Monday, March 10, 2014

Tesla, Kachinas and Jessie Ventura ... by Shannon Baker

I’m all a-flutter to announce the release of Broken Trust, the second in the Nora Abbott Mystery series. Nora moves to Boulder and lands a job as an accountant 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.

I started writing Tainted Mountain, the first book in this series, because of the controversy surrounding manmade snow on a mountain in Flagstaff, AZ. This peak is sacred to twelve tribes. But the ski resort is one of the oldest in the country and vital to the economy of Flagstaff. This is a situation rife with conflict. Off I went to write a stand-alone thriller about a ski resort owner. But in my research about the tribes involved, I stumbled across the Hopi.

Suddenly, my book took off in a whole new direction that lent itself to a mystery series. My Hopi research turned up so many intriguing aspects of their history, culture, and beliefs I couldn’t address even a fraction in one book. So I was excited when Midnight Ink offered me a three-book deal. Tainted Mountain delves into the Hopi prophesies, explains a little bit about their ceremonies. It introduces kachinas and their role in Hopi lives.

For Broken Trust, I wanted to focus in on a different aspect of Hopi’s connection with the world. Hopi are concerned about end times. According to Hopi beliefs, we now live in the fourth world and we’ve just about messed it up so badly we’re approaching the end of this world and emergence to the fifth world. Sad news for most of us, because not very many will survive to start the fifth world.

Hopi were given responsibility to keep the world in balance. Since Hopi believe they hold the key to the Earth’s balance, they are concerned over climate change and extreme weather, and think these occurrences are due to their failure to keep all of the ceremonies. So many youth are draining from the three mesas, the home of the Hopi, they aren’t able to keep all of the clans vibrant. Every clan has specific duties to perform, so when one dwindles another clan must step in to perform duties not historically their own. This situation is outlined in the prophesies as one of the conditions leading to the end of the fourth world.

Hand in hand with climate change is a shift in the Earth’s poles. The Hopi also have prophesied that "Turtle Island could turn over two or three times and the oceans could join hands and meet the sky." This seems to be a prophecy of a pole shift--a flipping of the planet on its axis. The Hopi call this imminent condition "Koyaanisqatsi," which means world out of balance, a state of life that calls for another way.

Hadn’t I heard of the Earth shifting on its axis? A little dive into that led me to Tesla, which led to incredible tales of limitless, cheap energy. Following that track on the crazy train took me to HAARP (the old Star Wars technology of the Cold War) and conspiracy theories about using weather as a weapon of mass destruction and mind control. Which naturally took me to Jessie Ventura, as it would.

Nora is an environmentalist. Climate change, sustainable energy, and protecting the world’s pristine landscapes are what revs her engine. After her traumatic adventure in Flagstaff with the sacred mountain and kachinas, she’s retreated to her place of comfort, Boulder, Colorado and the Rocky Mountains.

I took Nora, Hopi, Tesla, HAARP, climate change and even Jesse Ventura and threw them all into the dysfunctional washing machine that is my brain, and it eventually spit out Broken Trust.

Publisher’s Weekly said, “Baker deftly escalates the stakes of her initially straightforward story which takes a much more serious turn before arriving at its unexpected conclusion.”

One article about Hopi started me on the Nora Abbott series. As a writer or reader, what seemingly random information inspired you to research or write?


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, due 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 Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Visit Shannon at her website.


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Shannon.

Shannon - Thanks for sharing the story of how your series came to be, and congratulations on your release. It is interesting isn't it how one article, or a conversation, or even a news story can fire up the imagination. You're wise to pay attention to that sort of inspiration. I wish you much success.

Shannon Baker said...

Thanks for your comments Margot. You must be an early riser! Even before daylight savings' evil switch, this is early.

Julie Luek said...

Great story and so relevant to our area. All the best to you in this!

Mason Canyon said...

Shannon, it was interesting learning how your series came to be. Your Hopi research sounds intriguing. Wishing you much success.

Patricia, thanks for introducing me to another amazing author.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Fascinating stuff! Some of what they believe is echoed in the Bible.
And have you ever seen the film Koyaanisqatsi? Very powerful. And sad.

Shannon Baker said...

Ihave seen the film. I've been doing some research on another tribe and a lot of their believes remind me of Bible stories, too. It all seems circular. Thanks, Alex.

Shannon Baker said...

Thanks for stopping by Julie and Mason. I appreciate you leaving a comment. It's kind of lonely out here!

E.J. Wesley said...

Sounds like a great read! I spent a good chunk of my graduate school education researching native tribes in Oklahoma and New Mexico/Arizona. And having grown up in Oklahoma, too, their cultures were just a huge part of everything.

I write about the Apache in my fiction, but nothing quite so detailed. Just so much to draw from!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Shannon, thank you for being here today. I was especially interested in this post, and your whole series, for that matter, because I did lots of research about the Kickapoo when I wrote (and continue to rewrite) a historical novel set in Frontier Illinois. The more I read, the more I want to know.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Hi, Shannon! I loved "Tainted Mountain" and can't wait to read Nora's next adventure.
As for random inspiration, my interest in natural horsemanship led to my Western romances, which always have a little bit of horse training in them. Often, the gentling of the horse echoes the growth of the romance.

Shannon Baker said...

Pat and Joanne--two of my favorite writers and women of all time!

j.a. kazimer said...

I loved the first book and can't wait for my date with number 2. Congrats shannon. You deserve lots of praise and beer.

Shannon Baker said...

Forget about the praise, Julie. Bring on the beer!
In fact, I'm dipping into some Mama's Little Yella Pils right now. I import it from Colorado. Perfect for a warm day like today. Wish you were here.