Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Clumpy rides again!

If you've been curious about my cartoon header, Clumpy is the rascal of a pup portrayed in the cartoon, created in the 1940s by Howard Fogg, my mischievous father-in-law.  Clumpy often visited the drawing board for family events, when Howard took time off from his railroad art to create a special gift for Margot, my darling mother-in-law.  

With the blessings of my husband, I edited the doorway text of this February 14, 1947 cartoon.  Dick said it would have pleased his father to no end that I'm sharing Clumpy with you!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Rejection angst? Try my Rule of Ten!

Years ago, after struggling with repeated rejection angst, I developed my Rule of Ten (Minutes). At first it was a Rule of One (Day). But as my skin thickened and I started to believe the agents I spoke with at conferences, when they explained that they repeatedly reject worthy books because that book “just wasn’t right for them,” I shortened that day to one hour, and ultimately, to ten minutes.

Here’s the rule: If I receive a rejection, I can wallow in self pity, pull my hair, wail, rip the rejection to shreds, burn it, whatever soothes my soul, but only for ten minutes. Then I’m done. Fini. Minute eleven finds me pressing the “send” button on a new query.

This does require some preparation. I have to know who is next on my list. (Heh!) I have to be certain they’re currently accepting queries and passionate about my genre. I have to keep my query letter fresh. Plus, if I’m away from my “home” computer, I have to have the discipline to not open an email from an agent or editor until I’m poised for action and ready to react at minute eleven.

While this might sound like a game, and perhaps it is, the Rule of Ten works. On minute eleven, optimism reigns yet again. My new query is off and this new agent or editor might love my work. I might receive a great offer!

But let’s get back to coping with a potential rejection. Yes, when a writer offers their beloved novel to an agent or editor, we are handing them part of our soul and rejection is painful. But remind yourself, a query is a business letter, as is the dreaded rejection letter. Sure, a standard “form” rejection that’s been used thousands of times might feel more like a kick in the gut than business as usual, but if we had to read and respond to 500 queries a week, every week, it might seem more logical and less hurtful.

With the Rule of Ten firmly in place, and after numerous rejections, what ultimately evolved was that I no longer needed even ten minutes to wallow and mope. Yes, I often experienced a pang or two, but my Rule of Ten kept me positive and enthusiastic about getting published. And it worked!

While I’m not blasé about receiving rejection letters, by sending another query at minute eleven, I know I’ll have new hope. I then type happily onward rather than beating my breast for weeks and vowing never to send another query. Or worse yet, vowing to abandon all hope and never write again. In the next few weeks, when I again begin to send out queries, I shall apply my Rule of Ten. Who’s with me?

Friday, December 7, 2018

A Serenade to Die For

Four and five star reviews from NetGalley readers for A Serenade to Die For.  Thank you all, so much!

5 Stars:  Right from the first page I was sucked in. It was impossible to put down. Loads of twists and turns right to the end to keep the reader intrigued and turning pages! Definitely recommend this book. ~ Brid C Reviewer

Friday, November 30, 2018

Height of Deception!

Available now!

In a modern world of corporate greed, rabid activists, and murder, ancient Hopi spirits might have the final say.
Everything Nora Abbott has struggled to achieve is now within her grasp. After a divisive four-year court battle she’s been granted the right to make snow at her beloved mountain resort, guaranteeing financial prosperity and hopefully saving her failing marriage. But when her husband is found murdered on the mountain, suspicion turns to Nora.

After failing to save her husband and desperate to protect her mother and a Hopi teen, Nora throws herself into the deadly crossfire between environmentalists, Native Americans, and big business.

Allies become enemies and friends are suspect. Even the spirits of the mountain seem pitted against her. Can Nora save herself, the mountain, and the people she loves?

Height of Deception is the first in the Nora Abbott mysteries, all dealing with the mystic Hopi, environmental issues, and murder. If you like Tony Hillerman, William Kent Krueger, and Margaret Coel, you’ll love this series.  Pick up Height of Deception today and start the adventure!

“Baker’s series debut brings Native American culture and big business together into a clash that can be heard across the mountains.”  Library Journal

This book was originally titled Tainted Mountain.


But wait, there's more!

Book 2, Skies of Fire, launches December 4th!

"A thoroughly satisfying mystery!  Nora Abbott is a fiery and tenacious sleuth."  ~  Margaret Coel, New York Times bestselling author of the Wind River mystery series


And on December 11th, Canyon of Lies will be available to round out the trio!  Pre-order Books 2 and 3 now!

"Shannon Baker offers readers a deft mix of both important contemporary issues and the timeless spiritual traditions of the Hopi."  ~  William Kent Krueger, New York Times bestselling author of Ordinary Grace

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

How do I love three? Let me count the ways.

I love three to the depth and breadth and… maybe not that much.

But there is a lot of love for three. The Three Stooges. The Three Little Pigs. Musketeers. Kings. Bears. Billy Goats. Wicked Stepsisters. Mice. Three, three, three. I could go on and on.

Let’s start with the Rule of Three. It goes way back. Think about storytelling from Aristotle’s Poetics. A beginning, middle, and end. A progression that creates tension, escalates tension, and then offers a satisfying release. Whew!

Syd Field suggests a three-act structure for screenwriting that’s a simple outline for any storytelling. Setup, confrontation, and resolution punctuated by two plot points or reversals. The first reversal is an event that sends the protagonist on a new pathway. The second is a major event that makes everything look impossible. Works for me.

Giving a speech? Max Atkinson offers examples on the use of three-part phrases, or “claptraps,” to evoke a response in the audience, in his book Our Masters’ Voices. Ah, claptraps, when your speech or story makes an audience applaud.

Tell me a name three times and I’ll likely remember it. Tell me once, maybe not. So if you need to emphasize an idea, tell me three times or use three adjectives.

Then there are all sorts of slogans. “Location, location, location.” “Go, fight, win!” “Veni, vidi, vici.”

Aren’t descriptions more effective in threes? Think of a “three dog night.” On cold nights indigenous Australians would sleep in a hole in the ground embracing a dingo. On colder nights they’d sleep with two dingoes, and if the night was raw and freezing it was a “three dog night.” (Or a 1965 band.) But pause for a moment and picture your hero shivering in that deep, cold hole you’ve dug. You want your readers to shiver with him, exhale frosty breath. What's going to best describe that bone-aching cold? One dingo or three?

Now let me think, how many times does Jack climb the beanstalk? On the count of three, let’s all say it together. One. Two. THREE!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Fogg in the Cockpit 4-star review

Thank you so much, for your Amazon review of Fogg in the Cockpit, entitled "Up Close and Personal," Erl!

"Howard Fogg wrote a diary during his time in the Army Air Corps in 1943-1944. It began in the US during training and progressed until near the time of the completion of his combat flying in the fall of 1944. Although predictably boring in one regard, it’s fascinating in so many ways. Insight into the ordinary of a guy first flying P-47’s and then P-51’s naturally includes the extraordinary. Fogg was not an ace (I don’t remember him getting any kills) but he was a trusted flight leader, good at keeping his element or section in formation, good at bombing and good at strafing. He lost many friends but protected himself for the most part by being matter of fact about the losses. How hard that must have been. The air war unfolds in these pages slowly, punctuated by bad weather, visits to London and painting. 

 "Fogg’s an outstanding painter and we’re fortunate that some of his wartime works are included in the book so well put together by his son Richard and Richard’s wife Janet. More than that, at the end of the book, they include a couple dozen paintings from his long career painting locomotives and trains. Most are quite stunning. 

 "The book narrative is well illustrated with excellent photographs of his squadron mates. It’s a pleasure to see who he has mentioned in his diary. Also, interspersed with the diary entries and photos are Headquarters 359th Group monthly historical summaries. While they are interesting, they’re not “that” interesting. Probably because I have a fairly good knowledge of the 8th air force’s activities during Fogg’s period flying with them, I found these chapters tedious. For many, I’m certain, they’ll provide worthwhile context to what Fogg and his buddies were doing. 

"All in all, thank you Captain Fogg."

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

I Cut My Finger on the Mashed Potatoes!

To be honest, I didn’t cut my finger on the mashed potatoes, but my cousin Susan did, and she graciously gave me permission to share her turn of phrase when she posted the comment a few years ago.

Turns of phrase that capture our attention might resonate for decades within our hearts. I’ll often read a sentence or quote that immediately triggers a response, one where I might be thrust through time, travel to a different world, envision the lives of characters in books, or remember a vivid conversation.

My cousin’s phrase is distinctive, and if I used it in a novel I might then explain that she really did cut her finger. She’d allowed the potatoes to dry in the pan and the crusted edge of potato sliced her finger, made it bleed. Would I go into that much detail in a book? Probably. Would I need to? It depends.

Larry Schafer wrote, “She’s learning to breathe thru her feet.” Reading that, I paused for a long moment to consider what he meant. How in the heck do you breathe through your feet? I still don’t know, yet that phrase has stayed with me, as has his name.

Then there’s one that I can’t attach a name to, though I wish I could. “She looked like a hen in a fit.” Can’t you hear the fuss, envision the flapping as a cloud of dust filters through the air?

“Regular old cough drop she is, too,” from Georgette Rougier. No further description is needed. I can see the old woman quite well, hear her querulous voice.

“His brain is as large as a pimple on a flea.” A gentleman named Sam made me laugh out loud when he said that. I don’t know if it those are his words, an old saying, or a phrase he borrowed, but I remember it to this day.

Simple words, quilted together in a multitude of patterns. Joy, agony, desire. Hope. Culmination of a story that pierces your heart.

What phrases echo and rebound within your soul?