Against what might have been our better judgement, we turned the blog over today to Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker. When we wrote the post title, “Lourey/Baker” it’s supposed to make you think of “Frost/Nixon,” a serious piece of journalistic storytelling. What it really looks like is we got stuck.
Thank you to Bethany and Stacie for hosting us! Word Nerds is our kind of people: book lovers with a sense of humor. Shannon Baker and I, Jess Lourey, are on a blog tour that we’re calling The Lourey Baker Double Booked Blog Tour (you don’t want to hear the names we rejected) in honor of our upcoming new releases, which serendipitously are both out September 6, with both available for pre-order now.
Shannon’s is Stripped Bare. It’s been called Longmire meets The Good Wife and is about a woman sheriff in the Nebraska Sandhills. Shannon also writes the Nora Abbott mysteries; if you like Tony Hillermann’s books, you’ll love these. My new release is Salem’s Cipher, a breakneck thriller about a race to save the first viable U.S. female presidential candidate from assassination. I also write the Lefty-nominated humorous Murder-by-Month Mysteries.
Today, Shannon and I are going to interview each other and close with a writing tip.
Here’s an interview question I’ve been dying to ask you on this entire blog tour, Shannon. You live in Arizona now, right? I heard that you guys don’t do daylight savings time there. My question: is it, like, four years ago there?
Shannon: Yes, Jess. Arizona is the land time forgot. The time change issue is awesome but did you know, you can take a gun into the bar here? Just sitting there on your hip as you belly up.
Shannon…Shannon. tell me your publication story with Stripped Bare. You sold that book differently than the Nora Abbott books, right?
Shannon: Terri Bischoff at Midnight Ink, bless her heart, bought the Nora Abbott books from me with no agent. She’s a super friend with lots of book successes to her credit, but sometimes she shows a lack of good sense. I’m joking, of course. The Nora books are really good, as people would know if they’d ever bother to read them. Seriously though, I went in a new direction with the Kate Fox series and pedaled out to find an agent. After less than a dozen queries, Marlene Springer nabbed it and in three months Forge bought it at auction. So yeah, a little different journey.
Jess here. Shannon, you’ve worked so hard, and I’m so happy for successes and only the tiniest bit jealous. Tiny bit, so tiny it’s really more of a freckle that I’m going to have burned off next time I visit the doctor. I’m on my fourth agent (she’s awesome!), and the first book she’s sold for me is Salem’s Cipher. Midnight Ink, who also publishes my Murder-by-Month mysteries, bought my thriller. That’s great because it means I get to work with one of my best friends again, acquisitions editor Terri Bischoff, and also that I have a little more editorial license with the book.
Shannon’s aside: Isn’t it great we both mentioned Terri Bischoff? She’s an amazing editor and great friend.
Jess: Yes! One of the best gifts of this life is that I get to call Terri a friend. Shannon, what do you think of your cover for Stripped Bare? Did you have any say in it? (And Bethany, does Stripped Bare qualify for the Word Nerds September 2016 book challenge of reading a book with a blue cover, or is that pushing it?) WN here… Sure! Why not! We love blue!
Shannon: Of course it qualifies. It’s blue. Lots of blue. Sky and all. Blue. Honestly, when I got the cover (and no, I had no say) I was taken aback. Aback, I say. I thought it looked, well, way more women’s fiction-y than I think of Kate Fox. But it’s had really great response and I do like it. When I asked about it, my editor pointed out that early readers remarked about the great characters and compelling setting, so Forge went after a cover that reflects that. The artist really caught the feel of the Sandhills. I totally love your cover, Jess. What’s the story behind that?
Jess again. For Salem’s Cipher, I got to see three mock-up covers. The publisher let me choose the one I liked the best, although it had a random pioneer woman on the cover originally. I asked if we could switch out for the photo of Emily Dickinson instead because clues Dickinson encrypted a century earlier figure in heavily in the book. It turns out only one verified photo of Dickinson exists—the one that appears on the cover, and in every poetry anthology ever—and it is in the public domain, so we were able to use it! The church in the upper background is an actual photo of the Salem, Massachusetts Witch Museum, which plays a big part in the novel. The title’s font looks like gorgeous dripping blood in real life, and there is a secret code encrypted on the cover that will lead smart readers to a prize. I am such a fan of the cover!
Shannon, let’s close with a writing tip. Do you have any recommendations for prepublished writers?
Shannon: My writing tip is to know when to quit. I don’t mean on writing in general, but on a book that you’ve become obsessed with. I worked on a manuscript for 10 years, always rewriting when I leaned something new. By the time I finally sold it to a nanopress (it should never have been published) it was a homogenized mess. I should have gone on to different projects, different stories, always learning and improving. This is not to say you shouldn’t edit the bejeezes out of your work, just figure out when enough is enough.
Jess here. I’ve got “finding an agent” advice (http://jessicalourey.com/bio#pub) on my website, but my best advice is to realize that ever writer goes through a stage where s/he is POSITIVE whatever s/he’s working on is the worst piece of crap ever put to paper. Write yourself through that. The good stuff is just on the other side. Also, we spell it bejesus in Minnesota, but we also move our clocks forward and then back.
Share a writing tip, ask us a question, or leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of Salem’s Cipher or Stripped Bare, shipped to your home.
To sweeten the pot a little:
If you order Salem’s Cipher before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a Salem short story and to be automatically entered in a drawing to win a 50-book gift basket mailed to the winner’s home!
If you order Stripped Bare before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to email@example.com to receive a Kate Fox short story and be entered for a book gift basket mailed to your home.
If you preorder both, you’re welcome to enter both contests.
The laughs just keep on coming as we put the pedal to the metal and zoom over to 7 Criminal Minds tomorrow where we gossip about writers conferences.
Jessica (Jess) Lourey 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 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 http://www.jessicalourey.com, or find Jess on Facebook or Twitter.
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 set in western landscapes of Flagstaff, AZ, Boulder, CO, and Moab, UT. Seconds before quitting writing forever and taking up competitive drinking, Shannon was nominated for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 Writer of the Year. Buoyed with that confidence, she acquired an agent who secured a multi-book contract with Tor/Forge. The first in the Kate Fox Mystery Series, Stripped Bare will release in hardcover September 2016. Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, it’s been called Longmire meets The Good Wife. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com