Friday, March 22, 2013

A Terrific Book Signing!

Shannon Baker's book signing on March 16th at the Broadway Book Mall was such fun, and Tainted Mountain sold out! Fortunately, Shannon had additional copies of the book stashed in her car. Whew! 

Thank you, Shannon, for the amazing chocolate chip cookies. And for writing such a great book!

And thank you, Ron and Nina, for again hosting such a happy event!

“A thoroughly satisfying mystery! Shannon Baker captures the grandeur and fragility of the western landscape while keeping the pages turning. And Nora Abbot is a fiery and tenacious sleuth whose future career in crime solving will be fun to watch.” — MARGARET COEL, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF BUFFALO BILL’S DEAD NOW

Monday, March 18, 2013

Cooking (and writing) Under Pressure

There was a time when pressure cooking was a daunting task. My grandmother once answered the doorbell, leaving her cooker unattended a minute too long. The blown lid and asparagus spears impaled in the kitchen ceiling left a lasting impression on me. But today’s pressure cookers have safety features that even Ralph Nadir can appreciate. Two extra ways for surplus steam to escape, preventing an explosion, are reassuring.

My laptop has its own way of preventing disasters. It saves what I’m working on even if the battery peters out abruptly. Usually it graciously asks me, the next time I open up Word, if I want to save what it has kept safe for me under those emergency situations. Hell yeah, I want it saved!

For me, technology is at once wondrous and intimidating. I’m grateful for it and yet I have an almost irrational fear of it sometimes. I want changes to be easy, intuitive and user friendly. That allows my focus to stay on being creative, not spending time navigating a learning curve. If I want to communicate, entertain or be entertained, please don’t hand me a new remote control, a smart phone, or a new generation of Windows operating system. Keep it safe, predictable and simple.

I’m nostalgic about manual typewriters as evidenced by my continued habit of hitting the keys so hard I knocked my question mark off one day. Admittedly, I don’t have a bittersweet longing for the mess of an ancient blown pressure cooker, just as I don’t look back fondly on the smears and smudges of carbon paper. But I still wax sentimental about my old IBM Selectric with the handy-dandy white corrective tape. Those whacking keys created a rhythmic tap dance that proved to the whole household I was diligently working on my next short story. The instant product that slowly rolled out was reassuring. In contrast, what could be less safe and more horrifying than the possibility of a chapter eaten when you accidently hit Delete instead of Control X and don’t catch it in time to use the Undo?

Early in my marriage I put off buying a pressure cooker for a while because it was something new and quite different than the no-brain slow cooker or the Dutch oven. But I gave in then studied the manual. With my writing tools, I’ve succumb to advancements that are obviously inevitable; I’ve grudgingly lagged only a few generations behind computer advances. If my husband wasn’t an engineer, I might still be using Word Star with green type. OK I might have advanced to amber. Maybe.

The evolution from manual typewriter to portable laptop to the iPad’s touch keyboard seems very much like that of the advancement in pressure cookers. The comparison works on other levels. Once mastered, pressure cooking is easy, and it saves energy and time, not to mention tenderizing the cheapest cuts of meat. Who doesn’t love spell check? Obvious to anybody who learned on an old-fashioned typewriter, the computer, too, is easier and saves energy and time. I can’t imagine typing my novel over and over for each new draft, even typing an entire page again after spotting a few needed edits. Or inking up my hands with carbon paper. Or having to thumb through the dictionary every 2,000 words. Did I say I love spell check?

Cooking and writing both take good doses of devotion, dreams, inventiveness, inspiration and patience. That’s a lot to juggle. I want changing technology to be the least of my worries. Please make it as user friendly and as full-proof as my pressure cooker. And don’t mess with my spell check. --- so warns Inkpot

Monday, March 11, 2013

Touched by a Reader’s Reaction

Occasionally a piece of fiction has an effect on a reader beyond entertainment. Most of the time we writers don’t even know it. Out of thousands of readers, a few of them might contact a novelist with kind words, corrections, or commiseration. But rarely does a short story spark interest in a reader enough to contact the author.

I never expected that to happen to me. Especially since my shorts are usually flash length; essentially as soon as a reader dips into my world he/she pulls back out of it. This week I was honored to receive an email from Linda Weber, who is a counselor, author, and a member of Boulder Media Women. With permission I pasted it below.

Hello Karen,

I'm writing to let you know that I just published a blog post that includes a link to your beautifully crafted story, "The Snow Day." Thank you for writing it and for putting it out there to us in BMW. Here's the link to my post.

be well,


I was surprised and flattered that someone I’d never met took her precious time to read the story, then even more so that she told me her reaction to it. Even more remarkable and touching was that she felt the story was fitting for the readers of her blog, Life Choices, and that she chose to post the link.

Sometimes it is this kind of compliment that can keep a writer going. I wrote up a storm after reading her note. And will likely keep it handy in a file I’ll create called “much needed praise.”

I learned something very important from this. When you read something that stirs you with its topic, characters, theme, or the writing itself, consider letting the writer know. Most authors can be chased down, even the bestsellers can be contacted through their publishers. This feedback was an immeasurable kindness. I plan to pay it forward.

Have you ever let an author know how their work affected you?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Book Launch! Book Launch! Tainted Mountain (A Nora Abbott Mystery)

Tainted Mountain by Shannon Baker is now available!

Nora Abbott needs to make enough snow to save her ski resort from the drought that is ravishing Northern Arizona, and her recent court victory should mean good times are ahead. But when the death of Nora’s husband brings her overbearing mother into town, energy tycoon Barrett McCreary uses the opportunity to launch what might just be a hostile takeover of her cash-strapped resort.

To make matters worse, the local Hopi tribe still claims that making snow on the mountain will upset the balance of the earth, and someone is taking matters into their own hands in an explosive way. The ruggedly handsome Cole Huntsman keeps turning up to help Nora, but he seems to be dealing from both sides of the deck. And with a business empire’s profits—not to mention lives—at stake, double-dealing is a deadly strategy.


“Tainted Mountain is a story as mysterious and beautiful as the Arizona landscape in which it’s set. Shannon Baker offers readers a taut, cautionary tale that is a deft mix of both important contemporary issues and the timeless spiritual traditions of the Hopi. For those of us who hunger for the kind of novel Tony Hillerman used to write so well, this promising new series may just fill the bill. Pick up Tainted Mountain and prepare to be entranced.” ~ WILLIAM KENT KRUEGER, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE CORK O’CONNOR SERIES

“Pitting greed against the future of a people, Baker’s thoughtful thriller, Tainted Mountain, not only presents a compelling clash of myth and violence that will keep you guessing, it also reads like such a love letter to the natural world, you won’t want it to end.” ~ KRIS NERI, AUTHOR OF REVENGE ON ROUTE 66

“A thoroughly satisfying mystery! Shannon Baker captures the grandeur and fragility of the Western landscape while keeping the pages turning.” ~ MARGARET COEL, BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF BUFFALO BILL'S DEAD NOW

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How the Sisters of the Quill Writing Retreat Saved My Book

Some retreats are an excuse to play; some are a chance to think, experiment with a new idea, or start a new project. But our Sisters of the Quill retreat last weekend went to my very identity as a writer. It was a case of, “Can I get this book done, and if I can’t, am I really still a professional, career writer?”

For me, still lumbering along in the eleventh year of my jello elephant oeuvre, this was a serious question. So in my case our retreat was neither a casual nor an experimental outing. I came loaded for bear, and I left with something much better: molded jello. Perhaps even miraculously molded jello.

After being away from this ms for months (again), I arrived at the retreat, sat down at the little wooden table in our lodgings, and plugged in. It seemed very necessary to get through all 350 pages, once through, the first day. I didn’t quite make it, but got close. The next day I set to it again, and by the end of Day Two had finally got to the epilogue.

I went to bed with the nagging feeling that there was something still NQR (not quite right) about this book. It seemed a little too fantastical, a little too God-out-of-the-box. After reading a certain review of one of my Plumtree series books once—which you must never, ever do—that it was “difficult to credit,” which is British for hard to believe, I had to admit this issue had made me uncomfortable before. I do believe in God and like to include the supernatural in my books. To me, that’s realistic. But I must not allow things to get too fantastical.

So on Day Three, freshly invigorated with morning coffee, I confided to a fellow Sister of the Quill that I had a feeling I needed to strip the book down yet again (it’s three-fourths its original length in this, its tenth incarnation). The wise SOTQ looked a little worried, and took on the air of someone calming a skittish horse. “Whoa,” she said. “Now wait just a minute.” She started walking me through the plot and we agreed that there was in fact much to be salvaged.

But it wasn’t until halfway through the morning, our bottoms so firmly molded to the hard little rush seats of the chairs that they were already numb, that I exclaimed, “This is it!” It was a simple insight, but it changed everything. It had instantly become clear that the far-out element of my plot could easily and concisely morph (with almost no work!!) into an “easy-to-credit” political plot. I told my SOTQ I’d been praying for an insight like this, longing for resolution on this project, and after hugging her I went to the kilim on my knees in gratitude.

And so, when work began to reassert itself into my writing life the next morning, a Monday that was the final half-day of our retreat, I had my book very nearly ready.

This retreat gave me my book back in two other ways, but I’ve already been too long-winded. But to me they’re just as amazing. Once again, I’m blown away by how exciting and marvelous it is to be a writer.

Let us dare to continue moving forward and taking risks, fellow writers!!

--  Stormy