16 August 2016

Shannon and Jess Get Short with Readers

by Shannon Baker and Jessica Lourey

Thanks, Barb Goffman, for giving up her blogging spot so Shannon Baker and I can visit, and thanks to SleuthSayers for this warm welcome! We brought popcorn and root beer floats but don’t know if there is enough to go around, so raise your hand quick if you’re hungry/thirsty.

Whee! See all those hands, Shannon? You pass out the treats while I handle the intros.

The beautiful Shannon and I are on a whirlwind 25-stop blog tour, an idea that seemed genius when we realized our next books both release on September 6. Shannon’s is Stripped Bare. It’s been called Longmire meets The Good Wife and is about a woman sheriff in the Nebraska Sandhills. My book is Salem’s Cipher, a breakneck thriller about a race to save the first viable U.S. female presidential candidate from assassination. Both books are available for preorder.
Today, we’d like to talk about short stories, primarily because Barb is an Agatha Award-winning short story WIZARD, and so this is sort of a gift to her. Except not really, because Shannon and I blow at writing short stories. So, it’s either an un-gift in that we could never match Barb’s insight, or a huge gift because we’ll have set the bar so low that you’ll clamor for Barb’s return, even if she doesn’t bring the ice cream like we do.

Shannon here, adding her two cents: While Barb is undoubtedly the queen, don’t believe Jess when she says she’s not great at short stories. For a treat, grab hold of her Death by Potato Salad, Murder by the Minute. You WILL laugh.

These chips aren't in the story.
They're just funny.
Shannon, you vixen, sneaking in the kind words like that. Thank you. Now tell me, what’s the first short story you ever published?

Shannon: The Phoenix chapter of Sisters in Crime, Desert Sleuths, periodically publishes an anthology and were kind enough to take on my first short story in SoWest: Desert Justice. It combined my love of the Grand Canyon and my delight at killing off lousy men. It’s roughly based on a 9-day river trip I convinced my non-lousy husband to paddle with me. Hiking, riding rapids, jumping into waterfalls, all the good stuff. He loves an exciting adventure, but has some claustrophobia and a mild fear of heights (despite being a pilot). At one point, lying with a damp sheet over us because the nights were so incredibly hot, he turned to me and sweetly said, “This is like a fucking Outward Bound trip.” Ah, good times.

Not Shannon.
Jess here. Shannon, you make me laugh. And want to take river trips, weirdly. Okay, my first published short story was “The Locked Fish-cleaning Room Mystery.” Snappy, yes? I wrote it at the request of a group of Minnesota crime writers, William Kent Krueger among them, who were putting together an anthology called Resort to Murder. When I was asked to contribute, I said yes. I figured I could write novels, so why not short stories?

Folks, that’s like figuring you can paint a house, so why not carve the Taj Mahal on a piece of rice. I failed miserably and repeatedly until I decided to research classic crime fiction shorts. I stumbled across the locked room mystery (a la Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders at the Rue Morgue”) and fell in love with its neat and sweet format. I strapped a Minnesota setting onto that structure, and voila!

Shannon, do you have a technique when it comes to writing short stories?

Shannon: No. Hell no. I wish I did. I’m going to try your method, whatever it is, because we’re both giving away shorts if readers preorder our books. I haven’t written mine, yet. I get hives thinking about it. What’s your best advice on this?

Jess again. I wish I had a technique. I write short stories like a kid runs down a hill: poorly, hoping not to fall on my face. I am exploring novellas right now, though, because there are two books left in my humorous Murder-by-Month series, and my agent and my publisher are taking forever to figure out that contract. I miss the characters in the series, and it turns out that I am free to write about them in a novella form. How fun is that? I think novellas might be a growing self-pub market.
Not a kid but still funny.

What do you think about self-pubbing, Shannon, whether short story, novella, or novel?

Shannon: (whining) Why are you asking me the hard questions? Yes, sure. I’d love to self pub. But I’d have to write something first, wouldn’t I? The not so secret thing about me is that I’m really lazy. Right now, I’m working hard on the Kate Fox series and happily letting a publisher figure out the cover, distribution, and production side.

That’s it today with lazy Shannon (my favorite piece of furniture) and Hard-Question-Asking Jessie. Stick with us on our road trip as we head to Word Nerds tomorrow for a little friendly banter and a writing tip or two. We promise to make a potty stop along the way if you need it.

Share your favorite short story writing tip (god, please), or leave a comment below for a chance to win an advance copy of Salem’s Cipher or Stripped Bare.

Not these kind of tips!
And for even more fun:

If you order Salem's Cipher before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to salemscipher@gmail.com 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 katefoxstrippedbare@gmail.com to receive a Kate Fox short story and be entered for a book gift basket mailed to your home.

You’re welcome to preorder each to enter each contest.

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 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.


  1. I had not seen the pictures before this post! Giggling here. But you should know, the pic of people jumping in the river could have been me... without the helmet. I've got pictures of the bruises to prove you ought to listen to the river guide when he says to be sure to enter the water straight up and down!

  2. Shannon, I can attest that enjoyment of flying and fear of heights aren’t a contradiction. I had no fear of heights as a kid, but acrophobia found me as an adult, but not in airplanes, sailplanes, and I’d love to try para-sailing.

    Jess, is your fish-cleaning short in the give-away? I’d love to read it. I’ll even trade you my locked-room mystery (published in Canada).

    Is there a preferred pre-order address?

  3. Leigh, I have no fear of heights nor am I claustrophobic, but I am a lousy passenger in my husband's small plane (very small, as in our shoulders are wedged together). While you are totally encouraged to buy local or use any bookseller, you can find Salem's Cipher at http://tinyurl.com/znj99tx and Stripped Bare at http://tinyurl.com/zjbqejw Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Of course, Jessie just re-reads Poe and then whips out a short-story like she's been doing it her whole darn life. You know, you're really starting to get on my nerves with all your awesome capable-ness.

    And, Shannon, I love that you readily admit to laziness but despise that you're all Bionic/Wonder Woman Death Defying outdoorsiness.

    I need to find myself some more lounging in yoga pants, that aren't really used for yoga, and drinking wine friends. I fear you two are a lost cause.

    I'm pretty sure

  5. This was really fun to read! Congrats on the new books--and the rest of the blog tour!

  6. Thanks, Shannon and Jessie. Great post.

    Congrats to both of you on your many accomplishments--it's good to have you here!

  7. Aimee -- there's plenty of stretched out yoga pants, "there must be a hole in the bottom of this wine bottle" days! We can still be friends.

    Art and John -- thanks for the warm welcome!

  8. Thanks, Shannon and Jess, for sharing your insights with us today. And what do you think of those potato salad potato chips? The world is indeed a wondrous place.

  9. And... I forgot to mention Stipped Bare is having a Goodreads Giveaway until Aug 29th. http://tinyurl.com/zn8yvdd You can get it for free if you're feeling lucky!

  10. Haha! Those photos and their captions are the BEST. Thanks, Barb, and thanks all of Sleuthsayers for hosting us.

  11. Great post--with amazing photos! :-) On writing short stories: they're a great way to explore characters, setting, and situation before delving into a novel. I often encourage clients to take a wacky idea and try it as a short story first--and then explore whether or not they feel there is more to write about. -Rochelle

  12. That is fantastic advice, Rochelle! Thank you for sharing. :)

    Jessica Lourey's Website

  13. Leigh, the Locked Fish Cleaning Room Mystery is not a giveaway for preordering Salem's Cipher, but it is a giveaway for signing up for my molasses (ie, three or four releases a year) newsletter at my website: www.jessicalourey.com. Thanks for asking!

  14. We have had so much fun here, Sayers of the Sleuth! Thank you particularly to those who posted comments, which are like tips to your wait staff. Shannon and I are happy to report that our random name picker has chosen Art Taylor for a copy of Stripped Bare and Barb Goffman for a copy of Salem's Cipher. Woot! Being a good person really does pay off, I guess. (Or not, if you were a good person and didn't win.)

    I hope whoever is reading this has their best day YET.


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