Mesa author Dan Baldwin is being nationally recognized for two of his books – one harkening to the Old West and the other reflecting one of his other preoccupations – chasing ghosts.
Baldwin, who has been writing for over 30 years, was recently awarded the American Book Fest Best Book Award for Fiction: Western for his novel Slot Canyon, as well as the New Mexico Book Co-Op Arizona Book Award for New Age for his Conversations with Spirits of the Southwest, with Dwight and Rhonda Hull.
Slot Canyon is the third novel in his Canyon trilogy and relates the intertwined stories of three characters from 1865 to 1876 as they escape the aftermath of the Civil War.
Conversations is a non-fiction detailing the paranormal researches of the authors in ghost towns, ghost ranches, homes and haunted sites throughout Arizona.
“I was more than elated,” said Baldwin. “I was really kind of almost numb because it just doesn’t happen.”
“I’ve won multiple awards in the same year,” he continued. “But not in the same week.”
The American Book Fest is an online publication providing coverage for books from mainstream and independent publishers and highlights talented authors through its annual book awards.
The New Mexico Book Co-op is a nonprofit volunteer organization serving authors and publishing professionals as well as seeks to showcase local books and authors while promoting literacy, according to its website.
A full-time writer, Baldwin has authored 15 novels and short story collections and is the ghostwriter of more than 50 published works.
The longtime Mesa resident graduated from the Louisiana State University Manship School of Mass Communication in 1972 and first pursued a career in advertising and newspaper writing.
“I take the opposite approach from most writers,” said Baldwin. “I don’t do detailed character descriptions or let the character reveal himself or herself as I write the book.”
“The process of writing actually brings out the character – his likes, dislikes, fears or phobias come out in a natural way.”
“If you draw character descriptions up front, you put yourself into a box,” he continued.
Baldwin said he doesn’t like to pigeonhole himself as a writer and takes pride in writing everything from fiction, to non-fiction to ghostwriting.
Slott Canyon illustrates the stories of three unlikely characters as they journey from the Southeast to Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
It features Lieutenant Jefferson Haywood, late of the Confederate States of America, who wants nothing more than to return to his farm in Texas. Col. Montgomery Shaw, a surgeon in the U. S. Army, is by his demons to seek a new life and preacher Joseph Pinelli seeks only to heal hurting souls.
“Slot Canyon is a traditional western fiction and follows the travels of three different characters,” said the author. “My lead character is a Confederate soldier and my villain is a union doctor – the worst villain I’ve ever created. He’s a sicko.”
“Along the way, they meet a preacher and it’s three different stories that are all headed toward Arizona and it follows their tracks,” he continued. “They all have different character arcs – the good guy doesn’t stay good all the way through.”
Conversations with Spirits of the Southwest derives from Baldwin’s own personal experiences.
For the book, he teamed up with the Hulls in conducting their own paranormal investigations, using non-confrontational methods of researching the spirit world and southwestern history.
“My co-authors and I are basically history buffs,” said Baldwin. “And our thinking is, the best way to research the old west is to talk to the old people who actually lived there.”
“We are paranormal investigators and we go to haunted places to try to make contact with the spirits,” he added. “That book outlines our adventures in going to particular sites and then transcriptions of the actual investigations.”
Baldwin said the investigators only use handheld recorders during their visits, and stay away from “fancy equipment.”
One method, in particular, is the pendulum douser, said the author.
“Dousing goes back as far back as the Egyptians,” he explained. “It’s a weight on a string. If I ask a question and it swings to the right it would be a yes.”
While Baldwin asks yes or no questions, his friend Rhonda, a psychic, will work on communication with the spirits in a more direct manner.
“I can have extended conversations with them with yes or no answers,” said Baldwin. “Sometimes you get EVP [electronic voice phenomenon] recordings and we get clear voices that sometimes respond directly.”
As far as next steps, Baldwin said he has his hands full.
He is currently conducting paranormal research for a new book to serve as a “how-to” for conducting paranormal investigations using pendulum dousing.
He is also writing a current-day novel called Sack of Fried Okra, which chronicles a road trip between two friends to Louisiana.
Baldwin’s books are all available in ebook and paperback formats online and through all major distributors.