Tag Archives: Shannon Baker

My Musing ~ Dark Signal by Shannon Baker

Dark Signal by Shannon Baker is the second book in the “Kate Fox” mystery series. Publisher: Forge Books, coming October 17, 2017

Reeling from her recent divorce, Kate Fox has just been sworn in as Grand County, Nebraska Sheriff when tragedy strikes. A railroad accident has left engineer Chad Mills dead, his conductor Bobby Jenkins in shock. Kate soon realizes that the accident was likely murder.

Who would want to kill Chad Mills? Kate finds that he made a few enemies as president of the railroad workers union. Meanwhile his widow is behaving oddly. And why was his neighbor Josh Stevens at the Mills house on the night of the accident?

While her loud and meddling family conspires to help Kate past her divorce, State Patrol Officer Trey closes in on Josh Stevens as the suspect. Kate doesn’t believe it. She may not have the experience, but she’s lived in the Sandhills her whole life, and knows the land and the people. Something doesn’t add up—and Kate must find the real killer before he can strike again.

The next stage in Kate’s life begins when she is sworn in as sheriff, but the “good old boys” won’t let her be. Her instincts tell her one thing, but the facts point elsewhere and it’s Kate’s dogged pursuit of the truth that lends itself to this gratifying tale of suspense and mayhem.

Who wants Chad dead? Is it a co-worker? His wife? Or someone with a grudge? That’s the mystery that surrounds this well-written drama that casts aspersions on those closest to the decease. The narrative was visually descriptive making me see beyond the written word as the on-going action takes over the story from the discovering of the body, to notifying the spouse, to a secondary plot that rears its ugly head and impacts the main plot, to questioning friends and associates and to the family dynamics that plays a strong role in Kate’s daily interactions. And that fast and frenetic scene towards the end kept me immersed in all that was happening as it kept my eyes on the prize in this terrific sequel.

Who killed Chad? That’s the story that you’ll find in this wonderfully executed tale that will leave you hungry for more adventures in Grand County and with Kate Fox.

Buy Link


FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the author/publisher.

Double-Booked Blog Tour with Shannon Baker and Jess Lourey – Part II

Hi Dru Ann and all you LOVElies (see what I did there?).

Thanks for letting me (Shannon Baker) and Jess Lourey share a little taste of our characters’ days. Jess and I are globetrotting with our second Lourey/Baker Double Booked Blog Tour and we wouldn’t travel a mile without stopping at Dru Ann’s.

Jess’s newest in the laugh-out-loud Murder by the Month mystery, March of Crime, launched in September and my next Kate Fox mystery, Dark Signal, is slated for October 17th. (Pre-order!) Forge is releasing a .99 Kate Fox short story September 17th, but at the time of this writing, I don’t have a link, so I’ll put it in the comments. So here’s some Mira James (from Jess) and Kate Fox (from Shannon) playing dueling dumba**es. Who wins?

KATE FOX:
I shuffled the sheriff department budget worksheet pages for the billionth time. I’d calculated and recalculated and concluded I could afford a new computer to replace the antique on my desk that was as big as a two-ton boulder and about as efficient. Done with that chore, I checked email, picked up my pencil, dropped it on the desk and took the ponytail elastic from my hair. Put it back in my hair and grasped the pencil again.

When the phone rang, I nearly shouted for joy. Anything to break the monotony. “Sheriff.”

Marybeth, dispatcher extraordinaire, spoke in staccato. “Nine-one-one call from First National. Sounds like attempted robbery in progress.”

Holy moly. A real crime in Grand County. It took me less than five minutes to run from the courthouse to the bank.

Skeeter Duning stood on the polished pine floor, in the middle of the bank lobby. He held a gun like he might dangle a horse halter from his right hand. Faded jeans hung from skinny hips, greasy felt cowboy hat limp on his head, he looked like something from an Ace Reid comic.

Joanne, the gray-haired teller, stood behind the worn wood counter looking irritated. “He’s all yours, Kate.” Since this was a Tuesday afternoon, the branch manager would be in Broken Butte for the weekly regional meeting, leaving Joanne alone in the bank.

I kept my tone light. “Hey, Skeeter.”

His shoulders dropped even further and he didn’t raise his face to look at me.

I took slow steps his way, keeping my eyes on his gun. “Why don’t you take that pantyhose from your face and tell me what you’re up to.”

* * * * * * * * * *

MIRA JAMES:
“Convince people that Otter Tail County is safe.”

Shouldn’t have been too hard, what Ron Sims was asking. Otter Tail County was plop in the heart of gorgeous northern Minnesota. From the air, it appeared more lakes than land, a fistful of sapphires scattered across an emerald field. On the ground, at least in March, it smelled like melting snow and rich black dirt. Most residents didn’t lock their doors, and they’d be sure to stop and ask if you were okay if they happened upon you stalled on the side of the road. Five bucks at a local café bought you coffee, juice, bacon, toast, and eggs done any way. Kids sold lemonade on corners come summer, about the same time of the year as the turtle races started back up. Norman Rockwell surely had held the area gently in mind when he painted his folksy vision of America.

Convince people that Otter Tail County is safe.

Not only should Ron’s demand have been a slam dunk, as editor, owner, and publisher of the Battle Lake Recall, his request was reasonable. It’s not like he was, say, my gynecologist requesting that I spin a shiny PR web across a whole county. I’d written articles for his newspaper since I’d relocated to Battle Lake, Minnesota, one year ago this month.

But here’s the deal. I’d just found out that what I thought was a quiet restaurant patron sitting two stools down from me was actually a life-sized, realistic doll crafted by an elderly woman named Ida.

Battle Lake, right?

Still, I was considering his request when the restaurant’s door opened behind me.

Ron’s face dropped.

He was not happy to see who had just entered.

I swiveled to check it out.

And immediately regretted my decision.

* * * * * * * * * *

KATE FOX:
Skeeter’s sigh sounded like final surrender. He raised his gun hand and I closed my fingers on the handle of my Smith and Wesson.

Then I understood he wanted me to hold his revolver so he could lift his hat to peel off the pantyhose. I checked the cylinder. No bullets.

The bank’s phone rang and Joanne lifted her plucked eyebrows at me. “I’ve got to get that.”

I nodded and waited for Skeeter to mash his old hat back on his nearly bald head. I didn’t offer the gun back to him.

His chin sank to his chest. “Sorry to roust you from your business.”

I led him to the cracked leather couch under the front window and waited for him to sit. “I wasn’t busy. What’s going on?”

Sad eyes swam in his wrinkled face. “Welp, that ol’ caddy of Ava’s, you know the blue one?”

I knew. Skeeter saved for years to buy his wife that car. A ranch hand doesn’t earn much, so a Cadillac, even in the early 70’s would take a commitment.

Not sure I’d ever seen a face so sad. “Welp, the transmission went out. You know, Ava’s got the cancer, ain’t ’spose to last the year. She loves that car, calls it her baby. I just wanted to make sure she gets to ride in it until the end.”

Joanne mumbled into the phone and I hoped she wasn’t starting the rumor race about Skeeter.

* * * * * * * * * *

MIRA JAMES:
Battle Lake’s Mayor Kennie Rogers, she of the country-music name and the death-metal soul, famous far and wide for her thick make-up, outrageous clothing, questionable politics, fake southern accent, and far-fetched business ventures, was striding into the Stew. Today she appeared to be sporting an ensemble from the Ride Me Barbie collection, starting with a tiny plastic cowboy hat nestled in her crunchy platinum beehive and plastic Barbie boot earrings dangling from her lobes. The accessories would be ridiculous if they didn’t so beautifully accent her sheepskin coat and over a Western snap-front red shirt—currently more front than snap what with her ample bosoms pushing toward the light—and jeans so tight that her camel toe had spawned fingers. Bright pink stiletto cowboy boots finished off the outfit.

Whoo-boy. My roller coaster morning was taking another screeching dip.

It wasn’t her outfit, which I had to admire for its sheer commitment to a single message. Nope. It was that Kennie was one of those people who made your life harder simply by occupying the same space as you. In a special twist of fate, something about me intensified her life-hardening superpower. She sought me out like it was her job, always wanting to involve me in her money-making schemes, either as a customer or a partner.

Before you say “that doesn’t sound so bad,” here’s a sampling of the businesses: a reused marital aid company called “Come Again”; coffin tables (place your coffee cups on it now and your body in it later!); a home bikini waxing service; and her most recent, sales of a raspberry-flavored hair tonic that rumor had it was actually a veterinary-class sedative that caused baldness. I didn’t want to stick around to find out what was up next.

* * * * * * * * * *

KATE FOX:
I wanted to pat Skeeter’s hand or give him a hug, but I’m sheriff and that didn’t seem appropriate. “You know you can’t rob the bank to pay for your car repair.”

He slumped against the couch. “I couldn’t see no other way.” Ranch jobs didn’t offer 401k’s or pension packages. Skeeter and Ava would be getting by on social security. Proud as the old cowboy was, he wouldn’t allow anyone to have a benefit pancake feed or even a collection can set out at the Conoco.

Joanne hung up and watched us from behind her counter. I couldn’t read her expression.

I thought of my budget, the new computer I wouldn’t be getting next year. “It happens I’ve got some odd jobs that need taken care of around the courthouse. If you’d be willing to help me out for a week or so, I’d be grateful.”

Skeeter didn’t move for a few seconds, then he sat up straighter. “I guess I could see my way free to do that.”

I reached out to shake his hand.

His grip was firm and when he let go he smiled, showing the gap where the mama cow had kicked out a tooth. “Can I have my gun back?”

I stood and we walked out together. “I’ll hang on to it for a while.”

I love Grand County and I’m settling into my new job, but I’d bet a rhubarb pie (I hate rhubarb) that no other county has weirder crimes.

* * * * * * * * * *

MIRA JAMES:
I waved at Ron, who was still regarding Kennie like a child watches an incoming spoonful of cough syrup, pitching my voice low so as not to draw Kennie’s attention. “Thanks for the coffee, Ron, but I need to head out.”

Kennie hadn’t noticed us in the rear of the restaurant yet. She was working the crowd near the front door. I’d never been more grateful for the Turtle Stew’s side entrance. I could sneak out unseen! I turned toward the rear exit, a satisfied smile pinching my cheeks. Dang if I wasn’t going to salvage this morning.

“Mira James!”

Kennie’s southern-tinged yell drew the attention of the handful of patrons who hadn’t yet noticed her Western-themed resplendency. I shrank into myself, tossing all my eggs into the “she can’t see me if I don’t look at her” basket.

“Stay where you are, honey!” she continued. “I have a proposition for you.”

My stomach dropped below Battle Lake’s water table. I spun on my heels, committed to sprinting if need be. Unfortunately, I turned so fast that I collided with the nightmarish doll. Ida’s freakshow toppled toward the floor.

“I’m so sorry!” I hollered at the world, watching the crapfest play out in slow motion. My physical reflexes kicked in almost as soon as my apologetic ones, and I dove toward the doll, trying to catch it before it fell. I slipped a hand under it a nanosecond before it hit the floor. My plan was to keep it from smacking in case there were any breakable parts. Instead, surprised by the weight and density of the doll, I found myself falling along with the human puppet.

Something primal recoiled as I plummeted with the doll, a sickly-sweet smell causing my flight response to kick in, though I was off balance and powerless to flee. The doll hit first, with the weight and slap of a side of frozen beef. I tumbled on top immediately after, knocking her akimbo in my effort to not land directly on her.

The doll’s hat and wig went flying, and the coffee cup she’d been holding crashed to the floor. After a collective gasp, the restaurant went deathly silent, everyone watching me scramble to balance myself and fix this mess.

Something was shrieking at me to run, something dark and terrible and slimy, but the terror was so great, so enormous, that it couldn’t get ahead of my mouth, which was still trying to negotiate the social faux pas of tumbling the life-sized doll. “Don’t worry! I’ll put her back just like I found her!”

I gathered the wig and hat, planning to slam them back onto the doll and hoist her back onto the stool before the other patrons had a chance to process what was happening. That’s when the terror caught up to me, silencing me, crashing me finally, fully into the moment.

My slack-jawed horror was reflected in the faces of every person in that restaurant.

They were staring at the doll, their mouths agape.

I followed their horrified gazes.

The only sound I could make was a greenish oof as my heart plummeted.

What had been sitting on that stool all morning wasn’t a doll at all.

When she’d tumbled to the ground, her China doll mask had slipped enough to reveal gray human flesh underneath the macabre porcelain.

I saw a hand reach forward to remove the mask. When the cold porcelain shocked my system, I became aware that the hand was mine, and it was working without my permission. A gentle tug, and the mask was free.

Underneath was a human corpse, female, her icy cold death stare pointed at the drop ceiling, her mouth in a tight angry rictus as if she’d died yodeling.

The mask dropped from my numb hands, crashing to the ground and shattering into white and red shards.

That’s when the screaming started.


We are each giving away three books on the Lourey/Baker Double-Booked Tour. For every comment you make along our tour stop, you’ll get another entry in the contest. Don’t be shy; we love talking to you.

September 2 – Mysterious Musings
September 5 – Janice Hardy
September 7 – The Creative Penn
September 9 – Write to Done
September 12 – Wicked Cozy Writers
September 20 – Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog
September 21 – There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room
September 23 – Femmes Fatales
September 24 – Writer Unboxed
September 25 – Dru’s Book Musings
September 27 – Do Some Damage
October 3 – Terry Ambrose
October 12 – Jungle Red Writers

About the authors
Shannon Baker is the author of the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon makes her home in Tucson where she enjoys cocktails by the pool, breathtaking sunsets, a crazy Weimeraner, and killing people (in the pages of her books). She was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 and 2017 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com.

Jess Lourey (rhymes with “dowry”) is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing “a splendid mix of humor and suspense.” She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft’s Excellence in Teaching fellowship, a regular Psychology Today blogger, and a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 2016 “Rewrite Your Life” TEDx Talk. March of Crime, the 11th book in her humorous mystery series, releases September 2017. You can find out more at www.jessicalourey.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Cover Reveal ~ Dark Signal by Shannon Baker

I’m excited to reveal the cover for the second book in the “Kate Fox” mystery series, coming October 17, 2017.

dark-signal

Title: DARK SIGNAL
Series: Kate Fox
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Forge Books
Website: Shannon Baker

Dark Signal by Shannon Baker is the second installment in the Kate Fox mystery series, called “A must read” by New York Times bestselling author Alex Kava, starring a female Longmire in the atmospheric Nebraska Sandhills.

Reeling from her recent divorce, Kate Fox has just been sworn in as Grand County Nebraska Sheriff when tragedy strikes. A railroad accident has left engineer Chad Mills dead, and his conductor, Bobby Jenkins in shock. Kate soon realizes that the accident was likely murder.

Who would want to kill Chad Mills? Kate finds that he made a few enemies as president of the railroad workers union. Meanwhile his widow is behaving oddly. And why was his neighbor, Josh Stevens, at the Mills house on the night of the accident?

While her loud and meddling family conspires to help Kate past her divorce, State Patrol Officer Ridnour closes in on Josh Stevens as the suspect. Kate doesn’t believe it. She may not have the experience, but she’s lived in the Sandhills her whole life, and knows the land and the people. Something doesn’t add up―and Kate must find the real killer before he can strike again.


About the author
Shannon Baker is the author of Stripped Bare, the first in the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 Writer of the Year.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Stripped Bare. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends January 31, 2017. Good luck everyone!

Dark Signal is available for pre-order at retail and online booksellers.

Double-Booked Blog Tour with Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker – Part I

stripped bareThis is IT!

The culmination of Shannon Baker and my 30-ish-day, 24-ish stop Double Booked blog tour. Woof. We are so tired that we have hired monkeys to type for us. Fortunately, they are smart monkeys and there is little typing involved here because all we need to do is sit back and watch as Kate Fox, star of Shannon Baker’s Stripped Bare (releases today!) and Salem Wiley, protagonist of Jess Lourey’s Salem’s Cipher (also releases today! Smell that hot ink), serendipitously meet across books, on an airplane headed to Virginia.

Salem's Cipher“I have to use the bathroom.”

The woman from Nebraska stood to let Salem pass. The red-eye flight Lu had booked for her was surprisingly full. The bathroom line was three deep. Salem was okay with that. It gave her time to uncramp her legs. She thought about all she had to do—land, rent a car, buy gear, follow the coordinates, crack Beale’s vault, fly back to San Francisco to hand over to Agent Stone what they’d found—and how little time she had to accomplish everything.

I settled back on the rough fabric and stared across the empty seat to clouds outside the window. Flying to Richmond was a fool’s errand if ever there was. I figured Carly would be long gone before I got there. Still I had to try.

I unclenched my fists and tried to relax. I wasn’t the only one with problems. The woman next to me seemed to be wrestling with her own. She’d given me a strained smile when I sat, even ventured a little conversation, but it felt like maybe she pushed herself into it, like she ought to. She told me her name and I was about to give her mine but the flight attendant piped up with his safety spiel before I got it out.

Funny name. Salem. She probably had a story, guess we all do. She didn’t seem interested in sharing and I didn’t feel inclined to get into my pile of woes with a stranger I’d never see again.

The man in front of Salem turned, smiled. He wore sunglasses. She didn’t smile back. Something about him made her uncomfortable. Was it his smell? But if he had an odor, it was too mild to pick out on the plane. His face appeared pleasant enough around the metal rims of the sunglasses. She didn’t recognize him. She looked away, but he didn’t.

“Been to Virginia before?” His voice rumbled just above a whisper. A couple sleeping in the seats next to him shifted, the woman pulling the thin airplane blanket closer to her.

Is he really picking me up on an airplane? Salem shook her head and looked away. She hoped he’d get the hint. Did it bother her that he was wearing sunglasses at night, in the air?

He nodded and turned back toward the bathroom door accordioning open. A woman squeezed out and another sardined in. The line was now down to two, plus Salem. The man in sunglasses returned his attention to her.

“Where in Richmond are you going?”

A whispering voice chilled me, even though I shouldn’t have heard it above the swirl of conversation and roar of the engine. I twisted to see Salem giving the stink-eye to a guy who looked as wrong as a badger in the chicken shed.

Salem felt trapped. She wanted to be polite, but his attention was making her uncomfortable. Her body language should have made that clear, but she gave it one more shot, shrugging by way of an answer.

The guy was a certifiable creep and Salem seemed shaky, but I hated to jump into the fray, like some Lone Ranger. Salem had given a clear signal for him to back off, so she’d be fine.

That must have registered loud and clear, finally, because he turned away from her. Thirty seconds later, though, he turned back, his lower lip trembling. “I’m just trying to make conversation, you know? I don’t know if you think you’re too good to talk to me, or what, but I think I deserve some decent human interaction here.”

First the sunglasses and the voice like a rattlesnake, now upping the sleaze factor. My gut tensed but, I held back. I didn’t even know Salem. She might be black belt for all I know. And I’m not in the saving game. Except for Carly. And any of my other brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, or just about anybody in the whole damned Sandhills. My list was long enough.

Every one of Salem’s fears came crowding back in. She felt terrible for making him feel bad. She opened her mouth to speak, but found the woman from Nebraska, a stranger she’d made only cursory conversation with, at her side.

With the list so long, what was one more. “All right, cowboy, why don’t you use the bathroom at the front of the plane?”

“It’s okay.”

Not okay, none of it. A five-hour drive to Denver to catch a flight in a desperate race to find Carly when I knew she was long gone. And then compensating by trying to rescue Salem. But it wouldn’t make me feel any better. I stared at Salem, asking her silently if she needed me.

“Really, it’s fine.” She appreciated the woman’s reaction, but she didn’t want a scene. She certainly didn’t want to make this man mad. They were going to be stuck on this plane together. “You can sit down. I’m okay. He’s going to leave me alone, and everything will be all right.”

The woman glanced at her, tossed an angry glare at the man, then nodded and shuffled back to her seat.

I slumped into my seat, my face burning. I had all the self-control of a six month old black lab. Too bad there were millions of ways to make a fool out of myself because I seemed determined to try them all.

Salem stopped herself short of apologizing to the man in sunglasses, just, and shoved her hands in her pockets. She wished she had a phone to look at.

The bathroom door opened again and places were traded. The man in sunglasses was next in line. Salem was glad she wouldn’t have to stand next to him much longer.

“You never said where in Richmond you were going,” he said, without turning.

Her breath caught. Really? She opened her mouth to say something to him directly then snapped it shut. The plane ride was almost over. She could keep her peace until they landed. Besides, the man wasn’t even looking at her.

That voice! He was at her again, like a dog after a bone. I tried not to listen.

Then he did. He turned. She saw her own face reflected in his lenses, upside down and tiny. “Northern Richmond is pretty this time of year. Are you visiting friends?”

She didn’t know what exactly it was about the interaction that dug up, dusted off, and pushed her fuck it button after all these years, and especially after the last five days. Maybe it was his simpering aggressiveness, his shaming of her for not doing his bidding, the way he’d ignored all of her nonverbals. Maybe it was that she realized she’d gone without Ativan for four days, and that she was surviving. Better than surviving. Probably accumulated stress had something to do with it, too, but suddenly, she found herself caring much more about her own comfort than his. “You’re being a dick.”

Something inside me busted, like a cinch that had been on too tight, and I took a breath like I hadn’t since I’d raced to Denver. Salem was taking control. She didn’t need me to protect her. Carly and Salem, two women who could take care of themselves. Without my help. Salem had asked me to back off, Carly had done the same. Mom would spout something about the universe giving me messages. Maybe I’d tell her about this bit of serendipity after I caught the first flight west.

He jerked as if she’d hit him. “What?”

“I clearly don’t want to talk to you, and you won’t let it go, so fuck you. Fuck you for thinking I have to speak with you because we’re both standing in line and fuck you for your creepy sunglasses on a plane. I will stand in this line until it’s my turn, I will not talk to you, and you will respect that.”

“Let ‘er buck,” I muttered just loud enough to be heard.

Salem realized her chest was moving up and down rapidly, her heart racing. She’d heard the Nebraska woman’s words, knew she wasn’t alone. She waited for the man to react. He opened and closed his mouth. Time unspooled at a snail’s pace. He finally responded, sort of. He pushed past her and returned to his seat four rows ahead of hers. She waited until the bathroom door opened, went in, and slid the lock closed.

She leaned against the bathroom door, laughing quietly.

There may have been tears mixed in.

I gave Salem a grin when she sat back down. We might only have an hour left of the flight, but I thought it might be enough time to share a story or two. “Kate Fox, Grand County Sheriff. I’m glad to meet you.”

Salem took it. “It’s been a heckuva week for me. You?”


Uff da, now I not only want to read Shannon’s new book, I want to write a book with her! Dang that woman can spin a story.

Thank you so much to Dru Ann for hosting us, for those of you who have followed us across this massive, cross-country blog tour, and for any of you who have stumbled in today. We are so happy to share the news of our simultaneous book release today here, on the blog of one of our dear friends and one of the mystery community’s biggest supporters.

In celebration and out of thanks to you all, I am giving away a copy of Salem’s Cipher and Shannon is giving away Stripped Bare. Tell us which two mystery protagonists you’d most like to have a chance meeting, or leave a comment for a chance to win. Shannon and I are also going to bring in award-winning and bestselling authors to join in on the conversation below, so keep checking back to see what’s up!

About the authors
Jessica (Jess) Lourey is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have JessLoureyearned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing “a splendid mix of humor and suspense.” She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft’s 2014 Excellence in Teaching fellowship, and leads interactive writing workshops all over the world. Salem’s Cipher, the first in her thrilling Witch Hunt Series, hits stores September 2016. You can find out more at www.jessicalourey.com, or check her out on Facebook or Twitter.

Shannon Baker writes the Kate Fox mystery series. Stripped Bare, the first in the series, features a ShannonBakersheriff in rural Nebraska and has been called Longmire meets The Good Wife. Baker also writes the Nora Abbott Mystery Series, a fast-paced mix of murder, environmental issues and Hopi Indians published by Midnight Ink. Baker was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2104 Writer of the Year. She writes from the Colorado Rockies to the Nebraska Sandhills, the peaks of Flagstaff and the deserts of Tucson. Visit her at www.Shannon-Baker.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: The giveaway will end September 8, 2016 at 12 AM EST and US entries only, please. Good luck everyone!

My Musing ~ Stripped Bare by Shannon Baker

Stripped Bare by Shannon Baker is the first book in the NEW “Kate Fox” mystery series. Publisher: Forge, September 2016

stripped bareKate Fox is living the dream. She’s married to Grand County Sheriff Ted Conner, the heir to her beloved Nebraska Sandhills cattle ranch, where they live with Kate’s orphaned teenage niece, Carly. With the support of the well-connected Fox Clan, which includes Kate’s eight boisterous and interfering siblings, Ted’s reelection as Grand County Sheriff is virtually assured. That leaves Kate to the solitude and satisfaction of Frog Creek, her own slice of heaven.

One night Kate answers a shattering phone call from Roxy at the Bar J. Carly’s granddad Eldon, owner of the ranch, is dead and Ted has been shot and may never walk again. Kate vows to find the killer. She soon discovers Ted responded so quickly to the scene because he was already at the Bar J . . . in Roxy’s bed. And to add to her woes, Carly has gone missing.

Kate finds out that Eldon was considering selling his ranch to an obscenely rich environmentalist. Some in town hate the idea of an outsider buying up land, others are desperate to sell . . . and some might kill to get their way. As she becomes the victim of several “accidents,” Kate knows she must find the killer before it’s too late. . .

Shannon Baker does this to me every time I read one of her stories – and this one does not disappoint as it immediately grabbed my attention and nothing existed at that moment except what was happening in the Nebraska Sandhills. We meet Kate Fox who heads to the hospital when she learns her husband has been shot. Unbeknownst to her, she learns a secret that the whole town has known and it rocks her to the core. Connecting the dots between the shooting and the disappearance of her niece starts a journey that Kate must follow and what a wonderful ride this becomes.

A fast-paced and well-written drama that sets the tone in how this tale is told with the picturesque beauty of the land that takes center-stage in all that has transpired in this page-turning treatise. This mystery was fraught with danger here and there, especially not knowing who it was coming from, which increased the suspense factor up a notch and had me rooting for Kate. The author did a great job in dispensing clues throughout this book and when I first thought I had it figured out, the author changed directions with some surprising elements for the betterment in this intriguing tale. And that ending, pure heaven. Boasting an eclectic cast of characters led by strong-willed Kate, an engaging mystery and clever dialogue, this was an excellent read and I can’t wait to see where we go next with Kate and her friends in this exciting new debut series.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) book from author.

The Adventure Awaits With Nora Abbott by Shannon Baker

Tattered LegacyThe dry bag sits on the kitchen counter and I’m arranging ham slices on the sandwiches. Anticipation bubbles through me. I haven’t been on a river trip in ages and I’m popping with excitement.

It’s only a one day trip down the Cache La Poudre here in Colorado, but it’s a stolen day, precious in its unexpected rarity. I probably shouldn’t go. There’s so much to do at Loving Earth Trust and I can’t afford to drop any of the chainsaws I’ve been juggling since I took over the executive director position last fall.

Top on the priority list is the film project in Moab, UT. When Lisa, my closest friend since our undergrad days at CU in Boulder, came to me with the idea to create a feature film aimed at convincing Congress to expand the boundaries of Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah, I hesitated.

Loving Earth Trust works hard to save and restore wilderness but a film seemed out of our expertise. Still, Canyonlands is threatened by mining interests, overly-enthusiastic recreationists, and even the local ranchers who could potentially over-graze delicate land. And as the new executive director, a project of this scope, if successful, would look good on my budding career.

So I found the funds and my passionate, impulsive, whirly-gig of a best friend tore into the film making business. Lisa wants me to have the full impact of the film so she hasn’t shown me much of it. That makes me nervous. She’s way over-budget and the deadline is looming, and the last Skype conversation I had with her, she seemed overly edgy.

I nestle two apples into the dry bag and struggle with second thoughts. I shouldn’t go on the river today. “What if Lisa needs something?” I’m addressing Abby, my aging retriever. He opens his eyes from his nap under the bushy corn plants I have in pots all over my apartment, but he doesn’t answer. He’s good at keeping his own council. “At this point, a day’s delay could make or break us.”

I debate cancelling the river trip and my eyes wander over the corn plants. My Hopi cousin instructed me to plant them to help heal the world. It may sound crazy, but I decided it couldn’t hurt. Besides, Abby and I like growing things inside with us. This whole Hopi connection is weird but I’m going with it. Learning the customs and history of Hopi has been interesting. But I feel a kind of niggling worry when I stop to consider the corn.

I haven’t seen the kachina since the terrible time on the mountain last fall. I should be glad. No one needs a mythical spirit popping in on them, and I was never happy when he showed up. This sad feeling of abandonment is silly. For the first time in a long time my life is right on track. I have a great job doing work that makes a difference. And there’s Cole.

He came into my life at the worst possible time. He stood by me while I grieved my dead, cheating husband, protected me even when I pushed him away. He’s shown me the steady, unconditional love I never knew existed.

This day is important to Cole. I’ve been so busy lately and he’s been patient. Even if I have thirty reasons I shouldn’t take a day off from Loving Earth Trust, I owe Cole one day of fun, at least.

I glance over my shoulder to make sure Cole is busy packing the splash jackets before I tuck my phone into the dry bag. It’s my workaholic tendency but there’s no harm, really. We probably won’t have a signal on the river. Everyone at the Trust can manage without me one day. Even Lisa is capable enough to solve today’s problems. Right?

Besides, what could possibly go wrong?


You can read more about Nora’s latest adventures in Tattered Legacy, the third book in the “Nora Abbott” mystery series, published by Midnight Ink.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 p.m. eastern on March 16 for the chance to win a copy of Tattered Legacy. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your SPAM folder.

About the author
Shannon Baker is the author of the Nora Abbott mystery series from Midnight Ink. A fast-paced mix of Hopi Indian mysticism, environmental issues, and murder. Shannon is an itinerant writer, which is a nice way of saying she’s confused. She never knows what time zone she’s in, Timbuck-Three, Nebraska, or Denver, or Tucson. Nora Abbott has picked up that location schizophrenia and travels from Flagstaff in Tainted Mountain, to Boulder in Broken Trust and then to Moab in Tattered Legacy. Shannon is proud to have been chosen Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2014 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com.

While Tattered Legacy is available from your favorite online or bookstore, if you’d like to support indie bookstores, you’re welcome to contact Who Else Books at www.BroadwayBookMall.com. Ron and Nina are the best! And they might have a signed copy to send.

My Musing ~ Tattered Legacy by Shannon Baker

Tattered LegacyTattered Legacy by Shannon Baker is the third book in the “Nora Abbott” mystery series. Publisher: Midnight Ink, March 2015

Nora Abbott risks her career at Loving Earth Trust on a film project to convince Congress to expand the Canyonlands National Park. But someone is desperate to keep the secrets of the land hidden. When her best friend and director of the film is found dead, Nora is convinced it wasn’t an accident. Nora’s Hopi kachina messenger has vanished and now it looks as though Cole Huntsman, the man she’s finally allowed herself to love, has left her, too.

As Nora uncovers an unlikely intersection of ancient Hopi legends, a secret polygamist sect, and one of the world’s richest men, she is drawn deeper into danger. Her mother’s surprising past holds the key to the clash of cultures, but will Nora put all the pieces together in time to prevent disaster? Set in the iconic red rocks of Moab, Utah, Nora races to discover what really lies beyond the stars.

What a great read in this fast-paced riveting drama that had me glued to the pages in a book that was hard to put down, quickly becoming a page turner. The action was non-stop as Nora set about finding proof that her friend was murdered, which of course puts Nora in the crosshairs of a devious killer who will stop at nothing to get want they want. The author did a great job in keeping me on pins and needles as each scene took me closer to a frenetic ending that had my adrenaline rising to the top as it all came down to, who had the stronger will to live. I also enjoyed watching Nora’s relationship with her mother and boyfriend blossom. With a great cast of characters, engaging dialogue and nature’s backdrop, this is the best book in this smashingly terrific series.

Broken Trust by Shannon Baker

Broken TrustBroken Trust by Shannon Baker is the second book in the “Nora Abbott” mystery series. Publisher: Midnight Ink, March 2014

With one of the world’s greatest natural resources at stake, Nora Abbott battles a legacy of corruption and deceit

When a chance meeting on a hiking trail leads to a position at a nonprofit in Boulder, Colorado, Nora feels lucky to have a job . . . even after she finds out that the previous financial director has gone missing.

With her suspicions of foul play confirmed by her Kachina guardian, Nora doesn’t know who to trust in an organization that’s rife with deceit and corruption. As she’s pulled deeper into a treacherous conspiracy, an unannounced visit from her mother and a reunion with Cole Huntsman have Nora playing tug of war with her own feelings. Fearful for her own life and the safety of those she loves the most, Nora wonders if her new beginning in Boulder will turn out to be a deadly mistake.

This good book was hard to put down in a classy drama that quickly became a page-turner. The writing style was very comfortable and I especially like the short chapters. The author did a great job in keeping me engaged in the story with some twists and turns that came together when it was time to reveal the killer. Boasting a likeable cast of characters that includes Nora and her mother; and lively conversations, this was an enjoyable read and I look forward to seeing what Nora does next in this terrific series.

A Conversation with Abigail Podanski by Shannon Baker

Broken TrustHow lovely of you to drop by. I get so few opportunities to entertain these days. I do miss luncheons and cocktail parties. But Flagstaff has its own charm, I suppose. Please sit down and I’ll make us some tea. Or would you prefer a glass of Chardonnay?

I have to apologize. It isn’t the same quality I used to serve. I’m sure you understand. I’ve had to tighten my belt since I lost my fortune in that tragic Ponzi scheme a few years ago. But that’s water under the bridge. Spilled, sour milk.

Don’t get me wrong. As much as I miss the finer things I’d grown accustomed to while I was married to my third and late husband, I am wildly happy with my fourth—and final—love, Charlie Podanski.

I gladly relinquished all my luxuries to move into Charlie’s cabin on a mountain outside of Flagstaff. It hasn’t always been easy, but love conquers all. Love is the egg in the cake of life that binds everything together. (Oh, that’s good. I’m taking an online poetry class. You’d be surprised at the way poetry springs to your mind when you’re trained.)

My daughter, Nora, doesn’t understand the necessity of love in her life. She’s got this wonderful man, Cole, who is completely smitten with her. And what does she do? She won’t have any contact with him, whatsoever. I don’t intend to let her get away with that nonsense.

I understood she needed some time after her husband died. I probably shouldn’t say, but he was a scoundrel and she’d have had to leave him soon, anyway. He’s been gone over a year now and it’s time for her to join the living.

But she’s all wrapped up in saving the environment. I know she wants to make amends to Mother Earth, or whatever she calls it, for trying to make snow on the sacred peaks here in Flagstaff. Which is just so ridiculous. She’s got an amazing brain and organizational skills oozing from her pores. She should be in high finance. She could easily be pulling down six figures.

But no. She took a job with an environmental trust in Boulder, Colorado. She starts work tomorrow. Can you believe it? She’s throwing her life away. Tossing her chance at success and happiness into the dark cloud of failure. (Pardon me while I jot that down.)

But that’s just Nora. She is expert at finding the cloud in the silver lining.

An environmental trust, for heaven’s sake. Those non-profits are known for their corruption. The people at the top take the donations of hardworking, misguided people and funnel it into their own pockets, while paying their staff pennies. Those well-meaning staff members are willing to live in poverty because they truly believe in the cause. I know how these things work. I’ve served on several charitable boards of directors and have ferreted out cheaters. But Nora wants so desperately to improve the planet, she’s unlikely to be discerning of the management and board.

Are you sure you don’t want another glass of wine? Though I can’t blame you. It’s hard to get a good bottle in this provincial town. And especially on my budget. I am so pleased you came to my humble cabin for a visit. No one has been here since I had the floors redone and the windows replaced. I planned a nice cocktail party for the neighbors when the fireplace rebricking was completed in July, so I went ahead replaced all the appliances then. The old place needs so much TLC and, frankly, I’m the woman to do it.

Please do stop in again. Our conversation has made me realize just how neglectful I’ve been of Nora these last months. It is glaringly obvious I need to take drastic measures to bring her back to the world of the living. Immediately, if not sooner.


You can read more about Abigail in Broken Trust, the second book in the “Nora Abbott” mystery series, published by Midnight Ink. The first book in the series is Tainted Mountain. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Blurb for Broken Trust:
Nora moves to Boulder and lands a job as at an environmental non-profit. But the trust is rife with deceit and corruption. Nearly half a million dollars is missing and one person has already been killed for knowing too much. Complicating matters are Nora’s uninvited visitors: her mother, Cole Huntsman, and a Hopi kachina that technically doesn’t exist. As the body count climbs, Nora races to stop a deadly plot to decimate one of the planet’s greatest natural resources.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by 6pm EST on March 23, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of Broken Trust. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
Shannon Baker writes the Nora Abbott Mystery Series, a fast-paced mix of murder, environmental issues and Hopi Indians published by Midnight Ink. Broken Trust, published in March 2014, takes place in Boulder, CO. Tainted Mountain, the first in the series is set in Flagstaff, AZ and is a New Mexico / Arizona Book Awards finalist. She serves on the board of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and is a member of SinC and MWA. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com


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