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 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.