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.