Friday, November 21, 2014

Does Being a Good Writer Make You More Successful?

Those of us who have struggled for years to sell our manuscripts might, on occasion, wonder why we do this at all. And we could be forgiven for wondering if the world simply doesn’t care about good writing.

Grammarly, a company that makes a grammar checking program, suggests otherwise. The company “conducted a study with over 400 freelancers to determine what impact writing skills have on your career opportunities.” Here’s what they found:

This is a small study, looking at a few hundred freelancers working through one online company. Still, it provides some food for thought (and maybe a little hope for those of us who care about good writing). Here’s some more detail on the study:

“We proofread 400+ freelancer profiles from all eight categories of the Elance platform for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. To adjust for quality of work, we only selected freelancers with an average rating of four stars or above. We then looked at correlation between earnings and number of mistakes. We hope the direction the data is pointing in spurs some thought and conversation about the importance of good writing. Our goal is to raise awareness for the importance of good writing. Good writing is not only foundational to good communication, but it can also unlock knowledge, job opportunities, and access to education.” 

Writing is competitive, especially when it comes to fiction or trade nonfiction. No matter how good your spelling and grammar, you’ll have a hard time making a sale if you don’t also have great content. But this is a reminder that being a skilled writer in the technical sense, and carefully proofreading, is important, too!

Full disclosure: Grammarly provided a donation to Reading Is Fundamental, a charity that promotes literacy, in exchange for publicizing this graphic. Grammarly offers a proofreading program designed to catch more spelling and grammar mistakes than a word processing program does.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Romantic Suspense on Sale

Right now, two of my romantic suspense novels are on sale for $.99 at various e-book retailers: 

Rattled, a romantic adventure by Kris Bock, is on sale for $.99:

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 Drew, the handsome helicopter pilot who found her bleeding in a ditch, really a hero, or one of the enemy?

How far will Erin go to find the treasure and discover what she’s really made of?

Rattled is a treasure hunting adventure in New Mexico that will appeal to fans of Terry Odell, Mary Stewart, Lillian Stewart Carl, and Barbara Michaels.


Counterfeits by Kris Bock is on sale for $.99:

Painter Jenny Kinley has spent the last decade struggling in the New York art world. Her grandmother’s sudden death brings her home to New Mexico, but inheriting the children’s art camp her grandmother ran is more of a burden than a gift. How can she give up her lifelong dreams of showing her work in galleries and museums?

Rob Caruso, the camp cook and all-around handyman, would be happy to run the camp with Jenny. Dare he even dream of that, when his past holds dark secrets that he can never share? When Jenny’s father reappears after a decade-long absence, only Rob knows where he’s been and what danger he’s brought with him.

Jenny and Rob face midnight break-ins and make desperate escapes, but the biggest danger may come from the secrets that don’t want to stay buried. In the end, they must decide whether their dreams will bring them together or force them apart.

Counterfeits is romantic suspense in the Southwest perfect for fans of Terry Odell, Mary Stewart, Lillian Stewart Carl, and Barbara Michaels.

‘Counterfeits’ is the kind of romantic suspense novel I have enjoyed since I first read Mary Stewart’s ‘Moonspinners’, and Kris Bock used all the things I love about this genre.  Appealing lead characters, careful development of the mysterious danger facing one or both of those characters, a great location that is virtually a character on its own, interesting secondary characters who might or might not be involved or threatened, and many surprises building up to the climax. 5 Stars – Roberta at Sensuous Reviews blog 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Middle Grade Boxed Set

Boxed e-books sets are everywhere these days  – at least in adult genre fiction. Middle grade boxed sets have been less common, perhaps even nonexistent. That's changing with The Adventure Collection of MG novels, including one of mine. 

Why We Did It

The idea began with DD Roy, a writer and the founder of a small publishing house, who has previous experience with romance collections. Her middle grade novel Jinnie Wishmaker is about a girl who can grant wishes but can't control the results. It launches a series about kids with magical powers that don't always work the way they're supposed to. She recruited the other authors and is handling production on the collection.

Initially, the collection will be priced at $.99. Later, the price may go up – or we may decide to take down the collection. Six authors sharing income on a $.99 book may not sound very lucrative. However, the promotional price and the shared marketing mean that the volume of sales can be much greater than any one author makes on a single title. Even with that money divided six ways, everyone earns something. The collection will be available for a limited time, and then we'll discuss whether or not we want to keep it up.

The visibility is more important than sales for many participating authors. The hope is that readers who enjoy one novel will look for others by the same author. Perhaps they'll post reviews or tell friends about their favorite books in the collection.

This marketing angle is especially useful for authors sharing the first book in a series. Readers who like the first book may want more of that series. In our collection, Priscilla the Great, by Sybil Nelson, is the first book in a series about a girl who can shoot fire from her fingers and must save her family from genetically enhanced assassins. 

Other books in the collection have sequels coming soon. Operation Golden Llama, by Sam Bond, is about five cousins searching for ancient gold and a mysterious grandma in the Peruvian jungle. The second in the Cousins In Action series, Operation Tiger Paw, is due for release in November. Sam plans seven books in total taking the cousins to six continents and doubling up on Asia. 

Angels Club, by Courtney Vail and Sandra J. Howell, is about a girl who bonds with a scrawny rescue horse. Angels Club 2: The Trouble with Boys features different point of view characters and will be out this winter. Courtney also writes young adult and adult suspense, while Sandra's focus is horse stories for kids and grown-ups.

Unfortunately, my only series, Haunted, is published by Aladdin (Simon & Schuster). Even if they had been willing to allow The Ghost on the Stairs to be used in the bundle, it would have taken far too long to get the proper permissions. Therefore, I included The Genie’s Gift, a fantasy adventure drawing on the Arabian Nights stories, since I have all the rights to that book. Maybe readers who like The Genie’s Gift will check out my historical mystery, The Eyes of Pharaoh, or my Mayan adventure, The Well of Sacrifice.

Even books without sequels can help increase author name recognition and provide a boost to the author's other titles. Jennifer Bohnhoff’s historical drama, Code: Elephants on the Moon, is about an outcast girl in Normandy during World War II. Perhaps interested readers – or teachers – will follow up with her second historical novel, the Civil War drama The Bent Reed. We felt it was worth a chance.

How It Worked

Since the collection is new, it's hard to say what the results are yet. However, before this writing, we had already hit 100 sales on Apple. Some sales won't show up until the collection officially goes on sale. And of course, it will be hard to judge if/how sales of the collection increase sales of other books by each authors. Readers might take months to actually get around to reading each individual book in the collection. In addition, there are many variables affecting sales numbers – normal fluctuations in sales patterns, holidays, other promotions.

Hopefully we'll be able to draw some conclusions. Maybe we'll even make some money off of our shares of the collection. Regardless, it's a fun experiment and we are sure to learn something. Plus, I've gotten to meet some new middle grade authors, and I'm already enjoying my own copy of the collection.

The Adventure Collection is only 99 cents for a limited time. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Online Workshops on Writing for Children

I'll be teaching a webinar (online workshop) next month:

You Can Write for Children

Remember the magic of bedtime stories? When you write for children, you have the most appreciative audience in the world. But to reach that audience, you need to understand the business of writing for children, including the requirements for different genres, age ranges, and markets. You also need to write fresh, dynamic stories, whether you’re writing rhymed picture books or middle grade mysteries or edgy teen novels. 

In this hands-on workshop, we’ll explore how to do all of that. Cost is $99. Participants also have the option of getting personal feedback on their homework for an additional $49. 

This class is both for beginning and experienced writers looking to build skill and learn more about the publishing environment for children's book authors. 

The class meets on three Wednesdays, July 9th, July 16th, July 23rd, 1 pm - 2:30 pm EDT/10 am - 11:30 am PDT. Recordings will be available to class participants, both for review and for anyone who can’t attend a session live.

For a complete description of the three-week workshop, or to sign up, click here.

If you are not familiar with webinars, or if you are concerned about your technology, get a free preview Wednesday, June 25th 1 pm EDT/10 am PDT:

Five Myths about Writing for Children

In this session, we'll be discussing some of the common pitfalls standing in the way of prospective children's book authors. 

We'll then have some open Q&A with author Chris Eboch, so please come prepared with your questions about the art and business of publishing children's literature. 

RSVP to get access information here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kris Bock’s 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 take you in the desert or mountains, visiting native petroglyphs or hunting for fossils. Hundreds of climbing routes provide adventures for anyone willing to hit the rocks, beginners to experts. Plus, you have a 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

Monday, June 2, 2014

Surviving the Writing Life 5

What do you do when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you?

Sometimes writer’s block is really just a form of exhaustion. This is a hard business, and it can seem to take forever to get anywhere. There’s so much to learn, so many decisions to make, so much to keep track of, and of course far too much to do. And unfortunately, success doesn’t lighten the load. Whether you are not-yet-published, a debut novelist with 1001 “must do” publicity tasks, a midlist writer juggling work-for-hire jobs with your own fiction, or an award winner suddenly in so much demand that you don’t have time to write, the writing life can get overwhelming.

Sometimes we need to take a break from all the pressure and reconnect with the reasons we fell in love with writing in the first place. You may find it hard to give yourself permission to take a vacation, but research has shown that people get less effective if they work too hard for too long. In the 19th century, when companies gave in to union demands for a 40-hour workweek, productivity climbed despite the shorter hours. And office workers may have even fewer “good” hours than manual laborers, on average about six per day.

In the short term, working long hours can help you achieve goals, but an extra 50% of work time may only produce 25% more work. Fatigue sets in and productivity drops. Even more important, after eight 60-hour weeks, productivity has dropped so low that most groups would be better off if they’d stuck with a 40-hour workweek the whole time.

Fortunately, for many people writing feels like a break from their full-time job, so it’s more like a hobby than extra work. And in some cases, that loopy state of exhaustion may free up creativity. This can be helpful for rough drafts or brainstorming sessions. I’ve gotten some of my most creative ideas during 2 AM bouts of insomnia. Still, if you are feeling burned out, consider whether it’s time to take a break, rework your schedule, or try something new.

Here are some more specific tips:

– Get enough sleep. I know, it’s often harder than it sounds, but studies have shown that losing an hour of sleep each night for a week causes cognitive degradation equivalent to a .10 blood-alcohol level. People in that state typically don’t recognize that they are impaired, so people who can survive on six hours sleep a night may not thrive on it.

“Get enough sleep” may go against advice you’ll find elsewhere, such as get up early or stay up late to write. Individuals must find their own balance. If you can’t eliminate some other task from your life to free up time, you may need to snatch a few minutes here and there to write, or block out time on weekends and vacations. (See part 4, “How Do You Find Time to Write?”)

– Write something just for fun with no worries about marketability. Play! This can help you remember why you wanted to be a writer in the first place. Even better, it takes off the pressure, which may help counteract perfectionist tendencies or fear of failure.

– Take yourself on regular “artist dates” – trips to museums, zoo, or art galleries, walks in the park, thrift store shopping. Plan a goofy craft party with friends or your family. Read great books just for enjoyment. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott calls this filling the well. If you don’t take enough in, you won’t have anything to give out through your writing.

– Take a writing class that may get you fired up again. For the time being, don’t worry about what you “should” learn next (say, how to find an agent.) Instead, try something that sounds like fun (poetry, memoir, paranormal fiction?), even if you’re sure you’ll never try to publish in that area. Many classes are offered online. You can also check your local community college or community center, combining learning with socialization. Even reading books or magazines on writing could help you feel inspired.

An action fantasy inspired by 
the Arabian Nights, prepared for 
publication while juggling other projects.

– Take a class in something completely different, just to stretch your mind. Art classes are good for exploring creativity, while a course in history or politics may give you topic ideas. Studying a foreign language or music might tap into different parts of the brain.

– Brainstorm new ideas. After a strenuous year where I wrote a novel, several nonfiction books, and multiple articles, plus edited an older manuscript and took two books through the self-publishing process, I found myself not wanting to start a new fiction project. I stopped worrying about the book I was “supposed” to do next and reread some of my favorite innovative novels by other authors. I came up with a completely new idea – yet one that drew on many of my interests – and I started to feel hopeful about fiction again.

Need help with your craft?
Check out Advanced Plotting.
– Keep perspective. I remind students who want to be professional writers that they are trying to switch careers, which normally would mean going back to college for four or more years, and then maybe doing an internship or starting at the bottom and working their way up. So why do people think their first manuscript should be a bestseller? It's not like writing is easy!

It would be nice if we didn’t have to think about projects as study and homework. However, I know lots of my “dead files” are not worthy of publication. They were part of learning the craft and finding my voice. Realistically, it can take years to find success. Just because you’re not there yet doesn’t mean you can’t get there.

Most importantly, remember that you deserve a break sometimes, and your writing may be better for it.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life? Have you taken a vacation from writing? Did it help or hurt your progress in the long run?

This post was originally published on the Project Mayhem blog. 

Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy, The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. In The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, a brother and sister help a ghostly miner find his long-lost mine. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Monday, May 26, 2014

What We Found: $.99 sale romantic mystery

$.99 sale 5/25-30: A romantic mystery: When Audra finds a murdered woman, she’ll have to stand up for herself to help the victim. It’s a risk, as is trusting the mysterious man who works with deadly birds of prey. But with danger all around, some risks are worth taking. 4.3 star average with 23 Amazon customer reviews.

Finding a dead body changes a person.

22-year-old Audra Needham is back in her small New Mexico hometown. She just wants to fit in, work hard, and help her younger brother. Going for a walk in the woods with her former crush, Jay, seems like a harmless distraction.

Until they stumble on a body.

Jay, who has secrets of his own to protect, insists they walk away and keep quiet. But Audra can't simply forget what she's seen. The woman deserves to be found, and her story deserves to be told.

More than one person isn't happy about Audra bringing a crime to life. The dead woman was murdered, and Audra could be next on the vengeful killer's list. 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. With her 12-year-old brother determined to play detective, and romance budding in the last place she expected, Audra learns that some risks are worth taking – no matter the danger, to her body or her heart.

Another action-packed suspense novel by Kris Bock, perhaps her best to-date. The author weaves an intriguing tale with appealing characters. Watching Audra, the main character, evolve into an emotionally-mature and independent young woman is gratifying.” Reader Ellen R.

Inspiration for the Book

A couple of years ago, I met a local falconer. I tagged along on hunts, as he released a falcon after homing pigeons on a cold winter morning or let a hawk chase rabbits on a spring afternoon. (For those of you who are squeamish, the birds of prey don’t succeed as often as you might expect, but they get exercise.) I visited the falconer’s home to see newly hatched hawks and falcons. I even wrote an article about him and his birds for a local publication.

Raising falcons is an intense, time-consuming, and expensive hobby, so I don’t plan to get into falconry myself. But as an author, I could do the next best thing – I could write about it.

In What We Found, a young woman stumbles on a dead body in the woods. Audra gets drawn into the investigation, but more than one person isn’t happy about her bringing a murder to light. Fortunately, she has some allies, including her brainy 12-year-old brother and self-appointed sidekick, Ricky; a sophisticated Navajo coworker, Nascha; and her goofy but loyal boss, Eslinda. And because this is suspense with a dose of romance, she has a love interest – Kyle, a mysterious young man who happens to be the brother of the murder victim.

Kyle is recovering from physical and psychological wounds he received during military service. He finds some peace helping his grandmother, Nancy, work with the falcons and hawks she keeps. Audra gets her first tour of the aviary from Nancy:

A beautiful bird sat on a perch. I couldn’t identify different kinds of falcons and hawks, but this was clearly a bird of prey, with a sharply hooked beak and long claws on the yellow feet. It was only about a foot high, but the tiny black eyes rimmed with yellow had a fierce look, warning that this was not a cuddly pet.
“This is Lucy,” Nancy said. “She’s a peregrine falcon, an old girl like me. She was a rescue.” The bird turned her head and shrieked, her little pink tongue visible in the open mouth. Nancy ran the back of her fingers down the bird’s breast.
I’d never been this close to a falcon before. She had beautiful coloring, dark brown on the head and back, with a white throat that gave way to a mottled pattern of cream and brown on the breast. I had the urge to reach out and stroke her like Nancy had, but I wasn’t sure the bird would take that from strangers, and anyway it seemed rude.
I drew closer and could tell one wing was different, part of it missing. I got a sudden image of Kyle and wondered if Nancy took in injured creatures of all kinds. “Are all your birds rescued?”
“No, but several are. Once I had birds, people knew me as ‘The Bird Lady’ and started bringing me injured birds.” She smiled at the falcon and I could feel the connection between the two of them. “In the summer, the hunting seasons are closed and the birds are molting. You can’t fly the birds, so I started breeding them. I think it’s good for their health, to pair up.”
That made me think of Mom. I was reading symbolism into everything.

The falcons are realistically portrayed in What We Found, so they don’t help solve the crime or anything like that. But the falconry aspect helped me develop thematic elements of the story, added some unusual action, and provided readers with insight into an usual pastime. One reader wrote, “The falconry aspect was almost as intriguing as the unveiling of the murderer!”

Writers hope to create characters readers will love. Secondary characters – villains, love interests, sidekicks, friends and family and others – can make the story world feel real, add tension and complications, and provide comic relief. They can also allow the main character to express herself in different situations and with different kinds of people, thus letting readers get to know her better. Each story requires a different cast of characters, but I like to include strong female friends, a gentle hero, a few quirky minor characters, and fascinating animals – wild or otherwise – if they fit.

For another aspect of the book, read the real story of our accidental involvement in a murder case, the experience that inspired What We Found, in a guest post on Digital Book Today.