Tag Archive for: Shannon Baker

Lourey/Baker Double Booked Tour

by  Shannon Baker and Jess Lourey

Today our guest bloggers are the amazing Shannon Baker and Jess Lourey. We’re so glad you’ve stopped by! Take it away ladies!

A big hello to the Stiletto Gang from me (Shannon Baker) and Jess Lourey. Thanks to Sparkle Abbey for inviting us to chat today. We’ve been zooming around the Internets on this crazy, month-long prelaunch blog tour and we’re tuckered out. Or, at least, I am, Jess is much younger so can probably still dance all night. I’m not nearly as pooped, though, as if I’d had to go it alone. Take my word for it, traveling with a friend is so much better. As our host(s), Sparkle Abbey, well know.

Shannon Baker

Shannon: I’m all giddy with excitement to tell you about my new Kate Fox mystery series. The first book, due out September 6th but available for preorder, is Stripped Bare. Set in the Nebraska Sandhills, it’s been called Longmire meets The Good Wife.

Jess: I’m thrilled to talk about Salem’s Cipher, my political suspense novel which is not coincidentally also releasing on September 6th and also available for preorder. Salem’s Cipher features Salem Wiley, an agoraphobic cryptanalyst who must crack codes Emily Dickinson hid 100 years earlier in order to save the first viable female presidential candidate from assassination. USA Today bestselling author Alyson Gaylin kindly calls it “a bona fide page turner.”

Shannon: Together, Jess and I have published 19 books so supposedly, we know something about writing novels. However, I’m plotting another book in the Kate Fox series and would love some expert advice. So today, we’re going to talk about plot and see if Jess can get me out of my mess.

I’ve always been a plotter, as opposed to a pantser (magicians who start on the novel highway and only see as far as their headlights but drive the whole trip that way—to paraphrase E.L. Doctorow) I know Jess is a plotter, too. 

I used to use an Excel spreadsheet and plotted every scene, along with detailed notes. I found I usually jumped away from the outline but having it made me less psychotic. Slightly less. 

In the past I’ve used all kinds of models, from Laura Baker’s Discovering Story Magic, to Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, and most recently, Larry Brooks, Story Engineering.
But I really admire writers who stay more flexible and I felt like the Universe was trying to tell me to trust myself more. So with my last book, I started with way less planned out. 

As it happened, I got bogged down, wound around, tangled up, and right before I got to the climactic segment, I realized I’d skipped a whole book. So I quit right where I was and now, am backtracking to the lost book.
And I’m taking more time to plot.

Jess: Shannon, I feel your pain. Or at least I see it. I don’t feel it because I’m too chicken to go without a plot, though I know I’d be happier if I was more laidback across ever area of my life. I think about writing novels much like I thought about coloring back in kindergarten, though. I liked to outline the coloring book picture with a dark line of crayon first, and then fill in the middle with a lighter version of the same shade.

Jess Lourey

Similarly, I like to trace the shape of a book before I write it, creating an overarching rhythm by not getting into the details. I usually write a one sentence summary of each scene (and my novels average around 70 scenes), one sentence per note card, and then I lay them all out in a room to make sure they’re all necessary and all in the right order. Once I determine they are, I start writing, leaving room for surprise and rearrangement. You can do something similar to my notecard plotting exercise using Scrivener, which I like, but which I don’t entirely trust in a “I’m going to save my money in a mattress” kind of way.

So Shannon, with the book that you pantsed before realizing you’d skipped a book—was that experience worthwhile for you? Is it helping you to write the book you are writing now, or does it feel like wasted time?

Shannon: I think all writing helps. I believe the more words a person writes, the better she gets. So, no, I don’t think it was wasted. And I will probably use much of it later on. At least I know where I don’t want to go.

In my new series, Kate has several issues going on. She’s got to figure out a whole new life, after she’d thought she had it all planned out. She’s got a beloved niece on the run and is trying to figure out why. And, of course, in every book there is a crime to solve. It’s fun trying to puzzle out where she’s going next and what she needs to do, but keeping all the subplots and threads weaving together can be a challenge. 

Jess, Salem has personal issues, historic, cryptologic and crime going on. That makes for a complicated story. Did your notecard method help you to keep it all running smooth? 

Jess: Yep. Not only that, it kept me sane. In Salem’s Cipher, Salem Wiley, the protagonist, has to crack codes left by Emily Dickinson to find out why powerful women throughout history have been systematically killed. It’s the only way to save her mother as well as the first viable female presidential candidate the U.S. has ever seen. I had the race-against-time plot to crack the codes, the go-back-in-time plot to set up the codes as well as to develop characters, and the across-time plot to set up relationships real time in the book. That’s why I took my notecard game to a new level with this book and color- and shape-coded the cards. Colors signaled whose point of view the scene was being told from, and shape (no corners cut, one corner cut, or two corners cut) indicated which plot thread I was handling. Laying them all out on the floor was a quick and easy way to make sure nothing was getting bunched up or neglected. I have so much admiration for a writer who can weave all those threads with no map!

A little about our books:

Salem’s Cipher: Salem Wiley is a genius cryptanalyst, courted by the world’s top security agencies ever since her quantum computing breakthrough. She’s also an agoraphobe shackled to a narrow routine since her father’s suicide. When her intelligence work unexpectedly exposes a sinister plot to assassinate the country’s first viable female presidential candidate, Salem finds herself both target and detective in a modern day witch hunt. Drawn into a labyrinth of messages encrypted by Emily Dickinson and codes tucked inside the Beale Cipher a hundred years earlier, Salem begins to uncover the truth: an ancient and ruthless group is hell-bent on ruling the world, and only a select group of women stands in its way.

Stripped Bare: Just when everything seems about perfect, someone leaves the barn door open and all hell breaks loose. At least, that’s what it feels like for Kate Fox. Born and raised in the Nebraska Sandhills, smack in the middle of eight interfering siblings, related to everyone in the county by one degree of separation or less, Kate’s managed to create a her perfect life.

A shattering phone calls hits Kate like a January blizzard. A local rancher is murdered and her husband, the sheriff, is shot. When her husband is suspected of the murder, Kate vows to find the killer.

Jess and I are both giving away a copy of our new books, Salem’s Cipher and Stripped Bare. For a chance to win, share one of your plot tricks or leave a comment. 

Not only that:

If you order Salem’s Cipher before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to salemscipher@gmail.com to receive a Salem short story and to be automatically entered in a drawing to win a 50-book gift basket mailed to the winner’s home!

If you order Stripped Bare before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to katefoxstrippedbare@gmail.com to receive a Kate Fox short story and be entered for a book gift basket mailed to your home. 

Join us tomorrow as the Lourey/Baker Double Booked tour trips over to Mysteriastas, where we’re going to talk about recipes. (really) 

Character vs Real Life

Sparkle Abbey is hosting guest blogger, Shannon Baker

Today we’re joined by our good friend, Shannon Baker. She’s graciously offered to give away a copy of her latest novel Tattered Legacy. Just leave a comment to be entered to win. (U.S only.) Take it away Shannon!

I never start off a novel to work out my life
issues. I don’t create characters as some form of self-therapy. (Although I
used to have fantasies of torturing a barrel racer and leaving her unable to
speak. But I’m much better now.) Writers come to their books differently, but
for me, I generally find WHAT I want to write about and then populate it with
the most interesting WHO I can make up.

Recently, I got to thinking about my
protagonists, which to this point have all been women. I hate to reveal too
much about my personality, but when I match up what people say about those
characters and what was going on in my life at the time, I can’t help but see
how my sneaky subconscious was working overtime.

A reviewer for my first published book, Ashes of the Red Heifer (gratefully out
of print now) commented, “…
unnecessarily stubborn
and foul mouthed…” and an  “…overbearing,
stronger willed woman than I’ve ever met.”
 (Yes, I know, most writers use pull-lines that
say nice things about the book. I have those, too, but I’m trying to make a
point here.) At a book club one woman, trying to be as gentle as possible,
described her as, “prickly and bossy and not very nice.”

my trying to soften Annie up in revisions, she always kept that hard shell. So,
here’s what was happening in my life: My husband of 15 years was having an
affair (remember that barrel racer I mentioned earlier?) and I had two
daughters in school, in this tiny town, and I was holding every emotion so
tight no one would see me crack. That probably translated to the page, making
Annie tough and hard as granite.

wrote the next book after my family life had substantially improved. My kids
were on their own and I’d found the love of my life. Personally, I felt secure
and happy. But professionally, I was teetering. We’d just moved to Flagstaff
and it took me over a year to find a job. When I did, instead of being in
charge, as I was previously, I had no clout. While I loved the people I worked
with, I felt undervalued by the management.

In Tainted Mountain, the first in the Nora
Abbott mystery series, Nora is all kinds of conflicted. She gives the world the
face of a competent business woman and she’s smart and hard working. Inside,
she’s riddled with insecurities. She waffles back and forth between “hear me
roar” and squeaking in the corner.

In Broken Trust, book two, while I’d taken
a risky job at a start-up, Nora is struggling to take command of her life. By
book three, Tattered Legacy, written
after I’d survived menopause, Nora is full of confidence and action.

not Annie or Nora or any of the other protagonists that came before them. But I
can see where some of my real life transfers to their characters.

are far less subtle ways my real life infiltrates my books. For instance, how
often I kill a philandering husband. And just how many of protagonists wrestle
with mother relationships. Dogs, cats, and even horses find their way onto my
pages. Any aspect of my real life can seep onto the page. But not the sex
scenes. Those are totally made up or derived by watching movies.

you read a novel, do you wonder how much of the story or characters come
straight from the author’s life? 

Remember, Shannon is giving away a copy of Tattered Legacy. For a chance to win, just leave a comment below. Make sure you include your email address.

Shannon Baker is the
author of the Nora Abbott mystery series from 

Midnight Ink. A
fast-paced mix of Hopi Indian mysticism, environmental issues, and murder.
Shannon is an itinerant writer, which is a nice way of saying she’s confused.
She never knows what time zone she’s in, Timbuck-Three, Nebraska, or
 Denver, or Tucson. Nora Abbott has picked up that location schizophrenia
and travels from Flagstaff in Tainted Mountain, to Boulder in Broken
 and then to Moab in Tattered Legacy.  Shannon
is proud to have been chosen Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2014 Writer of the
Year. Visit Shannon at 
www.Shannon-Baker.comWhile Tattered Legacy
is available from your favorite online or bookstore, if you’d like to support
indie bookstores, you’re welcome to contact Who Else Books at 
. Ron and Nina are the
best! And they might have a signed copy to send.

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?

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