Thursday, November 20, 2014

Southwest Inspiration

I’ve lived in 10 states (from Alaska to Rhode Island) and one foreign country (Saudi Arabia, as a child), so I always had trouble answering “Where are you from?” But when I moved to New Mexico, it felt like home. I’ve now been here twice as long as I’ve lived anywhere else. The desert Southwest inspires my work, as I bring suspense with a dose of romance to the land I love. Here are some of my favorite spots in New Mexico - heavy on the adventure. (My book titles in the main text link to my website pages for more info. In the bio at the end, book titles go directly to Amazon. Place names link to websites about that location.)

Socorro: For most people, this town in the middle of the state is mainly a rest stop between Albuquerque and El Paso, except in October/November when huge flocks of cranes and snow geese fly in to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. But as a local, I know the special sites nearby. Hikes can take you out in the desert or up to the mountains, visiting native petroglyphs or hunting for fossils. Hundreds of rock climbing routes provide adventures for anyone willing to hit the rocks, beginners to experts. Plus, you have a good chance of seeing unusual wildlife, from roadrunners to foxes to great horned owls.

In my treasure hunting adventure, Rattled, the heroine and her best friend live in a fictionalized version of Socorro. They hunt for the lost Victorio Peak treasure, a real Southwest legend about a heretic Spanish priest’s gold mine, made richer by the spoils of bandits and an Apache raider. I drew on personal experiences hiking in the desert for Erin and Camie’s adventures – though fortunately I’ve never stumbled on a rattlesnake nest or gotten caught in a flash flood!

Jemez Springs: This small town in the mountains of northwestern New Mexico is known for its hot springs. You can also visit the ruins of an old Spanish church; Soda Dam, a cool rock formation formed from the mineralized water flowing in the river; and Battleship Rock, so named because it resembles the prow of a battleship. (Pictures on my Pinterest page.)

I’ve attended many writing retreats at a camp north of the town, and those experiences inspired Counterfeits, my latest romantic suspense novel. Of course, in the book, the site isn’t quite so relaxing. When Jenny inherits a children’s art camp, she discovers that her grandmother’s death might not have been an accident after all. The men who killed her grandmother are searching for stolen paintings, and they think Jenny and her old friend Rob, the camp cook, are involved. Doing research at a real camp tucked away in the woods, and hiking above Battleship Rock for a scene where Jenny gets lost, helped the setting feel realistic.

Hovenweep National Monument: All right, this one is not actually in New Mexico, but it’s close. Located on the southern border between Colorado and Utah, these ruins once housed 2500 people between A.D. 1200 and 1300. It’s one of many sites left behind by the ancestral Puebloans, also known as the Anasazi. It’s a smaller site than some, but that’s part of its charm. You can hike and camp without crowds.

In my romantic suspense Whispers in the Dark, my heroine is an archaeology Masters student working at the fictional “Lost Valley” monument, which is closely based on Hovenweep. The lonely location allows for an almost Gothic atmosphere – mysterious lights in the canyon, spooky moaning sounds, and plenty of people hiding secrets.

Lincoln County: What We Found is the most mysterious of my novels, and that’s true for the setting as well. I loosely based the mountain resort town in my book on Ruidoso, but more for the general location than the town itself. The forested town at nearly 7000 feet elevation is not what most people probably imagine when they think of New Mexico. Yet it seemed like the perfect place for the story of Audra, a young woman who stumbles on a dead body in the woods. More than one person isn’t happy about her bringing the murder to light, and in a small town, it’s hard to avoid people who wish you ill.

This novel was inspired by the true experience of finding a body, as I described in this blog post. I also spent time with a man who raises falcons and hawks (photos on my Pinterest page), and that comes into play in the story. It’s real-life adventures like these, both good and bad, that make New Mexico a great place for a writer!

I’ve left out many wonderful sights, but these are some of my personal special spots. If you make it to the Southwestern United States, maybe you’ll enjoy them as well. Otherwise, you can visit in books. Either way, we’ll be glad to have you!


Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. Counterfeits starts a new series about an art theft that brings danger to a small New Mexico town. Whispers in the Dark involves archaeology and intrigue among ancient ruins, What We Found features a young woman who stumbles on a murder victim, and Rattled follows a treasure hunt in the New Mexico desert. To learn more about her latest work, visit www.krisbock.com.


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