A Virtual Zoo — All in One Book

by Barb Goffman

It’s July, the perfect time for a beach read. You know, a book that’s fun and not too dark. Something you can read on the sand in between naps. And what could be better for the beach than a book of mystery short stories? Especially one filled with animals–perfect for the fun factor.

I’ve talked briefly before about Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies, which was published this spring by Wildside Press. But you haven’t had a chance to meet the stars of this book. So without further ado, I present both the fur and the feathers. In this book you’ll find stories with all of these animals. I hope you’ll check it out:

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Welcome, Kris Bock!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Twenty years ago, I started writing for children, using the name Chris Eboch. I have eight middle grade novels (for ages 9 to 12) published under that name. I also write a lot of educational nonfiction under the name MM Eboch.

Around 2008, I was starting to feel restless and wanted a change. I realized I had mostly been reading adult romantic suspense novels, so I started writing those under the name Kris Bock. 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. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town.

So I have over 50 published books now, but that includes fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults. The variety keeps me interested!

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

We got our first two ferrets in 2012. Zonks and Rico came as a pair. Ferrets don’t live very long, unfortunately, especially when you get them as older rescues, so we’ve loved and lost two more since then. We’ve had our current two, Teddy Black Bear (Bear) and Princess Pandemonium (Panda) since August. They love to wrestle and to sleep cuddled together. I have yet to use a ferret in one of my books, but I’m sure I will someday.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

I have three novels about treasure hunting in the Southwest. Each has a different main couple, but some characters show up in each book. The Mad Monk’s Treasure introduces two friends, Erin and Camie, and Camie’s oversized orange cat Tiger. Camie and Tiger help out in The Dead Man’s Treasure, and they’re the main characters – along with a love interest for Camie, Ryan – in The Skeleton Canyon Treasure. I think Tiger may be my most popular character of all. He goes hiking with Camie and has been known to attack intruders. Some people think his behavior is unrealistic, while others swear they’ve known a cat just like him.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m polishing a mystery about a former war correspondent who returns to her childhood home after an injury and uncovers a mystery at the Alzheimer’s care unit where her mother resides. It’s intended to be the first in a series with the same main character.

Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s too hard to choose! I like romantic suspense and mystery, but nothing too gruesome. I don’t need dead bodies strewn on every page. That’s why I’m a fan of classic romantic suspense by authors such as Mary Stewart and Barbara Michaels.

Do you have any working or service animals in your stories? Tell us about them.

Not exactly, but some years back I spent time with a man who raises falcons and hawks and went on a few hunts with him. What We Found was inspired by finding a dead body while hiking and also includes falconry. It’s real-life adventures like these, both good and bad, that make New Mexico a great place for a writer!

In What We Found, set in a small town in central New Mexico, 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. And because this is suspense with a dose of romance, she has a love interest, Kyle, whose grandmother owns falcons and hawks. Audra accompanies Kyle on a falcon hunt. This scene is closely based my experiences with a falconer:

We strode across the desert, angling to pass by bushy patches where rabbits might be hiding. The hawk flew ahead again, soaring about twenty feet above the ground before landing on a small tree. She waited until we passed by, then made another hop, farther that time. Kyle raised his left arm to shoulder height. The hawk flew back and landed. Watching her come in sent a strange breathless thrill through my chest. I’d seen owls and eagles fairly close in the zoo, but there they were sitting quietly on perches. This was a glimpse of something wild and beautiful.

A jackrabbit bolted out of a bush twenty paces ahead. The hawk took off after it.

Seconds later, she swooped down behind some bushes several hundred feet away. She rose up, made a small loop, and dropped down again. Something shrieked.

Kyle was already running toward the action. By the time I got there, he had the hawk on his arm again. She had a feather sticking out awkwardly from her wing. I didn’t see the rabbit and wondered if Kyle had hidden it to make it easier on me.

“She got beat up,” Kyle said. “That rabbit had some moves.”

“It got away?”

He nodded and plucked a small tuft of gray fur from the bush. “She made contact. But this time, it looks like the rabbit won.” He opened his fingers and the small tuft of fur drifted away on the breeze.

“The rabbit won!”

“It happens sometimes. Fortunately for our girl, she won’t starve.” He looked into her black eyes. “It’s frozen quail for you tonight, my dear.”

The falconry aspect helped me develop thematic elements of What We Found, added some 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!”

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

The ferrets stay in a playpen during the day. It’s not really safe to let them run all over the house, as they’re so small that they could get into things and you might wind up stepping on them or sitting on them when they’re under a couch cushion. My home office looks out on New Mexico nature, complete with distracting wildlife such as roadrunners, quail, hummingbirds, and foxes. When I need a break, I can go cuddle the furkids.

What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had?

Most people seem to think ferrets are pretty unusual! I also had a rat when I was in high school. They make good pets.

Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance with outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. Fans of Mary Stewart, Barbara Michaels, and Terry Odell will want to check out Kris Bock’s romantic adventures. “Counterfeits is the kind of romantic suspense novel I have enjoyed since I first read Mary Stewart’s Moonspinners.” 5 Stars – Roberta at Sensuous Reviews blog

Kris writes for children under the name Chris Eboch. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift, a fantasy adventure drawing on the Arabian Nights stories; The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery that brings ancient Egypt to life; and The Well of Sacrifice, an action-packed drama set in ninth-century Mayan Guatemala.

Chris’s book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots, while You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers offers great insight to beginning and intermediate writers. Learn more at https://chriseboch.com/ or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

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