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?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A few inspirational quotes for writers

"This is for writers yet to be published who think the uphill climb will never end. Keep believing. This is also for published writers grown jaded by the process. Remember how lucky you are." - Terry Brooks

"You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist." - Isaac Asimov

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your dreams. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you too, can become great." - Mark Twain
“Books aren't written -- they're rewritten. Including your own.  It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it. - Michael Crichton

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." - Sylvia Plath

"Never give up, never surrender." - Jason Nesmith (Commander Peter Quincy Taggart), Galaxy Quest

(I simply had to sneak that last one in.)

Friday, November 9, 2018


Pending, pending, pending!  I now leave things pending or am left pending far too often.  Especially when dealing with anything in this crazy world of writing books.  Marketing materials are pending.  Blogs are pending.  Research is pending.

Now it might sound as if I’m complaining and I’m not, not really.  Every single pending action has its own power and potential glory.  But it’s sometimes difficult to push anxiety regarding those pending items into the deep end of the lake.  Then there’s the frequently consuming habit of actually writing.  Isn’t that what we should spend the bulk of our time doing?  Who knew that in addition to actually writing books, we would also need to be business professionals and marketers and accountants and readers and mentors and researchers.  So some days writing is left pending.  And that’s not right.  But then again, tomorrow will be today before too long.  So even if I spend the entire day writing, my newest story will always be pending.  As it should be!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Heroes make me cry

Heroes make me cry. Whether I'm reading, watching a movie, or watching dramas unfold on the news, heroic actions grab my heart. Certainly a poignant love scene might do the same, but the sorrow is different when a hero gives or risks all.  I often start sobbing.  

I've cried many times for the men of the 359th Fighter Group—men I've never met, men who were killed in action during World War II.  The loss of  Capt. Wayne N. Bolefahr on 10 June 1944 is one such man. 

Capt. Bolefahr completed 61 combat missions between April 1943 and 10 June 1944 when he was KIA.

"On this early 10 June mission, the only claims were an electric loco and several goods wagons strafed by Fogg and his flight. But this was the opening of an eventful day. The only mission actively resented by the pilots as “a suicide job” came up next: escort on the deck of four PRU (Photographic Reconnaissance Unit) P-38s to the Antwerp area. The PRU pilots said they had not been able to get any planes back from the heavily defended Lowlands. The 368th was ordered to take them in. Colonel Tyrrell, briefing, warned of the flak and told the pilots they could do little good attempting to intervene: keep the enemy off the PRU and let them brave the flak.

"But the compulsion of the West Pointer’s code of duty, honor, country led Captain Wayne Norbert Bolefahr, beau ideal of the 368th, to do more than that. As the squadron swept in over the Scheldt with the four P-38s they came under a staggering barrage: there were automatic weapons emplaced everywhere along the winding coasts and the railroads, the heavy guns were in motion at extreme slant ranges. Bolefahr, slim, dark, kindly, courteous, a soldier in whom the sense of duty replaced the killer instinct he totally lacked, felt compelled to intervene. He was there. The Air Force wanted the pictures. So all along that blazing route he flew in the van, firing at every emplacement, drawing the enemy flak while the camera-Lightnings went off to the side, making their low obliques. It was magnificent; it was also death. “Bo” survived until 1410, four miles N of Antwerp, when his aircraft flamed under a hail of hits and augured in from 100 feet. On the way back, four locos were destroyed and another damaged, but it was a saddened group of pilots who sat numbly in the lounge at Wretham Hall that night, and the impact of Bo’s loss fell heavily on every man and officer on the ground side who had known him." ~ Excerpt from the June 1944 359th Fighter Group History report

Bo gave his life for us, for freedom, for the world.  Yet that costliest of lessons has faded as so many people run faster (from home to coffee shop to work to the gym or school and back), talk or text constantly, and rarely pause to appreciate life and its blessings.  I could rant forever about the evil that seems to promulgate itself in this world of ours, but instead I'll shed a few more tears for the heroes and hope that the reminder of Lt. Bolefahr's death on that day, so many years ago, makes a few of you cry, too.  After you've shed a few tears, I hope you'll get off the computer so you can hug those you love or lend a hand to someone in need.  Then, before you pick up your phone, take a moment to step outside, to look at the high, blue sky and send a word of thanks to Bo.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Tales of the 359th Fighter Group

It feels as if "The End" is finally within reach, when I print an entire manuscript draft! 

This is a draft of the new military history we're working on about the 359th Fighter Group.  It's been in progress for several years, as we've slowly gathered bar stories, reports, including a few on escape & evasion, letters, and stories from the 359th Association's two newsletters published over the decades. 

A different tone and take on the 359th than our previous two efforts.  Watch for Tales from the 359th Fighter Group, coming in the next few months!