Guest Shannon Baker

Edith/Maddie here during a hot July week. So it’s apt we have author Shannon Baker on as a guest. She not only lives in the desert, she writes about it! I only started reading her books during this lockdown and am rather kicking myself I didn’t start sooner. Still, she’s provided great entertainment with her tough, brave female protagonists (the Kate Fox books are not to be missed) in various western settings. I just finished her new book, The Desert’s Share, featuring border patrol agent Michaela Sanchez, and highly recommend it. I grew up in the Southwest and I love the desert. Shannon’s writing brings it to life.

Caring is not a crime…until someone dies. Newly-minted Border Patrol agent, Michaela Sanchez discovers a murdered humanitarian aid worker and clues point toward a patriotic vigilante. She realizes the biggest evil might be on her side of the border. With lines blurred between the good guys and the bad, threatening those Michaela loves most, she races to untangle the mystery before the killer strikes again…much closer to home.

Wait For Signs

Hello, Wickeds, and a big thank you to Edith for inviting me. I hope everyone is staying well and finding joy.

I don’t know how all of you are feeling these days, but I’ll freely admit I’ve felt a little like Chicken Little convinced the sky is falling. We’re in Tucson and as of right now, our COVID-19 numbers are skyrocketing. And the Catalina mountain range, one of my favorite hiking areas and a rare spot for respite from desert heat, has been burning for over a month. As I glance at the local news, I see nothing but three-digit temperatures forever, with no chance of rain.

I’ve studiously avoided writing about the bizarre and disturbing state of the world. No one needs, or wants, to add my hand-wringing into the mix. Despite my determination to keep my wits about me and continue to write, in May, it finally came clear to me that my normal discipline of keeping to a daily word count was only producing drivel. I wrote backstory, and then my backstory started to have backstory. It became an endless spiral. So I did something I haven’t done before.

I quit.

I decided the old saw about the definition of insanity—where you keep doing the same thing and expecting different results—applied to me. I told myself: no thinking about writing until at least July 1, and then I’d reassess.

I’ve gotta tell you, this hasn’t been the worst month of my life. My husband gave me those Master Classes that have been calling to me on my Facebook feed for a long time. It’s been great hearing words of wisdom from the experts. Okay, mostly on writing, but it’s relaxing and inspiring and I’m definitely going to branch out on other topics soon. Listening to podcasts has been delightful. (My Favorite Murder is top on my list.) The best fun of all, is that I’ve been reading lots of novels. Big, thick, juicy books, mostly not in the crime fiction genre. (You’ve got to read The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames.)

Slowly, the coils in my heart, head, and gut have started to unwind. As they have, the strangest things have begun to happen. My very practical father would have said I’m experiencing confirmation bias. *shrug* Maybe.

First, there was a big black bear who plopped down onto the trail in front of me.

Then there were two sightings of horned toads (they’re supposed to be good luck).

I’m not sure what the raccoon in the backyard meant, but no one I know has ever spotted a raccoon in this desert neighborhood. The birds are the kicker, though. It started with the roadrunner who’s decided our pool is now his, and he visits whether we’re outside or not, venturing within arm’s reach. A cactus wren flew in the door and after some hullabaloo while we tried to keep the dog from having a snack, it allowed us to pick it up and it sat on a hand until we deposited on a palm frond.

One evening as I took a dip, a half-dozen bats swirled around me. (Yes, I know they aren’t birds, but dang, that’s never happened before, either.) The latest, was two days ago. I was standing in the pool with a hat on (did I mention it’s been 107 degrees here?) and a finch landed on my head. It sat there for a few seconds before flying off.

One at a time these encounters don’t mean much. (Though that bear was a once in a lifetime thing.) But all within two weeks? Maybe nothing, but I’m going to be grateful, no matter what it is.

You know what? After my break, the ideas are forming. The joy is back and the what-ifs of a new story are making me feel fizzy and happy. I haven’t started writing yet. Right now, I’m debating whether I’m still practicing self-care or being lazy.

I’d prepared another post for the Wickeds today. It was all about Border Patrol research, the desert, vigilantes, and humanitarian aid on the desert. It was meant to get you all excited about the book, The Desert’s Share, that launched June 30th. But it felt flat to me. Guess I’m straying from my normal logical, reasonable, practical ways and just doing what feels good.

Readers: what about you? Do you find yourself changing in unexpected ways? Have you ever had a series of seemingly common experiences pile up on you? Do you think there’s something to my wildlife encounters?

Shannon Baker writes mysteries about strong women in dangerous situations. Her books are set in the iconic landscapes of the American West, from the Colorado Rockies to the Nebraska prairies, to the deserts of southern Arizona.  She is proud to have been chosen Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2014 and 2017-18 Writer of the Year.

24 Thoughts

  1. Confirmation that “God is good…all the time.” But write down those ideas before they escape!

  2. Love this post Shannon! My word count is still good, but my unexpected change is a housecleaning binge such as I’ve never experienced before. Weird. My pile up happened last week when the microwave, my printer and an electric fan all died. I envy you the bear and the hand-sitting bird!

    1. Oh no on your appliances having a mutiny. I noticed yesterday I need to clean the floorboards, so tell me, do you have a good solution for that? I used something last time that ate the paint.

  3. What a wonderful post! I think one of the benefits of this recent change in pace is being able to reconnect with nature. And yes, I definitely think there’s something to your wildlife encounters. It’s the universe’s way of encouraging you to live in the moment.

  4. Totally amazing seeing the bear. Ever since our trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, I’ve fallen in love with bears. They black bears are locally, but not been fortunate enough to see any – yet.

    We love all God’s critters and get no greater joy than photographing them. Most times the critters have always been there, but folks are in such a rush with every day events that they just don’t slow down enough to see them. You’ve had some amazing experiences in a relatively short time. What a blessing!

    One of the benefits of the stay at home event is that we now get to admire and photograph the critters right her with us and don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to see critters. Blessed to have a small acreage right on the edge of town in the Ozark Mountains with lot of photographic opportunities.

    Think like everyone else, we have learned to slow down, appreciate what we have (or don’t have) and we have learned again the great benefits and rewards from communicating – also an almost lost art. There’s always a lot of talking and noise going on, but did we actually stop and listen what was being said before?

    Loved the reminder of the horny toad. As a child when my Dad was stationed in California, I was always finding them and keeping them as pets for a short bit before releasing them back to the wild.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. The bear was definitely a highlight. Right now I’m in the backyard watching a lizard do pushups on the top of the cinderblock fence. I do envy your green, though, living in the Ozarks!

  5. Welcome back, Shannon! Congratulations on the new book — the blurb alone is enough for me to want to read it. Love this post. I’ve had a lot of trouble writing too. That is a lot of signs! My husband also bought the Master Classes. Do you have a favorite writing one!

    1. I am loving the Master Classes. So far I’ve done Neil Gaiman, James Patterson, and most of David Baldacci. I can’t say I’ve had any major ah-ha moments, but it’s been good sinking into the craft and not feeling pressure. I plan on doing the mixology very soon. Who couldn’t use a good cocktail these days! And congratulations, yourself! Your new series is making a splash!

  6. We had a Fox Family come visit us last month along with their Baby Girl Fox. Such a great reminder that life goes on.

    1. How fun! When I lived in a townhouse in Boulder, CO a few years ago, we had a fox that visited the grounds every morning looking for bunnies. They are beautiful!

  7. Hi Edith and all the Wickeds! Thanks for having me. I’m a little late to the party because we’re in eyeball melting season here in Tucson and I have to get the dog walk and all outside work done before the Crematoria hits and anything in sunlight bursts into flame.

  8. Sometimes you just need down time to fill the well. Looking forward to this book!

  9. Thanks for visiting the Wickeds, Shannon! I love your description, fizzy and happy! I love it whenever I fell that way! I am always willing to consider something to be a sign, usually of things I wish would come to pass! Best of luck to you as you happily fizz and feel renewed zest for your writing!

    1. Thanks, Jessie. The happy fizz has gone flat because I’m dealing with getting a new health insurance policy this afternoon! Talk about a drain of energy!

  10. Love this post! But I must confess that I love Shannon 🙂 We met back in 2018 at the Poisoned Pen because we had books launching around the same time. I’ve counted that as one of those Lucky Encounters (maybe not quite so dramatic as the BEAR, which looks awfully darn close in that picture!) that has graced the past few years. Yes, I think getting back to feeling our lived experience is essential; if I’m not connecting to feelings, I am uninspired and producing, as you say, drivel. A manuscript is not a words fitbit. And I loved Juliet Grames’s book SEVEN OR EIGHT DEATHS OF STELLA FORTUNA, satisfied my deep longing for an epic story with nuanced characters and lovely writing. It’s one of my faves of the year so far. Thanks for sharing, Shannon, and thanks to the Wickeds for all the great posts. Be well!

  11. If you don’t have time off, you will burn out. Sounds like your staycation has been very good for you.

  12. Mindfulness, staying in the moment is something that I have really gotten into in the past few years. I take the time to really look at things and enjoy them, the simpler, the better.

    We live in a 1960s suburb that has fully grown up with lots of trees and green everything. And we encourage wildlife in our yard. Recently, we had three large bucks walk through the back yard, very near the house. First time this has happened where we live now. (We used to live literally across a neighborhood street from the Allegheny National Forest and deer and bear in the yard were a regular thing). Here we have raccoons, squirrels, groundhogs, chipmunks, skunks, opossums, rabbits, and recently a red fox. And more kinds of birds than I will ever be able to identify, including song birds, ducks, geese, hawks, crows, owls, and an occasional accidental. I don’t know if any particular message is being sent except that if you pay attention to nature, you can have a delightful experience every day.

  13. That sounds heavenly. Someone just told me the universe is give and recieve. If you give to the universe, watch and see how it gives back. She mentioned wild life as well as sunsets and sunrises to dazzle.

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