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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.




The Writing Life: Rejection

by Sherri L. Burr


To write and seek publication is to risk rejection. The Los Angeles Review of Books published a story on March 26, 2024, about the rejection letters Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison wrote when she was an editor at Random House.[i] “I found it extremely honest, forthright, and moving in ways I had not expected it to be, but it is a shuddering book and one that offers no escape for any reader whatsoever,” Morrison said to one author. Her letter concluded, “You don’t want to escape, and I don’t want to escape, but perhaps the public does and perhaps we are in the business of helping them do that.” In other words, a story can be too miserable.

I received my first rejection letter at age 16. I had pitched a story to Guidepost Magazine about an encounter with my minister. The editor found the event less inspiring than I did. Many more rejection letters and emails would follow. Rejection can be hard on the ego, but never sending anything out risks never getting published. That can create a deeper blow to our internal psyche.

When I wrote my first co-authored book, Art Law: Cases and Materials, my co-authors and I were rejected by every major legal book publisher. After a smaller publisher offered us a contract, my male co-authors insisted on going back to every major legal book publisher to let them know we had an offer and ask if they would like to match it. That attempt to leverage a small offer into a bigger one failed. All the major legal book publishers rejected us a second time.

The reception was different for my next co-authored book, Entertainment Law: Cases and Materials in Film, Television, and Music. One small publisher accepted the book based on an oral pitch from my co-author and me. I insisted we first complete a book proposal to shop to all the major legal book publishers. The biggest publisher in the genre not only accepted our book but wanted a complete manuscript within a month. I was glad that we were almost finished with the book when we shopped the proposal.

As writers who help others, we also risk rejection in our charity work. Barbara Kerr Page, who I would later work with at the Albuquerque Tribune, wrote a letter to Tony Hillerman on November 2, 1975, asking him to be a judge in the New Mexico Press Women’s annual communications contest. Five days later, Hillerman wrote the following response:

While I’m complimented by your invitation (and the flattering way you phrased it), I’m going to have to beg off this fall. Last summer (when it seemed autumn would never come) I made a whole bunch of to-do things, and I’m now facing the fact that those speeches aren’t written and the deadlines aren’t met. Therefore, I made a pledge that I wouldn’t take on anything new until I keep the old promises.

I’ve enjoyed judging for the NMPW in the past and I hope you’ll give me the opportunity in future years when I’ve better learned how to plan ahead.

Three cheers to Tony Hillerman for knowing when his plate was full and to kindly say no. This is the kind of rejection letter that we can all learn from.

Like many authors, I consider the worst kind of rejection to be silence. I would rather receive a form letter or the return of my letter with the word “NO” in big letters than silence. With silence, you are left to assume your project has been rejected or lost.

With some of Toni Morrison’s letters, she gave helpful suggestions. According to the Los Angeles Review of Book’s article mentioned earlier, in rejecting a modern Western in 1978, Morrison wrote, “It simply wasn’t interesting enough—the excitement, the ‘guts,’ just weren’t there. I am returning it to you herewith.” What a masterful way to say the book was boring.

In another rejection letter, Morrison wrote that the manuscript was “put together in a way that made it difficult to enjoy. The scenes are too short and packed too tightly. Motives were lacking.” With rejection advice like that, the author knows it’s time to return to work.

Whatever is stopping you from sharing your work for publication, do not fear rejection. You just might receive helpful advice.

Equally important, rejection letters can help prove that you are in the business of writing. From a tax perspective, even if you have little or no income, you may still be able to deduct your expenses related to your writing business. Consult your accountant on the value of rejection letters to demonstrate you sought to sell your work.

Rejection letters also call on you to have faith in your work. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected twelve times. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen’s first Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 140 times. Tony Hillerman’s first book was rejected by one New York publisher who advised him to “get rid of the Indian stuff.” At the time of his death in 2008, more than 20 million Hillerman books were in print.

Once, I received a rejection letter from an academic publisher after my book had been published. It gave me great pleasure to inform the publisher that during the year delay, my book had been published and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in History. I did not receive a response.

[i] See There Is No Point in My Being Other Than Honest with You: On Toni Morrison’s Rejection Letters | Los Angeles Review of Books (lareviewofbooks.org)


Sherri Burr’s 27th book, Complicated Lives: Free Blacks in Virginia: 1619-1865 (Carolina Academic Press, 2019), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in History. West Academic published Wills & Trusts in a Nutshell 6th Ed., her 31st book, on October 31, 2022. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Princeton University, and the Yale Law School, Burr has been a member of SouthWest Writers for over 30 years.




Author Update 2024: Neill McKee

Neill McKee is a retired teacher, international filmmaker and multi-media producer, and an award-winning creative nonfiction author. He published his fourth memoir, My University of the World: Adventures of an International Film & Media Maker, in 2023. Look for Neill on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as on NeillMckeeAuthor.com. To learn about his first three memoirs, read his 2019, 2021, and 2022 SWW interviews.


Neill, you’ve led a storied life. Please tell readers a little about your memoir My University of the World.
My University of the World (2023) is a stand-alone sequel to two of my other memoirs, Kid on the Go! Memoir of my Childhood and Youth (2021) and Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah (2019). All three books can be enjoyed in any order you read them. This latest memoir is composed of 28 short chapters and an epilogue that takes readers on an entertaining journey through the developing world from 1970 to 2012. The book is filled with compelling dialog, humorous and poignant incidents, thoughts on world development, vivid descriptions of people and places I visited and worked in, and over 200 images.

The story starts when I became a “one-man film crew,” documenting the lives of Canadian CUSO volunteers working in Asia and Africa, and covers my marriage to Elizabeth, an American I met in Japan. Her life with me and her growth as an artist, as well as our children’s lives, are also covered in this new book.

Thirteen chapters document my time as a filmmaker for Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), when I roamed the developing world and made about 30 films on many research projects in education, rural development, agriculture, post-harvest technology, fisheries and aquaculture, health care, water and sanitation—the list goes on. I wrote these stories to allow the reader to get a sense of the challenges I encountered. I kept the chapters light on technical details and full of humorous and poignant incidents. In each chapter, I also included how IDRC projects made an impact, or not.

The book also covers my time as a multimedia producer, leading teams of people in UNICEF in Bangladesh and Eastern and Southern Africa, and how my family adapted to a very different and interesting life. I ended up working for Johns Hopkins University, and then took over a project in Moscow, Russia. In my final job, I was asked to save a large project in Washington, D.C. from 2009 to 2012. By then I had learned a lot about managing people and, I must admit, sometimes I missed my years as a “lone-wolf” filmmaker at the beginning of my career.

Was it a natural transition for you to go from filmmaker to author?
During my career, I wrote three books and many articles on the role of communication in behavior and social change. But when I retired in 2013, I decided to turn to creative nonfiction writing. I submitted my first manuscript to about a dozen publishers and finally received two offers from small firms, but when I saw the contract details, I could see they were mainly interested in acquiring new titles with little or no resources for promotion. Also, despite the fact I had engaged a professional editor, they wanted to start over with that process. So, I decided to hire a professional book designer and self-publish. Either way, it was evident I was going to have to do the promotion myself. Perhaps if I was younger, I would have tried harder to seek an agent and publisher, but at my age, I didn’t think it made sense to wait. I don’t regret my decision because I have since learned that almost all authors, even if they do find a publisher, have to do or pay for most of the promotion themselves. With about 1,000 new books released every day in North America, in all genres, there is a lot of competition for readers’ attention. Fortunately for me, making money has not been a necessary objective in my new “retirement career.”

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing My University of the World?
I entered this memoir in several contests and so far have won two awards: Distinguished Favorite, Independent Press Award (2024) for Career; and Finalist, Book Excellence Awards (2024) for Autobiography. It’s rewarding to get such feedback, as well as good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads—some from people who have had no experience in international development work or film and media production. They simply enjoyed riding along with me, and some wrote that they felt they were there. Another benefit of writing this memoir was helping me sharpen my long-term memory, revising connections with old friends and former colleagues in Canada, the US, and around the world.

Do you have one place of travel that has left an indelible mark on you?
I would have to say it is Sabah, Malaysia, on Borneo Island, and the small town of Kota Belud near the coast of the South China Sea. That’s where I “found myself,” learning Malay language and teaching beautiful students, visiting their kampongs (villages), roaming around on my motorcycle, climbing Mount Kinabalu (the highest in Southeast Asia), having a few love affairs, and making my first film. It is all in my memoir Finding Myself in Borneo. That book has won three awards.

Was there anything surprising you discovered about yourself while writing your memoir?
I found that I always had a knack for creative writing but never developed it until I retired. I never kept a diary but I had a lot of stories in my head for years. I wrote up some of these at the time they happened and kept a file. I found many more in old letters to and from my fiancé/wife and family, plus official trip reports that I always tried to make entertaining, including all the funny happenings along the way. Some of my colleagues might not have appreciated such embellishments, but I didn’t care. I had the feeling I would use these someday.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Besides the creative writing, it was returning to IDRC in Ottawa, Canada, to look through a library of thousands of colored slides I had taken all over the developing world, many of which I used in the book. I also searched film archives and websites and managed to locate most of my film and media projects. This also helped to bring back my experiences over the years, and I decided to create a digital library, housing all I could find on https://www.neillmckeevideos.com.

The videos play on YouTube and I get great satisfaction from messages I receive every week from young adults who were influenced in their childhoods, especially from my most successful multi-media project, the Meena Communication Initiative for girls’ empowerment in South Asia.

Do you have a favorite quote from My University of the World you could share with us?
That’s a difficult thing for a writer to answer, but I think the opening paragraph of Chapter One gets the reader into the spirit of the memoir:

As I rolled across the plains of northern India in December 1970, on a rickety old train, rumbling between station stops and passing many smaller ones, I soon got into the stride of things by listening to Santana Abraxas through the earphones plugged into my compact reel-to-reel tape recorder. From that time on, the song Black Magic Woman became forever embedded in my mind as a part of India. The time was magic for me because I was on the road, filming and photographing Canadian volunteers in Asia. It was exactly what I wanted to do with my life—an answer to my prayers, or I should say to my meditation sessions. I was more in touch with Zen Buddhism than Christianity in those days, like other North American youth—many of whom were hippies, or what we then called “flower children,” who traveled to the East in search of answers to life’s mysteries and their future paths.

Does meditation play a role in your writing ritual today?
Well, I never got deeply into Zen Buddhism, but in my late twenties, I learned how to do Transcendental Meditation (TM) for practical, rather than spiritual reasons. My younger brother Philip had taken it up and even traveled to Spain to study at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s TM institute. In 1968, the Beatles had visited this Maharishi in India for spiritual replenishment, and by doing so, they helped spread TM worldwide. Philip taught me the basic method and gave me my secret mantra—a sound I repeated in my head for 20 minutes, two times a day, while breathing deeply, sometimes falling asleep, which was okay according to Philip. Eventually, I learned how to do this just about anywhere, even in noisy airports. Learning TM helped me survive the busy years of my career. I still use the technique for refreshing my brain cells while writing.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I chose to print and distribute through IngramSpark.com (IS), rather than going with Amazon alone. Through IS my books are available in North America and around the world on Amazon and many other platforms. Even independent bookstores and libraries can order copies. I publish in paperback and eBook formats, and two of my memoirs, Finding Myself in Borneo and Kid on the Go! were also produced as audiobooks by Lantern Audio, which distributes them very widely on many platforms as well. I promote through a growing email list, blog and review tours, and some social media channel posts, although I don’t put a lot of effort into the latter because it is evident to me that it doesn’t help much for sales, plus I am a bit allergic to simple messages, “likes,” and “congratulations,” etc., that have little substance or follow up. I find LinkedIn the most useful. I also put a lot of blog posts, interviews, links to reviews, places to buy, and awards on my author’s website: https://www.neillmckeeauthor.com/.


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




An Interview with Author Mary Lou Dobbs

Mary Lou Dobbs is an author, speaker, and lifestyle coach who seeks to inspire others to excel and thrive as they age. Her third nonfiction release, Badass Old White Woman: How to Flip the Script on Aging (January 2024), has been called “a rally cry for all of us who refuse to let age limit our dreams and aspirations.” Look for Mary on her website at MaryLouDobbs.net, on Facebook and Instagram, and on her Amazon author page.


What do you hope readers will take away from Badass Old White Woman?
I hope readers will be inspired to challenge societal norms about aging and embrace their own unique paths to personal fulfillment. My book encourages readers to break free from limiting beliefs — these are any beliefs that carry emotional weight and cause misalignment. I write about how women can embrace adventure and live authentically, regardless of age or background.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
One unique challenge in writing Badass Old White Woman was balancing personal anecdotes with universal themes that resonate with a diverse audience. Additionally, addressing sensitive topics related to aging and societal expectations required a delicate approach to ensure authenticity and relatability. I also had to make a mental shift from hurt feelings to humor after being called “an old White Woman.” This inspired me to sit down and write. Women are tired of the underwhelming expectations and negative stereotypes that threaten our value and inner wisdom.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing the book?
The most rewarding aspect of writing the book has been hearing from readers who found inspiration and empowerment in the stories and advice shared in the book. Knowing that the book has made a positive impact on others’ lives makes the writing process incredibly fulfilling. I didn’t wake up and decide to become a superhero to women, but it appears I have.

What makes your newest release unique in the self-help market?
Badass Old White Woman stands out in the self-help and inspirational market for its candid and unconventional alternative life-changing therapies to topics related to aging, personal growth, and inner resilience. The book blends humor, personal anecdotes, and practical advice to create a relatable and empowering guide for women of all ages.

What are you most happy with, and what do you struggle with most, in your writing? And, especially regarding this book?
I’m most happy with the authenticity and relatability of women’s stories shared in the book. However, I sometimes struggle with finding the right balance between storytelling and delivering nontraditional healing modalities like Thought Field Therapy (TFT) and The Emotion Code to a wide-reading audience. Sharing emotions are the key to robustness in connecting with yourself and others. I give actionable advice in my writing, especially when addressing complex topics like aging and personal transformation.

You’ve written two other books in this genre: Repotting Yourself: Financial – Emotional – Spiritual Flow and The Cinderella Salesman: An Inspiring Success Story for Every Woman Who Seeks a Fascinating Career, endorsed by Og Mandino. How would you compare Badass Old White Woman to the previous books?
While Repotting Yourself and The Cinderella Salesman focus on specific aspects of personal growth and career development, Badass Old White Woman takes a more holistic approach to empowerment and resilience. It addresses broader themes related to aging, self-discovery, and embracing life’s challenges with courage and humor.

When you tackle a nonfiction project, do you think of it as storytelling? This book certainly seems to be telling a story of challenge and triumph.
Absolutely, storytelling is a central aspect of my approach to nonfiction writing. In Badass Old White Woman, I use storytelling to convey universal truths and inspire readers to embrace their own journeys of challenge and triumph. By sharing personal anecdotes and experiences, I aim to create a narrative that resonates with readers on a deeper level. I believe only after gaining an emotional vibrational balance will readers thrive in later years,

What was the expected, or unexpected, result of writing Badass Old White Woman?
I have emerged as a guiding voice, encouraging women to embark on an unapologetic, life-changing journey filled with renewed purpose and exhilarating adventures.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
One reader said, “Your book ignited a profound transformation within me, propelling me beyond the confines of my fears and the stagnant patterns that once confined me to society’s rigid and uninspiring perception of myself.”

Badass Old White Woman was just released in January 2024. Do you already have another writing project in mind — or are you working on one now?
Engaging in the marketing process demands a significant investment of my time. From securing speaking engagements to crafting articles that enhance visibility, and actively networking, these efforts collectively form the secret sauce for effectively selling books.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
In my book, I include the following quote: “When we rise above our emotional triggers, we possess the capability to neutralize them with precision, akin to a heat-seeking missile. Through this process, we access an invisible highway to our inner selves, where a cellular memory of full engagement and vibrant aliveness resides.” ~ Mary Lou Dobbs, Thought Field Therapy Lifestyle Coach.


D.E. Williams is the author of the award-winning Chesan Legacy Series: Child of Chaos and Chaos Unleashed. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. To find out more about Dollie and her writing, visit her website at DollieWilliams.com.




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.




The Writing Life: Consuming Thrillers

by Sherri L. Burr


I love thrillers. I love reading them and watching them on big and small screens. Webster’s Dictionary defines a thriller as “a work of fiction or drama designed to hold the interest by the use of a high degree of intrigue, adventure or suspense.” The Amazon Prime series Reacher fits the description. I watched each episode with the same rapt attention I had previously given to reading the Lee Child books.

Season One was based on the first book in the series, Killing Floor. Season Two was based on the twelfth, Bad Luck and Trouble. I often finish a Jack Reacher novel in less than three days, sometimes in one. They compel me to keep turning pages until every word has been read. After watching the two Reacher movies with Tom Cruise, a slender approximately 5’8” brunette, cast in a role of a 6’5” herculean blonde, I was reluctant to review the streaming series. This was even after hearing Lee Child said in interview with George RR Martin in 2018 at Santa Fe’s Jean Couteau Cinema that he had inked a deal to bring Jack Reacher to life with a different actor. But then a classmate, who knew I liked the Reacher books, sent an email suggesting I watch.

Actor Alan Ritchson looks like he stepped off the pages of the novels. The handsomely muscular Ritchson does not disappoint as the nomadic former Army officer with a penchant for bringing vigilante justice to lawbreakers.

In Season Two, Jack Reacher reconnected with his old army buddies to track down who is killing off members of their former squad. The minute an episode was available, I watched. Each of the eight episodes was equally entertaining.

I did not feel the same way about another Amazon Prime show, Citadel, which popped up as recommended after I finished Reacher. Fittingly, Citadel opened with a train wreck because the storyline was a train wreck. The series jumped frequently between timelines and time zones with little to distinguish between them other than a date. The actors looked the same and the settings were often the same. By contrast, Reacher used a different setting and color palate to indicate flashback scenes. Also, Reacher only showed flashbacks to advance the present story whereas Citadel whiplashed all over the place with limited connection between the scenes. The ending to Citadel was equally messy when it revealed (spoiler alert) the hero was the villain that caused the disaster. Yikes!

Curious, I looked up whether there would be a Season Two of Citadel. Even though Season One was considered a bust with audiences (apparently, my opinion was universally shared), Amazon renewed Citadel because it had invested $250 million in the first season. Apparently, the decision-makers never heard of “sunk cost,” the economic theory that suggests cutting losses when the original investment has failed. By contrast, Reacher, which cost much less to produce, became Amazon Prime’s biggest streaming hit ever.

Another book thriller recently caught my eye. Author David Baldacci released The Edge as a follow-up to The 6:20 Man. The second book in the series based on ex-Army Ranger Travis Devine was as engaging as the first. I listened to the audio version before deciding to purchase the book. Within 36 hours, I had finished all 403 pages. Baldacci’s character Travis Devine shares a professional pedigree with Jack Reacher. They are both West Point graduates who became officers in the Army and seek justice.

Consuming thrillers can be helpful to the writing life. By transporting us into other worlds, thrillers give us a break from current projects. With thrillers, we vicariously adventure to places and with types of people who would never otherwise cross our paths. Thrillers remind us to make our work compelling. We want our readers to consume every word.

Thrillers also prompt us to determine what is commercial. One author friend told me she won’t start writing a book unless she knows her publisher plans to purchase it because she doesn’t want to psychologically invest in creating characters she may need to abandon. Lee Child, and now his brother Andrew Child, create the Reacher books knowing there’s an awaiting audience.

Avoid the Amazon Prime-type decisions to renew a global train wreck like Citadel just because of the initial investment of time and money. Strive, instead, to create work as compelling as a thriller with intrigue, adventure, and suspense that captivates your audience from beginning to end.


Sherri Burr’s 27th book, Complicated Lives: Free Blacks in Virginia: 1619-1865 (Carolina Academic Press, 2019), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in History. West Academic published Burr’s Sum and Substance Audio on International Law, 4th Edition, her 32nd book, on October 30, 2023. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Princeton University, and the Yale Law School, Burr has been a member of SouthWest Writers for over 30 years.




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.




An Interview with Authors Sue Boggio & Mare Pearl

Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl are novelists whose collaborations weave family, friendship, and hope into award-winning literary fiction. Their newest novel, Hungry Shoes (University of New Mexico Press, September 2023), is described as “an emotional journey through the scar tissue of complicated lives” and “a celebration of compassion, hard-earned wisdom, and the joy we can create.” You’ll find Sue and Mare on their website at BoggioAndPearl.com and on their Amazon author page.


Sue and Mare, you met in 1963 as youngsters and formed an immediate friendship that’s followed you throughout your lives. At what point did you both decide you wanted to write novels together?
In the 1980s we lived across the country from each other. We wrote letters that included one of us starting a story and mailing it to the other to continue the story — back and forth until the story became too long and fat to fit into an envelope. At that point, one of us would come up with an ending. In 1988, Mare moved to Albuquerque where I lived and we decided to educate ourselves about the craft (and business) of novel writing. Along with reading books on the subject and subscribing to industry periodicals, we joined SWW and attended meetings and all the great SWW conferences in the 1990s. In 2001, we were finalists in the novel competition with Sunlight and Shadow, published in 2004 by NAL/Penguin, and we were on our way!

Your latest novel is Hungry Shoes. What was the inspiration for this story?
Hungry Shoes was inspired by our long careers working at UNM Children and Adolescent Psychiatric Center, and our dedication to milieu therapy. Milieu therapy means the environment the kids are immersed in is a 24/7 intensive therapeutic process. Hungry Shoes shows how powerful milieu therapy was when we worked in such a program in the 1980s and 1990s. We’ll never forget the young people (and colleagues!) we had the privilege to work with and wanted to honor them in a fictionalized version of that inspiring world.

Was there anything surprising that you discovered while writing this book?
One of the challenges in writing Hungry Shoes was finding the best way to include pertinent scenes from Maddie and Grace’s pasts to show how and why they ended up needing inpatient psychiatric care. This required us to stretch ourselves in determining the structure of the novel, and how to handle time. Instead of the usual straight chronological stream of events, we inserted those past scenes into the present-day arc of their hospitalizations. The past scenes show particular times of chaos, abuse and neglect each girl experienced through their seventeen years of life. Showing these past arcs was much more powerful than telling them, say in therapy sessions. This gives the reader much greater insight and empathy when the girls’ experiences are addressed in their present day scenes. The scenes from the past are purposefully placed to connect with and inform what’s happening in the present-day arc of their three-month hospitalizations. It took a lot of trial and error before we arrived at the structure that finally worked the best, and the surprising discovery was that we were able to pull off what we envisioned!

Tell us how and why you chose the title Hungry Shoes.
In the early 1980s, a boy from Zuni Pueblo in my (Sue’s) care used the term to describe worn-out shoes that separate at the toe creating a mouth. (A lot of kids needed shoe glue to hold their shoes together until new ones could be obtained.) After learning the term was used commonly in Zuni Pueblo, I tucked it away as a title for a future book about milieu therapy. There is a scene in our book showing how the expression was used and its metaphorical representation of kids who have been abused, neglected, etc.

Why will readers connect with your main characters Maddie and Grace?
We created Maddie and Grace to have different issues, and be distinct from each other, but we wanted both of our lead characters to have the capacity to respond to therapy even after tough lives, and be intelligent and strong, and be able to form a genuine bond with each other that facilitates both of their healing journeys.

Maddie is more impulsive and expresses her pain and emotions directly. She’s more prone to “act-out” while Grace holds her pain more inside of herself. When the reader discovers what each girl has experienced via the scenes from the past, along with discoveries made in therapy, they are able to understand and connect with them. We also made sure to make them more well-rounded than their past wounds. We show them caring about their peer group members and staff, we show their humor and tenderness and bravery as they strive to get better.

What message do you hope to convey to readers of Hungry Shoes?
Our message is that there is an inpatient treatment model called milieu therapy that can (and did!) help kids turn their lives around if we as a society are willing to fund the necessary ingredients, which are:

Time enough to trust the adult staff to disclose their issues and connect with them as a source of support. Time for their families to learn new ways of parenting via family therapy and parent education (length of stay needs to be weeks/months instead of the current usual 3 days that insurance will cover.)

Staffed with highly-trained and well-paid professionals in a multi-disciplinary team approach offering a varied menu of therapies and individualized programs (art, music, recreational, etc.).

Physical environment that is designed for children while maintaining safety (i.e., playgrounds, flowers, grass, trees—natural beauty—supervised playtime and structured activities) instead of a stereotypical locked hospital ward.

Hungry Shoes shows all of this better than can be briefly described.

As coauthors, how do you manage expectations with each other? What is that process like?
We’ve been creating together since we were ten years old. It is instinctual by now to play to each other’s strengths. We’re each other’s greatest fans so our collaboration is based on mutual respect and trust. Before we start a project, we discuss EVERYTHING and keep notebooks as we define our themes, design settings, create characters and their arcs. We each choose POV characters and divide up scenes to write each week. (In the case of Hungry Shoes, I wrote Grace’s POV scenes and Mare wrote Maddie’s.) We get together weekly and read our scenes aloud to each other for feedback and to decide what scenes should come next. We always know our novel’s ending but how we get there allows for discovery along the way. A first draft takes about nine months. Then we do an entire read through out loud together before tackling rewrites and editing, first individually, then merged into one manuscript that Sue edits with continual input from Mare until we’re ready to share it with our first readers and eventually our agent for more revisions.

Not every difference of opinion is contentious, but as authors we bring our own ideas to each story. How do you navigate those differences?
We are constantly discussing different ideas, testing them out on each other. If one of us likes something the other doesn’t, we talk it through some more, but we give each other a lot of freedom and autonomy to run with an idea to see how it works—especially if it concerns our own POV character. Often a third option better than either of us thought of previously will be born from our discussions—the magic of collaboration. One of our bylaws is the good of the project comes before either of our egos. Honestly, it’s easier and a more natural process than you might imagine. I (Sue) write novels on my own in between our joint projects and it’s twice the work and half the fun.

Do you allow an underlying structure to guide your writing process or is this something you discover as you work?
It can vary depending on the needs of a particular project but we use structure and pacing techniques that we’ve learned from studying screenplay writing. (Hungry Shoes began as a screenplay.) We use index cards detailing each scene and mount them on a big story board, moving scenes around to find the best progression. This visual is key to our process, especially merging two writers’ scenes into one seamless narrative.

What writing projects are you working on now?
At age ten, it was the Lennon/McCartney collaboration that incited our creative journey as partners. Countless books have been written about The Beatles, so we wanted to write a novel capturing their lifelong impact on the lives of two young fans, Sadie and Max, called And Your Bird can Sing. After family tragedy leads to not only physical distance but total estrangement, Sadie and Max try to navigate adulthood without the one person they counted on always being there. Through the best and worst of times, Beatles music is the soundtrack of their lives. When life offers them a rare second chance, they come face to face after 26 years apart. At age 40, is their connection still alive? Or has it receded into their pasts, a pleasant childhood memory forever lodged in an era that has vanished as surely as the miraculous band itself? Our agent is currently beginning submissions of And Your Bird Can Sing—fingers crossed!

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about our work! You can email us via our website: www.boggioandpearl.com. We enjoy attending book club discussions in person or via zoom.


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




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.




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