Monday, October 16, 2017

Indie Ink Runs Deep: Shannon Baker

Every now and then I manage to talk a small press author into showing us a little skin... tattooed skin, that is. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. Whether it's the influence for their book, influenced by their book, or completely unrelated to the book, we get to hear the story behind their indie ink....


Today's ink story comes from Shannon Baker, author of Dark Signal, which releases tomorrow. 

I’m the last person in the world you’d expect to get a tattoo. I could be a grandmother, for God’s sake, if I hadn’t scarred both of my daughters so much they’ve sworn never to have kids. I never wanted a tattoo. What if I get invited to the White House for dinner and it wouldn’t match my evening gown? And talk about commitment, I get nervous making holiday plans in case something better comes along.

Besides, I grew up in rural Nebraska. Enough said.

My youngest daughter begged to have the Red Hot Chili Peppers logo tattooed on her arm when she was 15.  I gave her all those motherly words of wisdom, “Why would you want to ruin your body with ink? You’re perfect just the way you are. You can do whatever you want when you turn 18.”
My writer friends started gathering tattoos, some of them inviting me to join with a matching design. That’s nice, I thought, but not for me. That ship sailed and I don’t need a tattoo at this late stage.

And then….

It started like an itchy mosquito bite. Then grew to an all-out rash. I found myself Googling tattoo designs. Sheepishly, I brought it up to my husband. “What would you think if I got a tattoo?”

He didn’t raise an eyebrow. “Why wouldn’t you?”

We sketched it out. I wanted something that symbolized my mystery writing career. I visited various artists, and debated whether I should smoke something medicinal for the pain I knew it would cause, or maybe secretly knock back some tequila before I went under the knife needle. Finally, one bright summer morning, I got my tattoo, totally without pain meds. Honestly, I’ve had kitchen accidents hurt worse.  

I know, you’re all rolling your eyes and muttering, “What’s the big deal?”

Beats me. So much angst went into it and it ended up being pretty anticlimactic. I gotta tell you, I love my tattoo.

One of the things I love best about it is the reaction I got from my daughter. After the stunned silence, she said, “Now I’m the only one I know without a tattoo.” See, I really did scar her for life. 


Shannon Baker is the author of the Kate Fox mystery series, set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills. She was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2017 Writer of the Year and Stripped Bare earned the author a starred review in Library Journal (as their Pick of the Month) and a nomination for the 2016 Reading The West Award from Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers. She also writes the Nora Abbott Mysteries (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues inspired by her time working at the Grand Canyon Trust. Shannon makes her home in Tucson where she enjoys cocktails by the pool, breathtaking sunsets, a crazy Weimaraner, and killing people (in the pages of her books).

The mystery author will be traveling across America for special events and conferences. See her full schedule:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Review: Absolutely Golden

Read 10/1/17 - 10/10/17
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
Pages: 197
Publisher: Stalking Horse Press
Released: September 2017

Absolutely Golden strikes me as more style than story, in that D. Foy has penned a protagonist with a sanguine temperment swimming in ridiculously lovely prose. His sentences are either abruptly short or languorously lengthy, drizzled with commas and packed with so much emotion they shine like the sun, so bright we must shield our eyes lest they themselves get burned. You can feast on his writing:

"We suffer, we people, we do. We carry secrets we know nothing of, and harbor them even, and sometimes even nurture for life. And we keep this torment because we deserve it, or believe we do, because, really, nearly always, we feel guilty."

"The sun was rising, thought still the mountains hid it.  My room lay covered with that hazy pall of brass-colored light that with each day's coming makes the world seem everything's good, and yet I hadn't slept but for the haphazard snatch. And when actually I did catch a wink, it was to be assaulted by disfigured cherubs, their hair aflame, and defecating gressils, and jackals and crones, and enless piles of hacked-off limbs. Tranquility, in short, had been a distant song."

"It was so quiet, in fact, you could hear the friction of smoke on the gathering dark, of its rising from the pits, slither, slither, thither and thence, the steady trudging as well of anys in their line in the soil between a crack in the stones on the path, the motes of earth beneath their constant legs, the sound even, above, of the night itself, settling down like the breath of a woman on her sweetheart's eyes."

Keep in mind this takes place in the 70's at a nudist colony, where our narrator - a thirty something widow named Rachel - has reluctantly agreed to follow her hippy deadbeat boyfriend and his 'cousin' Jenny, chasing a much needed break in her rather stuffy, boring life. 

There is much drugging and drinking and swinging (both of the dancing penises and switching of partners kind). The characters are eccentric, almost overwhleming so, and are prone to fits of fabulous story telling, regaling their audience with tales that often send the reader on multi-page-long diversions that eventually, and perfectly, weave themselves right back into the here and now (or then and there?). 

I've read early reviews that refer to this book as comedic, the reviewers admitting to moments of actually laughing out loud. The back cover even refers to it as comic. Perhaps the author's sense of humor was lost on me? Perhaps I was just more strongly drawn towards D. Foy's hypnotic prose and the sheer awkwardness of our middle-aged sun-burned goddess, trying to make her square self fit into the star-shaped hole of Camp Freedom Lake? 

Whatever its intent, I found Absolutely Golden to be a bright and fascinating trip back to a simpler, if not necessarily sanier, time.