Tag Archive for: Nora Abbott Mystery

Confessions of a Research Slut

By guest Shannon Baker

everything about writing novels is great. It takes lots of time I could spend
outside playing. I have to deal with the ugly face of rejection—more frequently
than I’d like to admit. Trying to work out complicated plots hurts my head.
Getting the words right with all the craft and expert writing advice swirling
around my brain is enough to make me crazy(er).

thing that is great about writing novels, though, aside from getting to play
god to a world of my imagination, is research.

plots and characters are often a product of the really cool stuff I learn while
researching. For instance, when I moved to Flagstaff and found out about the
controversy surrounding Snowbowl Ski area and man-made snow on a mountain peak
sacred to thirteen tribes, I got curious. Off I traipsed with my brand new
Flagstaff library card.

stumbled across several books about the Hopi tribe. I was immediately hooked. This
tiny tribe, destitute and insular, believes it is responsible for the balance
of the world. The Whole World.

did some in person research. One summer morning I drove a few hours to the
Homolovi ruins north of Winslow. Along with a tour of the dwellings and ruins,
a few Hopi tribal members talked about their farming technics and their
reliance on native plants. One generous young man took the time to explain to
me why the Hopi corn is planted in disarray instead of nice neat rows and why his
corn grows green and strong in the arid climate. Let me give you a hint, it has
little to do with fertilizer, barometric pressure and high and low fronts.
Hopi corn field
day I ventured even further to a public dance at Second Mesa in Shipolovi. I
was an obvious outsider. The Hopi haven’t been treated well by white folks in
the past. Their sacred relics have been stolen, outsiders broadcast their
secrets, and overall treated them with very little respect. The Hopi now have
some pretty strict rules, such as no photography, no sketching, and they frown
on note taking.

dance was amazing. I was so nervous I’d do something offensive, I stood as
still and silent as possible and watched. But they wouldn’t let me be a fly on
the wall. During one break, when the kachinas filed out of the plaza, the Hopi
clowns gathered up all the white folks and sat us in the middle of the plaza.
They had some good-natured fun with us and in the end, piled many gifts into
our hands.
Because I don’t want to show actual photos from the mesas, I’m using this picture of kachina dolls to give you an idea of what a dance is like. Picture these as living beings and desert setting and pueblos.
Hopi research turned up so many intriguing details of their history, culture,
and beliefs I couldn’t address even a fraction in one book. So I was excited
when Midnight Ink offered me a three-book deal. Tainted Mountain delves into the Hopi prophesies, explains a little
bit about their ceremonies. It introduces kachinas and their role in Hopi

Broken Trust, I wanted to focus on a
different aspect of Hopi’s connection with the world. According to Hopi
beliefs, we now live in the fourth world and we’ve just about messed it up so
badly we’re approaching the end of this world and emergence to the fifth world.
Sad news for most of us, because not very many will survive to start the fifth

Hopi believe they hold the key to the Earth’s balance, they are concerned over
climate change and extreme weather, and think these occurrences are due to
their failure to perform all of the ceremonies. So many youth are draining from
the three mesas they aren’t able to keep all of the clans vibrant. Every clan
has specific duties to perform, so when one dwindles another clan must step in
to perform duties not historically their own. 

in hand with climate change is a shift in the Earth’s poles. The Hopi also have prophesied that “Turtle Island
could turn over two or three times and the oceans could join hands and meet the
sky.” This seems to be a prophecy of a pole shift–a flipping, of the
planet on its axis. The Hopi call this imminent condition Koyaanisqatsi, which means world out of balance, a state of life
that calls for another way.

I heard of the Earth shifting on its axis? A little dive into that led me to Tesla,
which led to incredible tales of limitless, cheap energy. Following that track
took me to HAARP (the old Star Wars technology of the Cold War) and conspiracy
theories about using weather as a weapon of mass destruction, and mind control.
Which naturally took me to Jessie Ventura, as it would.
most frustrating thing about the research is not being able to use all the neat
stuff I learn. I guess it makes me a more well-rounded and informed person. I
figure if I write enough books I’ll be the perfect dinner party guest.

any of you ever researched a topic just for fun?

Read more