Monday, December 21, 2015

Give Yourself the Holiday Gift of an Adventurous Read

Whether you "jingle all the way" or find the holidays stressful, set aside some time to indulge in a good story. If you like adventure, mystery, a touch of romance, and dramatic southwestern scenery, try one of my romantic suspense novels.

The Mad Monk’s Treasure: The lost Victorio Peak treasure is the stuff of legends—a heretic Spanish priest’s gold mine, made richer by the spoils of bandits and an Apache raider. When Erin, a quiet history professor, uncovers a clue that may pinpoint the lost treasure cave, she prepares for adventure. But when a hit and run driver nearly kills her, she realizes she’s not the only one after the treasure. And is the handsome pilot who found her bleeding in a ditch really a hero, or one of the enemy?

The Mad Monk’s Treasure ebook by Kris Bock is 99 cents at Amazon and FREE at Nook, ARE, Smashwords, Kobo and Apple/iTunes.

The Dead Man’s Treasure: Rebecca Westin’s grandfather left her a buried treasure – if she can decipher a complex series of clues leading to it. Her half-siblings are determined to reach the treasure first. Good thing Rebecca has help, in the form of a green-eyed charmer determined to make their desert adventure sexy and fun. But a treacherous enemy will do anything to get that treasure – and revenge.

Action and romance combine in this lively Southwestern adventure, complete with riddles the reader is invited to solve. The Dead Man’s Treasure is book 2 in the New Mexico treasure hunters series. (Each book features a different hero and heroine, and stands alone.) 

Counterfeits
Jenny returns to her grandparents’ art camp in a remote New Mexico town after her grandmother’s sudden death. That night, staying alone in the empty house, she wakes to the noise of intruders. What do the strangers want? As more bizarre events unfold, Jenny starts to realize the people she thought she knew are not what they seem – least of all Rob, an old friend and the camp cook, whose past may be coming back to haunt them all.

Counterfeits is romantic suspense in the New Mexico mountains:


What We Found: When Audra stumbles on a murdered woman in the woods, more than one person isn’t happy about her bringing the crime to light. She’ll have to stand up for herself in order to stand up for the murder victim. It’s a risk, and so is reaching out to the mysterious young man who works with deadly birds of prey. But with danger all around, some risks are worth taking. 

What We Found is mystery and romance in small-town New Mexico.

Whispers in the Dark: Kylie Hafford craves adventure when she heads to the remote Puebloan ruins of Lost Valley, Colorado, to excavate. Romance isn’t in her plans, but she soon meets two sexy men: Danesh looks like a warrior from the Pueblo’s ancient past, and Sean is a charming, playful tourist. The summer heats up as Kylie uncovers mysteries, secrets, and terrors in the night. She’ll need all her strength and wits to survive—and to save the man she’s come to love. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Quick and Easy New Mexico-Style Recipes

New Mexico green chile, 
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I have a recipe and tips in this book: We'd Rather Be Writing: 88 Authors Share Timesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips. Check it out if you'd like to find some quick recipes and other timesaving tips, and meet some authors writing in a variety of genres.


I sent in my Quick Enchilada Casserole recipe for the book. Here are a few additional super-easy and quick (if not necessarily healthy) meals or snacks.

New Mexico Mac and Cheese
Mix roasted, chopped green chiles, or green chile sauce, into your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe. Or use your favorite salsa. Adjust the amount to your taste.

Chile Cheese Tater Tots
Cook tater tots according to directions. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and chopped, roasted green chile. Bake until everything is hot and cheese is melted.

Chili Cheese Tater Tots (Sonic style)
This is one of the few  New Mexico dishes that use chili instead of chile.
Cook tater tots according to directions. Top with canned or homemade chili with meat and beans. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until everything is hot and cheese is melted.

I write novels of adventure and romance set in the Southwestern United States. The novels touch on local culture, including food. For my most recent romantic suspense, The Dead Man’s Treasure, I put together a recipe booklet of foods mentioned in the book, including this delightful breakfast classic. (See also my posts Red or Green: The New Mexico Chile, Homemade Green Chile Sauce, Breakfast Burrito, Huevos Rancheros, Enchilada Casserole, and New Mexico Green Chile Chicken Soup Recipe – use these links or simply click on the “Recipe” label down to the right.) See the DMT page of Kris Bock’s website for a printable version of all recipes from the book.


Rebecca Westin is shocked to learn the grandfather she never knew has left her a bona fide buried treasure – but only if she can decipher a complex series of clues leading to it. The hunt would be challenging enough without interference from her half-siblings, who are determined to find the treasure first and keep it for themselves. Good thing Rebecca has recruited some help.

Sam is determined to show Rebecca that a desert adventure can be sexy and fun. But there’s a treacherous wildcard in the mix, a man willing to do anything to get that treasure – and revenge.

Action and romance combine in this lively Southwestern adventure, complete with riddles the reader is invited to solve to identify historical and cultural sites around New Mexico. See the DMT page of Kris Bock’s website for a printable list of the clues and recipes from the book.

The first book in the Southwest Treasure Hunters series is The Mad Monk’s Treasure. The Dead Man’s Treasure is book 2. Each novel stands alone and is complete, with no cliffhangers. This series mixes action and adventure with “closed door” romance. The stories explore the Southwest, especially New Mexico.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

What We Really Found: The Murder That Inspired a Novel

hiking in the Southwest
I like to say that for a writer, everything is research. That attitude can help when things are bad. For example, when I had a car accident that left me with a fat lip from the airbag, I thought, Well, now I know what it feels like to be punched in the face.

You never know when experiences like these might be useful in writing a novel. Or in some cases, an experience might inspire the whole story. That happened a few years ago, on what started out as an ordinary day....

What We Found

Two friends and I were exploring the mountains, looking for some suitable gravel to try gold panning (because, why not?). We found a likely spot and were about to take a sample when the guys smelled something horrible. A glance in the right direction showed them a dead body hidden just out of sight of the path. 

The next hour passed in a surreal blur. None of us had a phone on us. We got back to our vehicles, where the phones were, and then had to find a place with reception. We called 911, waited for the police, and led them to the body. Later that night we were interviewed by detectives. By the following day, they had identified the body as a woman who had been missing. Seeing her picture on TV and learning about her family made the situation real in a new way. We wanted justice for someone we’d never met. Fortunately, they already had a suspect. Having an actual body instead of merely suspicions let them proceed with his arrest, but it took nearly a year to resolve the case.

As a writer, I knew I was getting rare first-hand experience into something powerful. I took pages of notes during that first week, even though I didn’t know how or when I might use them. I was fortunate to be with two men who talked openly about their experiences: the nightmares, the guilt over violence against women, the anxiety that came from now wondering what you might see in the bushes. 

Life Lessons

Three things struck me most strongly. First, we all felt deeply invested in the case, even though we’d never met the woman in life and didn’t know anyone else involved. We followed the news stories, and when the murderer was finally sentenced … well, I wouldn’t say we celebrated; more like we relaxed. This isn’t an experience I would wish on anyone, but we’re glad we helped bring a crime to light and a murderer to justice.

Second, it affected every aspect of our lives for weeks. Even though the likelihood of finding another body, or even witnessing a different crime, was extremely slim, we were on high alert at all times. It was a struggle to put it behind us while still honoring the memory of the victim and holding on to what we had learned.

And finally, we heard from someone in law enforcement that often people don’t report crime scenes like these. How could someone walk away from that? I started thinking about all the reasons someone might want to cover up their discovery, even if they had nothing to do with the crime. And that inspired my romantic mystery What We Found.

Several years passed before I felt distant enough from the experience to fictionalize it, but I still had all those notes and memories to draw on. Some elements of What We Found, mainly the emotional ones, are taken directly from that experience. Most character and plot elements are completely fictional.

A Better Experience

A personal experience does not have to be negative in order to inspire story ideas. I combined the murder plot in What We Found with something much more enjoyable. Through a friend of a friend, I met a man who raises hawks and falcons. My husband and I went on a couple of hunts with him, and I visited his home and got to meet both baby and adult birds. (Learn more about these experiences in a series of posts that starts here.) In What We Found, the heroine meets a mysterious young man who helps his grandmother raised birds of prey.

My other romantic suspense novels all have some personal angle to them. The Mad Monk’s Treasure and The Dead Man’s Treasure involve treasure hunting in New Mexico and draw on personal experiences of hiking in the desert and visiting the various spots that turn up in the books. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins and was inspired by a visit to Hovenweep National Monument some years ago. Counterfeits is set near Jemez Springs, in northwestern New Mexico, at a children's art camp. I've attended many writing retreats at a similar camp. (Learn more at www.krisbock.com or my Amazon page.) 

All of these stories are fictional, but the real-life experiences help them feel real. After all, one benefit to being a writer is that everything – good or bad – is research. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Plan a Southwestern #Thanksgiving Dinner

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Did you know not all turkeys are the same? The early Native Americans first raised turkeys as livestock and bred different varieties. Until recently, many breeds existed, but now the industrial poultry business focuses on one cheap, fast-growing bird. “Heritage” breeds may not have the huge breast of the typical American grocery store turkey, but they can have deeper flavors.

Some heritage turkeys are on the brink of extinction. So how to save them? Eat them! Buying these turkeys encourages farmers to raise them. Learn more from this article from New Mexico Magazine. It also has a recipe for Heritage Turkey on a Spit with Red Chile-Sage Butter and Red Chile-Sage Dressing. Other New Mexican recipes on the page include Creamy Green Chile Spinach and Baked Cranberry-Red Chile Sauce.

Creative Commons License
Find more dishes for a New Mexico-inspired Thanksgiving feast in this New Mexico Magazine article: Pumpkin Soup, Oven-Roasted, Red-Chile–Rubbed Turkey with Cornbread-Chorizo Dressing, Cornbread-Chorizo Dressing, Cranberry, Fig, and Pistachio Relish, and more.

This Pinterest page links to many “Thanksgiving in New Mexico Recipes,” such as New Mexican Hatch Chile Cranberry Sauce, Smoky Sweet Potato Tamales, Mashed Potatoes with Green Chile Queso Sauce Recipe, Green Chile Cornbread, and Green Chile Apple Pie.

Finally, this older article from Sunset magazine on “Thanksgiving in the West“ has prize-winning recipes with Southwestern flavors.


What are you planning for Thanksgiving dinner? Do you like to stick with family classics, or experiment?

Take some time to relax and read over the holidays! Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. In The Dead Man’s Treasure, estranged relatives compete to reach a buried treasure by following a series of complex clues. Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com or visit her Amazon page.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Spend #Thanksgiving in the Southwest

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People tend to think of the Northeast for “leaf peeper” tours to see the trees changing colors. But parts of the Southwest also offer lovely fall foliage. In New Mexico, the northern part of the state is a good bet. Visit the areas around Santa Fe, Taos, or Jemez Springs for some lovely fall colors. The Pueblo Bonito Bed and breakfast Inn has more detail on some of these areas, if you scroll down on this page. The National Forest Service offers a toll-free fall color hotline beginning in September at (800) 354-4595, or visit their webpage.

Thanksgiving also marks the opening of the ski season in Santa Fe and at many other ski resorts!

Santa Fe Activities

If you’re more interested in cultural events, Santa Fe offers a lot of options over Thanksgiving weekend:

Circus Luminous November 25-27: a mix of acrobatics, drama, and circus arts.

The Winter Indian Market November 26-27: over 200 artists, plus music, native dance, and performing arts.

Christmas tree lighting on the historic Plaza on November 27: music, caroling, hot chocolate, and a visit from Santa.

For more Santa Fe events in November, December and beyond, visit the Santa Fe What’s Happening website.

Arizona, Texas and More

Elizabeth Rose offers ideas for spending Thanksgiving in the Southwest in this travel article. Learn where to stay, what to eat, and what to do from Arizona to Texas to Colorado.

What kind of vacation traveler are you? Do you prefer to be active, relax, see the sights, or all of the above?

Take some time to relax and read this holiday season! Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. In The Dead Man’s Treasure, estranged relatives compete to reach a buried treasure by following a series of complex clues.

Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com or visit her Amazon page.

We'd Rather Be Writing: 88 Authors Share Timesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips

I have a recipe and possibly some tips in this book: We'd Rather Be Writing: 88 Authors Share Timesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips. Check it out if you'd like to find some quick recipes and other timesaving tips, and meet some authors writing in a variety of genres.

"You'll find easy, nutritious recipes for meat, poultry, pasta, soup, stew, chili, and vegetarian meals. All of the recipes require a minimum of prep time, freeing you up to read, exercise, garden, craft, write, spend more time with family, or whatever.

"Within the pages of We'd Rather Be Writing: 88 Authors ShareTimesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips you'll be introduced to authors who write a wide range of fiction—everything from mystery to romance to speculative fiction to books for children, young adults, and new adults—and some who write nonfiction. Some of the authors write sweet; others write steamy. Some write cozy; others write tense thrillers." 

This blog post has more info on We'd Rather Be Writing: 88 Authors Share Timesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips.

Buy Links
Kobo 

Monday, October 26, 2015

New Mexico Grilled Cheese Recipe

I write novels of adventure and romance set in the Southwestern United States. The novels touch on local culture, including food. For my most recent romantic suspense, The Dead Man’s Treasure, I put together a recipe booklet of foods mentioned in the book, including this delightful breakfast classic. (See also my posts Red or Green: The New Mexico Chile, Homemade Green Chile Sauce, Breakfast Burrito, Huevos Rancheros, Enchilada Casserole, and New Mexico Green Chile Chicken Soup Recipe – use these links or simply click on the “Recipe” label down to the right.)

This one is quick and easy, but very tasty! Adding refried beans and chile peppers to grilled cheese also makes this “comfort food” a bit healthier. The beans keep the filling creamy, so you don’t need as much cheese.

New Mexico Grilled Cheese
2 pieces of bread per person
About 1/4 cup refried beans per person
1 whole, roasted green chile per person, or chopped green chile to taste. If you can’t get green chiles, try poblanos, chopped jalapenos, or salsa.
1 piece of pre-sliced cheddar cheese per person
New Mexico green chile, by Littlemisslibrarian
Creative Commons License

  1. Butter one side of each piece of bread, or spray with spray oil. Place half of the bread on a griddle buttered side down.
  2. Spread refried beans on that piece of bread. Lay a whole, roasted green chile on top, or spread with chopped green chile. Cover with sliced cheddar cheese.
  3. Top with the other piece of bread, buttered side up. Fry at low heat. Cover with a pot lid to help ensure that the refried beans get heated all the way through. (You can also spread the beans on one piece of bread and toast it in a toaster oven to get the beans heated through, and then add the second piece of bread and fry in the pan.)
  4. When the bottom side is getting toasty brown, flip over the sandwich and heat the other side.

Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. If you love Mary Stewart, Barbara Michaels, or Terry Odell, try Kris Bock’s stories of treasure hunting, archaeology and intrigue, and art theft in New Mexico. To learn more about her latest work, visit www.krisbock.com or her Amazon page, or sign up for the Kris Bock newsletter for announcements of new books, sales, and more

Monday, October 19, 2015

Have a Spooky Halloween with a New Mexico Ghost Tour

With Halloween coming, it’s time to get in a spooky mood! If you’re visiting New Mexico, consider a ghost tour in Albuquerque or Santa Fe. Here are some options.

90 minutes
nightly, 8 PM
$20 adults, $18 seniors/military/college, $16 students 13 to 17, $10 youth 6 to 12, children under five free
Reserve in advance: (505) 246-TOUR (8687) or online

“Legends, folklore, ghost stories and history come to life as you depart on an intriguing excursion through 306 years of haunted history. Old Town is the birthplace of Albuquerque, founded in 1706, and for more than three centuries people have lived and died around the Old Town Plaza. The historic buildings and dark alleys conceal the long-forgotten secrets of battles, murders, hangings, and hidden cemeteries.”

90 minutes
nightly, 8 PM
$22 adults. Not recommended for young children.
Recommended to reserve tickets in advance: 505-240-8000 or online

“Beneath the towering office buildings and twinkling lights of modern downtown Albuquerque lurk the memories of public hangings, duels, horrific murders and locations haunted by those who have passed over to the other side. Tales of vengeful lovers, murdered soldiers and mysterious specters await around every turn. What better way to experience Albuquerque’s history than to possibly come face to face with a spirit from the past?”

Saturday evenings, Friday evenings March to November, private tours available.
$14
Call for reservations: 505.983.7774

“White Shell Water Place is Santa Fe’s original Tewa Indian name for a settlement that dates back to before 1100 AD. Many souls have lived here and some are still here. Want to encounter them? Take The Original Santa Fe Ghost Tour. Learn about our most famous ghost, Julia Staab, featured on the TV program, Unsolved Mysteries. Hear about our Smelly Ghost — will it assault your nostrils? Possibly encounter La Llarona, the spirit that Santa Fe mothers warn their kids about, not allowing them to play by the Santa Fe River. Skeptical? That’s okay — come spook about and see evidence on the tour.”

Custom tours, day or night
Reserve a private history tour or ghost walk: 505-986-5002 OR 505-231-1336

“Allan’s different private custom tours, from the Cathedral to Spook Lane – you get the skinny on the lore, facts, lies, myths, while you have a good time.”


Top Image: "A couple with a young female sprit" by Unknown / National Media Museum. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Bottom Image: Halloween turnip

Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. To learn more about her latest work, visit www.krisbock.com or her Amazon page. Sign up for Kris Bock newsletter for announcements of new books, sales, and more

Monday, October 12, 2015

Southwestern Spooky Stories for Halloween

Every state – and country – seems to have its share of ghost stories and other spooky tales. And why not, when strange and creepy sites and legends appeal to both children and adults? Here are three options if you're in the mood for something spooky: short stories for all ages, a novel for children, and a novel for adults.

Spooky Southwest: Tales Of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, And Other Local Lore
S. E. E. Schlosser, illustrated by Paul Hoffman 
Paperback: 200 pages, $13
Publisher: Globe Pequot Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0762734256
ISBN-13: 978-0762734252

The book opens with a map of the locations of the 30 stories. They take place in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. (For the record, Texas is apparently the spookiest Southwestern state, with New Mexico second.)

The stories introduce some famous characters, such as Pecos Bill and La Lorona, the Weeping Woman. They also introduce Southwestern types such as miners and cattle rustlers. These tales are retold in the first person, as if they happened to the narrator. Yet they are definitely in the folktale or even tall tale style rather than reading as “real.”

Some stories are tragic or even gruesome, while others are more like extended jokes. You might want to review a story in advance before reading it to younger children, but there should be something for everyone.

S. E. E. Thlosser also has a Spooky Texas book, Spooky South, and Spooky Campfire Stories.

Chris Eboch
150 pages, $8.99 paperback, $2.99 Kindle
ISBN-13: 978-1480055964 
ISBN-10:1480055964 

In the Haunted series for ages 9 to 12, thirteen-year-old Jon and his eleven-year-old sister, Tania, are typical kids – except for the fact that Tania can communicate with ghosts. Their mom and stepdad are producers of a ghost-hunter reality television show, but they don’t know about Tania’s gift – and Tania wants to keep it that way.

The series starts with The Ghost on the Stairs, where the kids investigate a century-old ghost story in a Colorado hotel. The Riverboat Phantom takes the kids on to an antique riverboat, while The Knight in the Shadows is set in New York City and involves a ghost lurking in a museum. In terms of the Southwest, book 4, The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, has the most detailed and dramatic setting. (The books can be read individually or in any order, although there are some elements that carry through the series.)

In The Ghost Miner’s Treasur, Jon and Tania travel with the ghost hunter TV show to the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, where the ghost of an old miner is still looking for his lost mine. The siblings want to help him move on – but to help him resolve the problem keeping him here, they’ll have to find the mine. And even then, the old ghost may be having too much fun to leave! It’s a good thing Tania can see and talk to him, because the kids will need his help to survive the rigors of a mule train through the desert, a flash flood, and a suspicious treasure hunter who wants the gold mine for himself.

Kris Bock
218 pages, $9.99 paperback, $3.99 Kindle or Nook
ISBN-10: 0615582230
ISBN-13: 978-0615582238
ASIN: B006M6P6FA

It all begins with whispers in the night…. Kylie Hafford craves adventure during her southwestern summer. She doesn’t expect to fight for her life.

After an assault in Boston, young archeologist Kylie heads to the remote Puebloan ruins of Lost Valley, Colorado, to excavate. She plans to avoid all men and figure out her next step in life. Her first exploration of the crumbling ruins ends in a confrontation with a gorgeous, angry man who looks like a warrior from the Pueblo’s ancient past. Danesh proves that Kylie’s body is ready for love, even if her heart isn’t. If only he weren’t so aggravating… and fascinating. Then she literally stumbles across Sean, a charming, playful tourist. His attentions feel safer, until she glimpses secrets he’d rather keep hidden.

The summer heats up as two sexy men pursue her. She finds mysteries – and surprising friendships – among the other campground residents. Could the wide-eyed woman and her silent children be in the kind of danger all too familiar to Kylie?

Mysterious lights, murmuring voices, and equipment gone missing plague her dig. Kylie tries to play it safe, but when someone threatens her research, she must take action. Kylie throws aside caution, but is shocked as friends turn to foes. She has more enemies than she can possibly guess, and she’s only begun to glimpse the terrors in the dark. A midnight encounter sends her plummeting into a deep canyon. She’ll need all her strength and wits to survive. Everything becomes clear – if she wants to save the man she’s come to love and see the villains brought to justice, she can’t run away again – she must face her demons and fight.

Whispers in the Dark is action-packed romantic suspense set in the Four Corners region of the Southwest.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Studying the Stars from New Mexico

the 2.4-meter telescope 
The Magdalena Ridge Observatory(MRO) sits on South Baldy Ridge in the Magdalena Mountains, about 30 miles west of Socorro in central New Mexico and 10,600 feet above sea level. At first glance, it seems an unlikely location, but the high-altitude, remote site is perfect for astronomy.

The Observatory involves two facilities. A 2.4-meter-diameter telescope began operations in 2008. It is “one of the largest telescopes in the world that is used primarily to study objects within our Solar System,” according to Director and Astronomer Eileen Ryan in a 2010 interview. “These include asteroids, comets, satellites (both naturally occurring and man-made), and planets. About seventy percent of our current research efforts are directed toward studying asteroids and comets that could impact the Earth sometime in the future – these are called ‘potentially hazardous objects.’”

The scope can move up to 10 times faster than a normal astronomical telescope, and has six ports to mount instruments. A mirror can swing 360 degrees and switch to a different instrument in under 30 seconds, giving it an unprecedented ability to track something unexpected in the sky. They do research for the Air Force because, Lead Maintenance Technician Craig Wallace-Keck said, “It’s one of the very few existing telescopes of this caliber, this size, that has tracking capabilities so we can monitor missile launches.”

The interferometer under construction
10 Telescopes Combined

The second MRO facility, an array of optical/infrared telescopes called an interferometer, is under construction. This array will be similar to the Very Large Array (VLA), a group of 27 radio antennas on the Plains of San Agustin in western New Mexico. However, the MROI works in visible light and infrared wavelengths, while the VLA works in radio waves. The interferometer will include 10 small telescopes, which can be placed up to 340 meters apart. By combining the light from each of those, it acts like a telescope 340 meters across and will make detailed images of astronomical objects – about 100 to 300 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Other interferometers can get very detailed images of small, bright things. Hubble can look at large, faint things. The MRO interferometer can look at things smaller than the Hubble and fainter than other interferometers can image. They’ll be able to see the centers of galaxies and places where new stars are forming.

Scientists using the MROI will try to better understand black holes, how planets are formed, and how stars form, function, and die. Project Scientist Michelle Creech-Eakman noted that “Much of what we know about stars, even our own star the Sun, is based on models and theories that are sometimes more than one hundred years old.” Now scientists are discovering planets around other stars and considering the possibility of life elsewhere in the galaxy. The MROI will teach us more about stars and planets, and ultimately our place in the universe. Like the 2.4-meter telescope, the MROI can also help defend our planet and our country, by studying asteroids in our solar system, and perhaps imaging satellites.

More research questions will arise as scientists fully understand the capabilities of the MROI. Different groups will rent the facility, helping pay operational costs. The community should benefit in both jobs and tourism, including visiting scientists.

There’s a lot going on up on that remote mountaintop. “Astronomy explores and tries to explain the universe around us,” Director and Astronomer Eileen Ryan adds. “By studying the Solar System we learn more about how the Earth formed, how it may change in the future, and about what outside factors (i.e., asteroid impacts like the one that killed the dinosaurs) can influence it. The MRO facility [also] contributes positively to military interests that improve national security, and it is active in educational enhancement within New Mexico.”

The average person may have a hard time following the advanced science happening at MRO, but the magic of the stars can touch us all. “We are all made of star dust,” Creech-Eakman says. “All the material in our bodies was manufactured inside of a star.”

Hikers get a great view from the ridge
Public tours aren’t available yet, but visitors are welcome on the forest land around the MRO site. In order to transport materials, the MRO team reconstructed forest road 235 from Water Canyon to the ridge. The road is now kept open year-round with snow removal and repairs, providing forest access to hunters and hikers.

The MRO also co-hosts an annual Enchanted Skies Star Party, which includes a night of observing at the MRO site. This year’s event is October 14-17.

A version of this article was first published in the enchantment magazine by NMRECA.


Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. To learn more about her latest work, visit www.krisbock.com or her Amazon page. Sign up for Kris Bock newsletter for announcements of new books, sales, and more.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tooling Along Across Tularosa Basin with Loretta Hall

Have you ever felt history? I have, a few times. Special places like Valley Forge, Pearl Harbor, and the Trinity Site affect me more deeply than sight, hearing, and smell can account for. I get that feeling every time I drive across the Tularosa Basin between Las Cruces and Alamogordo.

I remember the first time I drove east out of Las Cruces on US 70, crossed San Augustin Pass, and saw the basin sprawling before me. I was heading first to the White Sands Missile Range Museum and then to the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. It was a research trip for my first space history book, Out of this World: New Mexico’s Contributions to Space Travel.

From my research, I know that this area was truly the “Birthplace of the Space Race.” A group of German engineers brought their V-2 missile technology to White Sands Proving Ground (as it was known then) in 1945. For the next five years, they worked with Americans to dramatically increase the power and stability of rockets. In place of warheads, these rockets carried instruments and, occasionally, a small animal or two for research into the effects of spaceflight.

Just after descending from San Augustin Pass, I turned right for a short drive to the White Sands Missile Range headquarters and museum. Outside the museum stand fifty rockets of various sizes. Inside an adjacent building is a complete V-2 missile, one of only eight on display in the United States. The main museum building houses exhibits of rocket tests as well as the first atomic bomb test. Other exhibits document the history of the Tularosa Basin including early Native American occupants and nineteenth- and twentieth-century ranches.

Driving northeast across the basin from the Missile Range headquarters and museum, the scenery is stark. There is no sound, except maybe wind and sometimes another vehicle. Yet I could almost hear rockets whistling through the air and thudding into the ground.

As I approached Alamogordo, I passed Holloman Air Force Base, another important contributor to America’s space programs. There, in the 1950s and ’60s, researchers tested the ability of the human body to tolerate the forces of acceleration and deceleration that would be imposed by rocket launch and spacecraft landing. A high-altitude balloon program developed at Holloman tested a prototype one-person space capsule above 99 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. In one of those flights, a man endured isolation in a cramped capsule, coping with various emergencies, for thirty-two hours.

Continuing on through Alamogordo, I drove partway up the hillside on the east edge of town to my final destination, the New Mexico Museum of Space History. Outside are various rockets, including mangled remnants of a flown V-2 and a Little Joe II, which was used to test the launch-emergency escape system for the Apollo program. Inside the gold-tinted glass building are four floors of exhibits depicting the history of space exploration, including both American and Soviet/Russian projects. Portraits and short biographies of the inductees of the International Space Hall of Fame add a personal dimension to the other artifacts.

I’ve driven across the Tularosa Basin several times since that first trip, and the magic never seems to diminish. I invite you to take the drive, learn some of New Mexico’s less-known history, and see if the aura of the basin affects you like it does me.

Loretta Hall is a freelance writer in Albuquerque. Her two space history books are Out of this World: New Mexico's Contributions to Space Travel (http://nmspacehistory.com) and Space Pioneers: In Their Own Words (http://SpacePioneerWords.com).

Monday, September 14, 2015

Recipe: Bob’s Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I write novels of adventure and romance set in the Southwestern United States. The novels touch on local culture, including food. For my most recent romantic suspense, The Dead Man’s Treasure, I put together a recipe booklet of foods mentioned in the book, including this delightful breakfast classic. (See also my posts Red or Green: The New Mexico Chile, Homemade Green Chile Sauce, Breakfast Burrito, Huevos Rancheros, Enchilada Casserole, and New Mexico Green Chile Chicken Soup Recipe – use these links or simply click on the “Recipe” label down to the right.)



Bob, who until recently worked at the Very Large Array, often brings this dish to parties.

Bob’s Chicken Enchilada Casserole

1 medium-sized yellow onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 habanero chile, finely chopped
Olive oil for cooking
1 quart chicken broth
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 pound green chile, roasted, peeled, chopped
About 24 corn tortillas
1 pound Colby cheese, shredded
1 pound Jack cheese, shredded

  1. Lightly brown onion, garlic, and habanero in olive oil.
  2. Add broth and poach chicken until well done. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
  3. Shred chicken and put back in broth. Add green chile and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.
  4. Prepare tortillas by quickly immersing them in hot olive oil for 10-15 seconds each, until limp.
  5. Line the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking pan with a layer of prepared tortillas, overlapping.
  6. Add a layer of chicken and chile with a slotted spoon to limit the amount of liquid.
  7. Add a layer of cheese. Repeat layering until the stuff is used up.
  8. Bake at 350°F until bubbling and cheese is browning, about 30-40 minutes.

See the DMT page of Kris Bock’s website for a printable version of recipes from the book.


Rebecca Westin is shocked to learn the grandfather she never knew has left her a bona fide buried treasure – but only if she can decipher a complex series of clues leading to it. The hunt would be challenging enough without interference from her half-siblings, who are determined to find the treasure first and keep it for themselves. Good thing Rebecca has recruited some help.

Sam is determined to show Rebecca that a desert adventure can be sexy and fun. But there’s a treacherous wildcard in the mix, a man willing to do anything to get that treasure – and revenge.

Action and romance combine in this lively Southwestern adventure, complete with riddles the reader is invited to solve to identify historical and cultural sites around New Mexico. See the DMT page of Kris Bock’s website for a printable list of the clues and recipes from the book.

The first book in the Southwest Treasure Hunters series is The Mad Monk’s Treasure. The Dead Man’s Treasure is book 2. Each novel stands alone and is complete, with no cliffhangers. This series mixes action and adventure with “closed door” romance. The stories explore the Southwest, especially New Mexico.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Adventures in Science

Pnina in Uganda
By Chris Eboch. First published in the enchantment magazine by NMRECA, March 2013

When many people think of New Mexico – if they think of it at all – they either think of Santa Fe/Taos artists, or they imagine the Wild West. But New Mexico also has a long history in the sciences. (Most famously, the atomic bomb was developed in Los Alamos and tested near Alamogordo.) That history continues at research labs and universities around the state, especially at the small but respected New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro.


Many people picture a certain stereotype when they hear the word “scientist” – male, antisocial, and stuck in a lab. Pnina Miller and Mouse Reusch of Socorro, New Mexico, counteract the clich√©.

Both work at IRIS PASSCAL, the short name for The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Program for Array Seismic Studies of the Continental Lithosphere (PASSCAL) Instrument Center at New Mexico Tech. In layperson terms, they work with scientists studying the interior of the Earth.

While in a PhD program, Pnina researched jobs and discovered PASSCAL. She got a job with the manufacturer of some of the equipment seismologists use to record earthquakes. “I knew I wanted to get to PASSCAL, and through the manufacturer was my path.” At PASSCAL, she says, “I could go into the field and do fun research and play with the equipment. It was absolutely perfect for me. I was born to do this.”

Mouse in Tan.zania
In 2007, she met Mouse, who says, “We were similarly scientifically inclined, similar age, similar interests, fun, loved field work, and I spent many, many hours asking her about PASSCAL.” Mouse came to PASSCAL at the first opportunity.

Despite their similarities, their jobs are different. “I do a little bit of almost everything,” Pnina says. “I go to the field and support our Principal Investigators (PIs) in their research, I do logistics, which means I schedule the equipment. I do a lot of training sessions now. I supervise the two warehouse guys and count inventory. My job has changed over the nine years I’ve been there, so now I’m more of a supervisory role. The last thing that I do, and the main thing that I used to do, is evaluate the sensors and test them on our seismic testing piers.”

“I do what she doesn’t,” Mouse says. “I’m in the data group, working with the researchers that Pnina trained to collect data. They’re required by National Science Foundation guidelines to make their data publicly available. I help them archive it in a consistent and standardized format. Then it becomes available for anyone in the world to use. The place that we work really does help further seismology around the world.”

“Our PIs study a lot of different things,” Pnina explains. “We deploy in different kind of places: volcanoes, glaciers, plains, rift valleys, mountainous regions.”

Mouse adds, “They study from the upper tens of meters of the crust, things that are very shallow subsurface, to things that extend to 3000 kilometers down to the mantle and core.” One group in Africa was studying elephants, trying to determine if their stomping was random or they were sending messages. Others study why earthquakes happen, trying to better gauge hazards. “For volcanoes, they’re usually studying the interior structure,” Pnina says. “They study changes in ice sheets, which can be tied to climate change. They study how glaciers move structurally.”

Working in Antarctica
A World of Work

To support this science, PASSCAL employees may travel around the world to install or maintain instruments. Pnina’s international travel destinations include Spain, Morocco, Antarctica, Tanzania, Uganda, Jordan, Canada, Costa Rica, and Venezuela. “Through all the places, the people I work with in geosciences are very excited about it and want to learn more,” she says. “The PIs are really fun and friendly. You do the work, but afterwards, there’s some opportunity to tour around.” She worked with a local man in Morocco. “He brought me to his house with his family and we had a big dinner after a long field day. You get to see things tourist don’t necessarily get to see.”

With PASSCAL, Mouse has been to Antarctica and Botswana. For other seismic experiments, she’s been to Cameroon, Tanzania, South Africa, and Chile. “I enjoy the adventure, meeting new people, trying new foods, new cultures, frequent-flier mile status,” she says.

Understanding the Earth

Besides the excitement of travel, Mouse notes the value of the work itself. She worked on a project in Chile one month after the big 2010 earthquake. “A lot of the science that I did in grad school seemed kind of esoteric. Why do you care about the mantle structure beneath Cameroon, West Africa? But this was recording aftershocks. We were in Concepci√≥n, where the 15-story building had fallen over, the bridges were damaged, and people were displaced. It felt very meaningful, worthwhile, a reassurance of the importance of the work we do. We are contributing to this great body of knowledge and understanding of the Earth.”

Pnina advises young scientists, “If there’s something you want to explore, head in that direction. You never know what you might discover.”

Mouse adds, “There are so many mysteries out there, in the ground, above the ground, in the water, in space. You need imagination and curiosity. I have fun nearly every day.”


As these women prove, science doesn’t just take place in a lab, so there are opportunities for the most adventurous spirit.