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.

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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.

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