In the story, I tried to show early Albuquerque through Walter’s eyes when he arrived from Chicago.

What decisions did you make about portraying historical figures or events in your story?
Al Capone was rumored to have visited friends at an exclusive resort in Jemez Springs in the 1920s. I tried to accurately describe Capone’s personality, mannerisms, and character. Capone was a Chicago Cubs fan, so I used baseball to develop his relationship with Walter.

Tell us how the book came together.
In my research of the tuberculosis pandemic, the year 1927 aligned with descriptions of the Chicago Cubs’ stadium, players, and games; the AT&SF Santa Fe Chief’s schedule and stops; and Al Capone’s reported visit to New Mexico. I drove up and down the streets of Albuquerque, studying historical buildings and street locations. I spent about two years researching, writing, and editing the book with my online critique group. I was fortunate that Artemesia Publishing (through its Kinkajou Press imprint) readily agreed to publish it, which was released in October 2023.

What makes this book unique in the chapter book market?
The story places “Scarface,” the Chicago crime boss, in Albuquerque and Jemez Springs, which is quite plausible.

Any “Oh, wow!” moments while doing research for Walter Steps Up to the Plate?
I was struck by downtown Albuquerque being so vibrant and thriving during the 1920s. I could feel the energy of optimistic entrepreneurs, railroad workers, and streetcar passengers.

I had not realized the economic impact that tuberculosis patients brought to the state with towns competing for the healthcare industry. I also learned of unconventional medical procedures, such as plombage surgery, where a portion of the lung is removed and replaced with Ping-Pong balls.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
I enjoyed developing Walter’s character. Although his family supported him, he felt responsible to care for his mother, making him seem older than twelve. But conflicts with his cousin and their eventual friendship allowed him to just be a kid.

Of all the fiction and nonfiction books you’ve written, which one was the most challenging, and which was the easiest (or most enjoyable) to write?
I can’t say any book was easy to write, but Walter Steps Up to the Plate was the most enjoyable. It required a lot of research to be historically factual but also allowed me creative freedom. The most challenging book for me was La Conquistadora: The Story of the Oldest Statue in the United States, a subject I wasn’t familiar with.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am working on a picture book titled Goat for Rent about a little goat named Alfalfa who becomes a Yoga Goat for Rent. I am also researching a mining story to add to my middle-grade historical fiction books.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Thank you for this opportunity to share Walter Steps Up to the Plate. It is available from the publisher, Treasure House Books in Old Town, and Amazon.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




2024 Call for Submissions: SWW Annual Writing Contest

The SouthWest Writers (SWW) annual writing competition is now open for submissions.

All writers, new and experienced, are welcome to enter the contest. Contestants don’t have to be members of SWW or live in the Southwest to participate. First-, second-, and third-place winners will be awarded monetary prizes and a publication opportunity in our annual contest anthology.

This year’s contest offers five main categories divided into a total of twenty-five subcategories of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry as well as interior and cover art for the anthology.

Fiction categories include:

  • Opening Pages of published and unpublished novels
  • Stories for Young Reader/Middle Grade and Young Adult
  • Short Stories and Flash Fiction

Nonfiction categories include:

  • Opening Pages of published and unpublished memoirs
  • Essays and Articles

Poetry categories include:

  • Free Verse
  • Haiku
  • Limericks

The Contest Submission Period is June 1 – July 7, 2024. Fees vary depending on submission date.

Go to the Annual Contest page for more details and to enter the contest.

Good luck!




Author Update 2024: Robert D. Kidera

Robert D. Kidera is a podcaster, a baseball nerd, and the author of the award-winning Gabe McKenna Mystery Series. Book six of the series, BURN SCARS (Black Range Publishing, May 2024), finds Gabe “caught in the crossfire between two cartels warring for control of fentanyl trafficking in New Mexico.” Look for Bob on his website RobertKideraBooks.com and on Facebook. Read more about him and the Gabe McKenna books in his 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021 interviews.


When readers turn the last page of BURN SCARS, what do you hope they take away from it?
I hope my readers feel it has been time well spent and that they have enjoyed reuniting with Gabe McKenna and his friends (and enemies). The story has a serious purpose, as it asks how much one should be willing to risk righting the wrongs of this world. I want that question to resonate with my readers and perhaps spur them to examine that challenge for themselves.

The fifth book of the Gabe McKenna mysteries, A LONG TIME TO DIE, concluded the series in 2021 with a wrap up of the story arcs. What made you come back to the series and give readers another look at your main character’s life?
Writers can only write the stories they have. Last year, I took a respite from the Gabe McKenna series to write a standalone novella, CHANDLER IS DEAD, and have been working on a historical fiction novel, HELL SHIP, for the past three years. But this new Gabe story popped into my head, and I developed it because I enjoy telling stories about Gabe McKenna and had many requests from my readers for a new novel in the series.

Tell us about the journey from inspiration to completed book for this sixth in the series.
BURN SCARS took me sixteen months from concept to realization. Raymond Chandler once said that stories must marinate before they can be written well, so when the story idea occurred to me, I gave it a good think before going to the keyboard. In each of the Gabe McKenna books, I feature a different one of Gabe’s friends as his main “sidekick.” This time, I chose his personal lawyer, Erskine Pelfrey III, an unassuming man who could walk into an empty room and get lost in the crowd. I had a lot of fun developing their relationship and bringing Erskine into the story as one of the heroes.

You’ve described Gabe McKenna as a guy to be counted on, one who has a basic honor and decency to him, even if he does tend to go off recklessly from time to time. And as a former boxer, he can be knocked down, but not out. Who are some of your other returning characters?
Gabe is at a different stage of his life in this story. He’s pushing sixty, a bit unsettled and ready for a rest. But his previous deeds have left him with enemies unwilling to forgive and forget. He also needs his friends much more in this adventure, and it takes the cooperative effort of Gabe, Erskine, Onion, Sam, C.J., and even a couple of federal agents to carry the day.

New Mexico is the main setting of the series. What areas of the state do you take readers to this time?
Aside from Laguna Pueblo, where Gabe is living when the story begins, the action centers around a small settlement town of Marquez in Sandoval County and at a remote mesa that straddles Guadalupe and Quay Counties and, of course, Albuquerque and Santa Fe. There’s a brief detour north to Colorado. Gabe travels in this story by horse, SUV, private aircraft, and even a jazzed-up motor home.

What are some of the more interesting facts you discovered while doing research for the book?
I delved into more of the mining history of New Mexico, but most of the research I had to do dealt with the current scourge of foreign drug cartels operating in our state. It’s a far more complicated and deep-rooted problem than people generally realize and not much of it gets into the news.

Amazon categorizes BURN SCARS as Vigilante Justice, Noir Crime, and Organized Crime. If you didn’t have the limitations of Amazon categories, how would you characterize the book?
I don’t like the Amazon categories because they suggest your story and characters can be pigeonholed or understood simplistically. BURN SCARS is my longest book to date, and as the sixth entry in an ongoing series, the characters, their actions, and motivations have become more nuanced and complex. I advise disregarding categories and letting the story and its characters unfold for you in surprising ways.

What’s on your to-read pile? Who is your favorite fictional character?
Atop my read pile right now are books by New Mexico authors: The Wide, Wide Sea, which just came out, by Hampton Sides; Joe Badal’s Everything to Lose, the only one of his books I have yet to read; and Anne Hillerman’s Lost Birds. My favorite fictional character? Philip Marlowe, like Gabe McKenna, a hero neither tarnished nor afraid.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
Audio. Now that I am producing two podcasts, I am exploring sound as a persuasive medium. Audible has turned several of my novels into audiobooks, but I am excited at the chance to produce audio versions of all my novels on my own. I’ll start that project later this year and into 2025.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Once BURN SCARS is out the door, I’m returning to HELL SHIP, the historical fiction novel I started a few years ago. In MIDNIGHT BLUES, I killed off an elderly World War II vet named Phil Friganza. I miss the guy. So, I’m making him the hero of this story and bringing him back to life, so to speak. I’m also going to be working on the audiobooks I mentioned and transitioning my podcasts from audio to audio with video and posting them on YouTube. I’ve been asked if there will be any more Gabe McKenna novels. Well, you never say never again.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




SWW’s 2024 Writing Contest Opens June 1

The annual SouthWest Writers (SWW) writing competition opens for submissions on June 1, 2024.

The contest is open to new and experienced writers. Contestants don’t have to be members of SWW or live in the Southwest to enter. Winners have the opportunity to publish their entries in this year’s contest anthology.

The 2024 competition offers five main contest categories divided into a total of twenty-five subcategories of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry as well as interior and cover art for the anthology. New this year are categories for Young Readers and Young Adult. Subcategories include opening pages of a novel or memoir (published or unpublished), essay/article, flash fiction, and short story.

All entries that meet the rules for submission will be judged by a panel of experienced writers and/or experts in the specific genre. First, second, and third monetary prizes will be awarded in each category that receives enough entries for judging.

For details about the categories and a complete list of rules, please see the Contest Page.

SouthWest Writers is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to helping both published and unpublished writers improve their craft and further their careers. In 2024, SWW will celebrate forty years dedicated to this goal.




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 CassieSanchez.com, 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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




Author Update: Léonie Rosenstiel

Léonie Rosenstiel is an award-winning author whose nonfiction can be found in various anthologies and other publications such as Los Angeles Times, Albuquerque Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Boston Globe. Her longer work includes biographies, reference books, and her personal journey of Protecting Mama: Surviving the Legal Guardianship Swamp (Calumet Editions, November 2021). Léonie’s newest release is Legal Protection: Affordable Options for Individuals, Families, and Small Businesses (January 2024), with a foreward written by Jack Canfield. You’ll find Léonie’s books on her Amazon author page. For more about her work, read her 2022 SWW interview.


What makes Legal Protection different from the other legal self-help books on the market?
Legal Protection shows people how to find the help they need, and have the peace of mind of knowing, in advance, that they have help available if (when?) they ever need it. It’s not an attempt to sell anyone a particular service or legal form. What I do is to show readers exactly what the best-known services offer (or don’t offer) and who can benefit the most from using them.

Who did you write the book for, and what did you bring to it that other writers couldn’t have?
I wrote it for those who seem to suffer most acutely in our legal system: middle class people. They’re not poor enough to get help from free law clinics but they’re not rich enough to have a stable of lawyers on retainer, either. I’ve watched a number of these sufferers spend all their disposable income—or even be forced to declare bankruptcy—to pay unexpected legal bills. Attorney billings can be just as draining of a bank account as devastating medical bills.

What do I bring to this subject that others don’t? Several generations of my family struggled through court cases and I grew up hearing their tales of woe. I was even involved, in peripheral ways, in some of those cases. When I started doing research on my family history, I discovered even more difficult and exhausting legal cases I’d never heard about before.

I’ve had more than a dozen attorneys of my own, over the decades. A couple of times, I felt obliged to put an attorney on retainer, so I know, first-hand, what that does to a bank account. I’m not an attorney. However, I’ve come to consider myself an expert consumer of legal services.

You must have discovered hundreds (if not thousands) of interesting facts while doing research for this book. How did you sift through it all and decide the most useful information to include in the book?
I started with the five top-rated legal services of 2023, as evaluated by Forbes Magazine. Then I added a few others that people mentioned to me, and that I knew had been around for decades. Then I decided to leave out one (not among the top services) that is only available to federal employees.

In reviewing the services, I took a critical attitude. Did the firm have a consistent philosophy? If not, what changed, over the years? Some had been merged into big conglomerates. Others had critics not allowed to post on their corporate websites. Those critics had started their own sites to complain—and these included both clients and attorneys!

What would you think of a legal service that claims to let people file their own legal forms, but in the fine print it says it has no idea whether the forms are valid, and you must have the help of an attorney before you file them? I made some discoveries that I consider scandalous, but you’ll have to read the book to know what they are. I hope I’ve managed to let the facts speak for themselves.

What was the most difficult challenge of putting this work together?
There were times when I wanted to warn people not to use a particular service, even though it was one of the top five, according to Forbes. Again, I did the research, asked some probing questions, to try to make readers think about what the information actually would mean to them as consumers of legal services, and then allowed the facts to speak for themselves.

Tell us about the journey from inspiration to completed book.
A little over a year ago, I was at a writers retreat with Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles and co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series. He’d looked at and endorsed a previous book of mine, Protecting Mama. The manuscript I showed him at that retreat was negative about adult guardianship. He understood why, but he wanted me to be offering people some hope also.

I went home, agonizing over how I could possibly do this when the situation seemed so bleak. Finally, I decided to do some deep research, starting from the beginning of the problem, which always seemed to be misunderstandings about the law or a lack of access to the right attorney at the right time. How could ordinary people have available legal help and not go bankrupt? That’s what made me search for solutions. This isn’t a long book, and once I got started, I found myself in “the zone” because my zeal to get the word out seemed to give me extra energy.

What did you learn in writing/publishing the book that you can apply to future projects?
If you feel absolutely stumped, what you need is probably hiding in plain sight. As with many mysteries, you’ve already seen the clue that solves the case. However, you didn’t realize, when you encountered it, how important it was and how it was connected to the rest of the puzzle. Look again at the problem as if you’re encountering it anew. You’ll be amazed at the new connections you can find, and the new conclusions you can draw!

Of all the nonfiction books you’ve written, which one was the most challenging and which was the easiest or most enjoyable to write?
The most challenging book? It’s a photo finish between Nadia Boulanger and Protecting Mama. I was so comparatively young when I wrote Nadia Boulanger! I felt I had a great deal of responsibility on my shoulders. I was writing about a cultural icon and needed to find a place of neutrality to tell a balanced story. To get the job done, I conducted over 300 interviews and traveled for several years.

Protecting Mama was equally challenging. The events I described were emotionally fraught for both my mother and me. I was so close to the subject, emotionally, that I worked very hard to take several steps back so I could see the patterns and not get stuck in the smaller events.

Have you ever wanted to write fiction?
I’ve written short fiction, and even won a few awards for it. One of my attorneys inspired me to start a sci fi novel some years ago. It’s tentatively titled Tensor Calculus. I’ve only written a few chapters and I’m still not sure whether I’m going to finish it.

What can fiction writers learn from nonfiction writers?
This would only apply to fiction writers in known genres, or “regular” literary fiction, and not to those who want to write experimental works: Make things real for your readers. They should be able to smell, feel, taste and/or hear what you’re showing them. If you met these characters at a party, would they be good companions? Do you love them or hate them? People are almost never monolithic. Assuming that this is true, do your bad characters have some good qualities and your good characters have some bad qualities?

What has writing taught you about yourself?
If I answered this question, the response would be so long that I’d be writing another book.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I have five nonfiction books in various stages of completion right now. They have no titles yet. One relates to AI. Another is a book about how families might be able to avoid a run-in with the court system intent on taking over their beloved elders. Two manuscripts describe various events (in prior generations) that helped to lead my mother, eventually, toward a devastating commercial guardianship.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




An Interview with Authors Chris Allen & Patricia Walkow

Chris Allen and Patricia Walkow are both award-winning authors and editors of fiction and nonfiction who discovered each other’s work as members of Corrales Writing Group. Their individual articles, essays, and short stories have been published in a variety of venues that include newspaper columns and anthologies. Chris and Pat’s first novel collaboration is Alchemy’s Reach (2023), a murder mystery with a touch of romance. You’ll find Chris on Facebook and her SWW author page. Look for Pat on PatriciaWalkow.com, Facebook, and her Amazon author page. For more about Pat’s work, read her 2016, 2020, and 2023 interviews for SouthWest Writers.


What is your elevator pitch for Alchemy’s Reach?
Detective Jennifer Murphy’s life is torn asunder when lightning splits the sky and a rifle shot splits the air. Only her dog, Fi, understands what happened.

What formed first in your minds that grew into the story idea: a character, a setting, a what-if question? How did you proceed from there?
The idea for Alchemy’s Reach came from a true event, a mass murder, that happened in southeastern New Mexico in 1885. We set our story in the present day in that setting and created characters that had ties to that prior event. A strong female character and giving the reader a sense of place were important to us. Our main character, Jennifer Murphy, is a deputy sheriff in Lincoln County where she lives on a ranch of rolling hills she and her younger brother, Ethan, inherited from their parents. We wanted the reader to understand how independent Jennifer is, how competent she is. We also wanted to highlight the sights, scents, and sounds of Lincoln County.

You two have collaborated before on writing projects. How did you divide the responsibilities of writing/producing this book? What was the greatest challenge in the collaboration process?
We previously collaborated to write short stories with both current and previous members of the Corrales Writing Group. Each of those stories has been published. Alchemy’s Reach is the first time it was just the two of us.

As with any collaborative effort, it is important for all parties involved to be committed to the project. It means working to reach common ground regarding what the story is about. Although we did not have major differences regarding our story in Alchemy’s Reach, we learned to give a little, get a little, and in the end, create a third voice that belongs neither solely to Pat nor to Chris.

As we discussed our story, one of us would volunteer to write a part, and the following week we’d review it, revise it, and then assign the next chapter. Sometimes one person wrote several chapters in a row; sometimes we simply wrote one at a time. There is also administrivia involved when authoring a book. For example, Pat developed a timeline for the story; Chris kept the character sketches up-to-date. Regarding research of the physical location or anything else related to our story, we would decide who would do what. It was pretty painless, but that goes back to our agreeing on what the book was about in the first place.

How did the book come together?
It took us about two years to write the book, mostly during the pandemic. We presented each chapter to our critique group — the Corrales Writing Group — for review and revision. Often, this was accomplished by Zoom. We edited the book ourselves multiple times by reading it as well as having the computer read it to us. We sent the book to five or six beta readers for their comments and suggestions.

We have both published through KDP but were each involved in other writing projects, so we decided to seek a publisher. We received two publishing offers and decided to go with a vanity publisher, which was a mistake. The chosen publisher provided the cover art and did some additional editing. We thought that though it cost some money, it would free us to attend to our new projects. We signed a contract with Austin Macauley for an e-book, paperback, and audiobook, and the audiobook is still pending. Not all the reviews we read about this company were positive, yet not all were negative. We took a chance. With our own experience publishing books, we learned we are far better at it than the publisher we chose, and we will not choose that route again.

Tell us about the main characters in Alchemy’s Reach.
Jennifer Murphy: Co-owner of Montaña Vista Ranch and Deputy Sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico. She is our main character. Loves both her job and the ranch. Ethan Murphy: Younger brother of Jennifer Murphy; co-owns the ranch, does not like ranch life; takes odd, dangerous jobs away from home. Pablo Baca: Ranch manager, hired long ago by Jennifer and Ethan’s father. Pablo has known Jennifer and Ethan since they were born. Rose Baldwin: Office administrator for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. She has been like a second mother to Jennifer and Ethan all their lives. Fi: A black Labrador Retriever. Ever faithful. Belongs to her and Ethan…but mostly, Ethan. Jeff Reynolds: Owner of the local hangout (bar and restaurant) called The Rusty Keg. Sheriff Cooper: Jennifer’s boss and sheriff of Lincoln County. Detective David Chino: Mescalero Apache and New Mexico State Police Detective. Joe Stern: Klamath Native American and friend of Ethan.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for the book?
The inspiring event occurred in New Mexico, and since it is such an exotic and beautiful state, we chose to set the story here. The mass murder that occurred at Bonito City provided us with some background genealogy for our main character, Jennifer Murphy, and her brother. In Alchemy’s Reach, the fictional town of Alchemy was flooded when Lake Fortuna was built. In real life, Bonito City was drowned when Bonito Lake was created. The lake still exists today, and it has recently been dredged, removing years of silt.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
We worked well together, and the discussions of character and plot inspired each of us to be more creative. Building on each other’s ideas led to improved scene development, better character development, and twists in the plot which, as individuals, we may not have thought about. No matter what problem we encountered, talking it out and coming up with alternatives always worked.

What kinds of scenes did you find most difficult to write?
Chris: Really none posed any issues.

Pat: No type of scene presented a problem. As always, we had to ensure we were consistent with what came earlier in the book. An example of that would be:  how come my character has blonde hair in Chapter 1 and all of a sudden, we are saying she has black hair in Chapter 26?

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
The input from Corrales Writing Group has been invaluable. Even if we don’t feel a specific critique is appropriate for our styles, we find the members’ comments often spur us to review our work and make it better.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Pat: I’ve sent my novel-in-progress, The Far Moist End of the Earth, to beta readers.

Chris: I am currently working on two books, both science fiction, with my husband Paul Knight. One book, The Music of Creation, is out for review by a publisher. The other, The Mirror of Eternity, is going through the critique process with Corrales Writing Group.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




Author Update: E. Joe Brown

After retiring from careers in the United States Air Force and civil service, E. Joe Brown began a third career as a writer. He is now an award-winning author who focuses on historical fiction and memoir. A Cowboy’s Fortune (Artemesia Publishing, January 2024) is his newest fiction release and the second book in The Kelly Can Saga set in early twentieth century Oklahoma. You’ll find Joe on his website EJoeBrown.com and Happy Trails blog, as well as on Facebook and his Amazon author page. For more about his work, read his 2022 SWW interview.


Distill the story you tell in A Cowboy’s Fortune into a few sentences.
The main characters, Charlie and Susan, are recently married and we follow them as they take charge of The Kramer Group (business empire of Walter Kramer, Susan’s father) and grow as people as they expand the business. They deal with some very bad people along the way.

For those who aren’t familiar with book one in the series, A Cowboy’s Destiny, tell us about your main character.
Charlie is a young ambitious cowboy who meets his future bride Susan as he travels across Oklahoma heading to the Miller’s 101 Ranch, the largest and most famous ranch in the state. Charlie proves himself as a cowboy, a man, and a leader at the 101.

Did your characters surprise you as you wrote their story?
Yes. I had ideas as I began, but I let my characters tell me the story as we moved through the pages.

Two books into The Kelly Can Saga, what have you found are the most challenging aspects of writing a series?
The research required to keep the story honest to the time frame as I incorporate real people into the storyline.

Is there a scene in either of your books you’d love to see play out in a movie?
Actually several. There are action scenes where Charlie shows his character, and there are scenes where you see his romantic side and Susan’s response that would jump off the screen in my opinion.

What makes this novel unique in the historical fiction market?
I don’t know of any other novel that focuses the reader on what was happening as society transitioned from ranching, farming, and rural life into what we call the Industrial Revolution. At least not in Oklahoma.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for this book?
The oil business and the overall population exploded during this exciting period in my home state of Oklahoma. After World War I many folks came West and homesteaded 160-acre parcels.

What did you learn in writing/publishing A Cowboy’s Fortune that you can apply to your future projects?
I continue to learn more about time management as an author. It takes a lot of time to write, revise, edit, and market a book.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
People have told me time and again how much the enjoy the storyline and how readable my writing style is.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?
I love the creative side and truly enjoy research. I’ve always enjoyed history.

What advice do you have for writers still striving for publication?
Attend conferences and conventions and meet publishers. It helps when you develop a relationship with a publisher.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m writing book three of at least five books in The Kelly Can Saga. I’m also working on more memoirs.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I appreciate my readers more than I have the words to express.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




Author Update 2024: Larry Kilham

Author Larry Kilham writes nonfiction and science fiction, memoir and biography, and poetry. He is also a world traveler with a love for climbing mountains in exotic lands. Himalayan Adventures: India & Nepal (August 2023) is his newest nonfiction release and second travel adventure book. You’ll find Larry on his website LarryKilham.net and blog, and on his Amazon author page. For more about his work, read his first SWW interview, as well as his 2019, 2021, and 2023 interview updates.


You’re a hiking and trekking enthusiast who has traveled across the world. Of all the places you’ve visited, why did you choose India and Nepal as the focus of your second travel adventure book?
As a boy, I was thrilled reading Annapurna by the famous French mountaineer Maurice Herzog and Edmund Hillary’s account of being the first to climb Mt. Everest. These mountains are both in Nepal, and India is a contiguous country and shares similar cultures. While not a world-class climber, I was determined to visit that area. I was also fascinated by Indian and Nepalese art and cultures.

Tell us about the journey from inspiration to completed book.
I wanted to write about my travels in India and Nepal. I started by looking through all my photos from that trip and found over a hundred that told a story. What emerged was a narration for a slide show.

If a traveler could only visit a few of the places mentioned in the book, which would you suggest they see?
Very difficult to answer. If you started in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, you could enjoy an awesome collection of art and architecture and meet many interesting people. From there, based on your interests and local conditions, you could travel to the various parts of Nepal and India described in my book.

Give us a few of the more interesting facts you uncovered while doing research for Himalayan Adventures.
Populations are exploding in all the areas I visited, even apparently in remote villages. Also, climate change is penetrating even the most remote and frigid areas.

While going through your stash of memories to write this book, what did you discover about your younger self or about what you learned on your journey?
In my youth I was intensely curious and energetic. Now my curiosity defers to my perceived knowledge and wisdom. I learned that when you want and can do such a trip, do it. Later, your physical problems, personal constraints, or local politics (including wars) where you might visit will block your trip.

Amazon categorizes the book as General Nepal Travel Guides, Travel Writing Reference, Travelogues & Travel Essays, as well as Mountaineering and Indian Travel. If you didn’t have the limitations of Amazon categories, how would you characterize the book?
This is the story of a young man’s journey to see and understand beauty in nature and other cultures.

Your writing has taken several forms – nonfiction books and articles, novels, memoir and biography, and poetry. Is there one form you’re drawn to the most when you write or read?
I much prefer reading nonfiction and historical novels, but I have enjoyed writing novels, memoirs, and nonfiction. Now I am drawn to poetry inspired by Wadsworth, T.S. Eliot, and others like them.

What can fiction writers learn from nonfiction writers?
Base your story on people and places you know. There’s still lots of room for imagination.

Is there something that always inspires you or triggers your creativity?
Writings by a great writer start my creative flow.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Your “golden years” (I’m 82) aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. I can hardly walk, but I can still write!


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




An Interview with Author Gency Brown

Author and fly-fishing enthusiast Gency Brown used her experience as a performing musician to help craft her debut novel A Right Fine Life (The Wild Rose Press, January 2024), the story of a young man striving to succeed in the music industry. Look for Gency on her website at GencyBrown.com, and on Facebook, Instagram, and her Amazon author page.


What do you want readers to know about the story you tell in A Right Fine Life, and what do you hope they take away from it?
I wanted to write about a boy next-door type making it in a tough world but sticking to his standards. It can be done. It takes tenacity, patience, and a passion for what you’re doing.

Who is your main character in the book? What are his flaws and strengths?
My main character is Randy Walters, a young man with a dream. He just may be too nice a guy for Nashville.

What is the main setting of the book, and why is it the best place for the story to play out?
The main setting is Nashville, Tennessee. As Music City, USA it is the center of the business that each young hopeful heads to for a career in country music.

Have you ever been to Nashville? If so, how did that experience affect the story you wrote?
Yes, I have been to Nashville three times and driven through on I-40 many times without stopping. My first time was with my dad in the early 1970s when the Opry was still held at the old Ryman Auditorium. We took a couple of tours of the city including stars’ homes. In writing the book, I was able to use my thrill at being in such a historic place and meeting country stars I idolized. The next time I visited Nashville was on a bus tour of the Smoky Mountains and the area with my aunt. The Opry had moved to the new facility by then, so I’ve been to both. My third time was in October 2023 and boy had things changed by then. Luckily, the time setting for the book utilized my memories of earlier visits instead of the glitz and glamour and very loud music coming from clubs. Good thing, since the book had already gone to print.

What sparked the story idea, and how did the book come together after that?
I wanted to present the life of a music star that wasn’t riddled with alcohol or drugs but would show the human side. It took two years to research and write and one to edit.

When did you know you had taken the manuscript as far as it could go, that it was ready for publishing?
Probably not until the publisher, The Wild Rose Press, sent me the contract. Every time I read it, I find something to change.

You published two short stories in 2022: “Sister” and “Ladies of the Quilt.” After writing short pieces, what challenges did you face writing your first novel?
My main challenge was knowing when to stop. After the word count limitations of short stories, I felt free and had to make sure everything I wrote moved the story forward.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
When I was putting the words on the page, the words flowed. Sometimes I had to get out of bed to put down an idea that couldn’t wait.

How has the creativity and discipline you use as a musician helped you in your writing journey?
Music is very structured. In its look on the page and the rules that create harmony. If you play this note, you have to play this one next. In writing, you make a statement or create a scene early on, it affects another twenty pages later. I can improvise, but in the end the words have to harmonize.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am in the middle of another novel about a woman striking out to follow a passion for writing while looking for answers to questions in her life.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I am appreciative of the learning opportunities and friendships that come to me through SouthWest Writers.


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 klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.




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