Authorpreneur Dashboard – Anita Perez Ferguson

Anita Perez Ferguson

Twisted Cross


In 1795, eighteen-year-old Salvador Tenorio and his best friend, Blas, embark upon the most adventurous journey of their lives, leaving their impoverished families and painful memories behind in Imperial Spain. On a quest to find adventure, the clever young Spaniard battles the demons of his past and religious uncertainty on an epic expedition to the New World. 

Determined to make the best out of their challenging circumstances, they aspire to claw their way out of poverty. Sal and Blas discover more than they ever imagined as they witness the fragmented cultures of California’s native people. Tangling with corrupted padres and escaping from ruthless pirates, they realize that all that glitters is not gold. Sal and Blas must quickly learn the rules of the sea and the new western frontier—or die trying. Can Sal handle his own twisted secrets and rise from the depths of his past while discovering his own purpose in life?

Book Bubbles from Twisted Cross

Moving Forward

Longing for yesterday does not bring it back. At the end of the year, we make plans for the future. This is what Salvador, the character in Twisted Cross, learns from his mentor. This is what life teaches all of us. Thank you for following these excerpts from Twisted Cross, the first book in the Mission Bells trilogy. In the New Year we will see old and new characters face more adventures and challenges in the Old West. Enjoy the entire series here at or visit my site I also invite you to follow my free weekly newsletter, Diverse Voices - Bravo!, which provides introductions to other Latinx authors and resources at

A Great Meal

Finally, our adventure has reached its' destination in Monterey. Thank you for traveling with my characters, Salvador Tenorio and Paciano in Alta California. They are stepping into the 1810 world of a wealthy landowner and his beautiful daughter. After all the dangers along the road to Monterey, Salvador finds that his biggest challenge is in the company of men of power and a lovely young woman. Find out what happens by using to order and read Twisted Cross and the other books in the Mission Bells historic fiction trilogy. Visit my website at and follow my free weekly recommendations for other Latina authors at

The Other

Brother against brother - that is the theme of this passage. Aggression and bullying are nothing new. Even within the old church leaders, one man mocked another. And within the indigenous community the various bands were often cautious, if not openly hostile, to those from another territory. No wonder 'Love Thy Neighbor' is repeated so often as advice for community life. Thank you for taking a moment to read this excerpt from Twisted Cross, book one in my award-winning Mission Bells Trilogy. Learn more on this site and also visit my website A new generation of pioneers, Latinx authors are introduced in my free weekly newsletter, Join us!

New Map & Leadership

When you are at an impasse a new map and a new leader can make all the difference. That is what is happening in this excerpt from Twisted Cross, the first book in my historic fiction series for teens and young adults. But there is more. One of the new leaders is an indigenous man, a hunter and tracker. His name is Paciano and the Yankee explorer is wary of engaging him. With the support of Brother David, Paciano is not only acknowledged as a leader but treated in a manner that makes his family cheer. I invite you to use this site,, to purchase, read and share the Mission Bells Trilogy. I also invite you to join my free newsletter where I share other modern Latino authors each week that will add to your personal reading list and classroom selections. Https://

Hunting Bear

The bears of California are not just a myth. They existed up and down the coast and in the mountains of California before statehood. The indigenous population both feared and honored the bears as an integral part of their survival. This excerpt gives you a look at the traditional preparations for a bear hunt. As you follow the adventures of Salvador in Twisted Cross you will also be learning the history of California before statehood. Books 2 and 3 in this Mission Bells Trilogy share more facts about our territory tucked into the adventurous fiction story. See them all here at or on my website at

A Priest Confesses

When a trusted friend reveals that he has not been totally honest with you, things change. In this excerpt, the faithful Brother David let's young Salvador know that their future in Alta California is not secure. Spain is withdrawing its support for the Missions and the remaining priests are low on food supplies. Sal realizes that the tables are turned. The Brother may now need his help to survive. Ironically, even while Brother David is revealing the worries on his heart, young Salvador is distracted by a beautiful indigenous woman who happens to be the wife of the lead hunter. Thank you for following Twisted Cross, the first book in the Mission Bells Trilogy. See all three books at this site. For more insights on the background for this historic fiction, reviews and awards, see To follow my free weekly recommendations on other Latino authors see

Wisdom Meets Danger

The wisdom and strength of Brother David was no match for the pirates who captured Sal and forced him into service. At least that is what Sal thought until he sees that the Brother has his own ways of dealing with dishonest men and dangerous enemies. Sal learns that might does not always win the day. Loyal friends and wise leadership can overcome threats and violence. Thank you for following Sal's adventures in Twisted Cross and the other books in the Mission Bells Trilogy. You can find out more about all the books at this site or at I also welcome you to learn about other Latino authors in my free weekly newsletter at

Do or Die

How often do we find ourselves caught between two worlds facing one decision that is forced upon us and resisting the right decision that will be good for us? We grow up in these moments or regret them forever. Life choices have serious consequences. Making the right decisions is not easy for teens or adults. Friends influence us, circumstances push on us. Sal is a teenager who is far from home and under the influence of crafty associates who do not care about his life. Twisted Cross is a historic fiction novel whose characters face tough choices in an uncertain future. Enjoy all three of the Mission Bells novels and learn more about them here on the website or from Also, follow my weekly recommendations for Latino literature at

Forced into Service

How many times will Salvador be forced to do the dirty work for someone else? In this part of the story, Twisted Cross, Sal is not yet twenty years old. He is now under the control of pirates who expect him to help them steal from the Franciscan missionaries. The Mission Bells Trilogy gives a different view of the old West and the challenges that were posed by competing interests. Twisted Cross is the first book in the trilogy. Each story stands alone but read together in history classes and within a book group, you are able to follow a cast of characters from the 1790s to 1850 when the wild frontier of Alta California becomes a state. Purchase & enjoy these books here with Follow other writers who inspired me with their diverse voices in my newsletter Diverse Voices - Bravo! at https: //anitaperezferguson.substack. com

Luck Changes

As the seasons change so does our attitude toward the future. Summer holds such hope but fall brings a chill to the air. In this excerpt from Twisted Cross, Salvador is experiencing a change in his life. He is now in league with the pirates, having left his friends and beliefs in the Missions far behind. Read on to see what new choices he is forced to make as his luck changes. Twisted Cross is book one in the Mission Bells Trilogy. This award-winning historic fiction about Alta California prior to statehood engages students and opens links to the characters in our history. See all three books here at and learn more at

Life Turned Upside Down

Has your life ever changed completely in just one day? Think of a time when an accident occurred, or you experienced sickness, when your family made a move to a new location, or when a divorce occurred. Even if you are well and nothing else has changed, when a friend turns their back on you it seems that the entire world has changed. In the story of Twisted Cross, our teenaged friend, Salvador, goes through all types of changes that turn his life upside down. His personal history reflects the larger changes going on in the world around him, especially the changes in the western territory of Alta California. Enjoy all three books in the Mission Bells historic fiction trilogy for young adults and all readers. Follow them here on and at

Impersonating Truth

Thank you for returning to the story of Sal and Blas as they discover the New World -- the hard way. This excerpt demonstrates the misunderstandings and doubts that developed between these two friends during their separation. Each is pretending to be someone else, and their friendship suffers. I wish I could tell you that this is the worst of their troubles, but it is not. Read the entire story in Twisted Cross, book one in the award-winning Mission Bells trilogy. Learn more here each week and also check out the entire trilogy and my inspirations on my website at For a weekly newsletter on my current projects join me at I look forward to your participation and comments.

Friends Grow Up

Thanks for taking another look at Twisted Cross and the adventures of Salvador Tenorio in the New World. Along the way Sal and his best friend Blas are parted and never expect to find each other again. In this excerpt, midway in the story, they are reunited and barely recognize each other. In our own lives friends do grow up and get separated in various ways. Reunions are not always happy or expected but the friendship between Sal and Blas is one of the best things in the life of both young men. Something will soon go wrong and break them apart one more time. Join me in this first book of the Mission Bells trilogy and find out what happens. More information about the books, their awards, and reviews can be found here:

A Wise Old Man

This week I've dumped you right in the middle of an excerpt that takes place on a short voyage from Mazatlan to San Diego. I did this because I want to introduce you to a minor character, Macias, who is a wise old man. My apologies if you are confused. Twisted Cross is enjoyed by all readers but is especially written for young adults. It's the first of three historic novels that take place from the 1790's to 1850. Macias meets Salvador, a teen, traveling alone a barge. There are many thieves and pick pockets among the passengers. Macias warns Sal about protecting his valuables. Sal's head is in the clouds thinking only about the end of his voyage. My point is, we can often be so distracted by our hopes and dreams that we forget to protect ourselves in the here and now. If we are fortunate, we will have someone looking out for us. Learn more about the Mission Bells Trilogy here on my Bublish page and at

Rosa the Dock Girl

Once you read this excerpt from Twisted Cross about Rosa the Dock Girl, you will figure out what she is selling. You may not figure out why I would include such a character in a Young Adult historic fiction about the Old West. My editor certainly questioned the wisdom of including Rosa in the manuscript. In my defense, a case can easily be made that there was a high percentage of Rosas in the Pacific Coast docks of the 1800s. Read a little further and you will see that her behavior is key to moving our hero forward to Alta California. The lead character, Salvador, in Twisted Cross is an older teen, as are the different characters in books two and three of this series. Life at that age is full of temptations and challenges. Rosa qualifies in both those categories. Find out more about all three books in this series here on or at and follow my free weekly newsletter about modern Latinx Literature here:

Murderous Thoughts

Warning: this excerpt contains some dark content, but it is realistic in a young person's life, especially when they are struggling to survive. The main character in Twisted Cross, a teen named Salvador, is tempted with dangerous thoughts. He believes it is the Devil speaking to him, telling him to do something wrong. Creating a story for young adults (YA), it is a challenge to instill hope without hiding the difficulties of life. The characters in the Mission Bells trilogy, an Historic Fiction trio of YA novels about Colonial California, each instill hope after a series of hardships that reflect the real tribulations of the early settlers along the Pacific Coast. Learn more at You can also learn more about me, the author, in my weekly free newsletter at

Friends Sometime Separate

"Coraje" is the Spanish word for courage. It is what Salvador said to his best friend, Blas, when they are separated after an accident on the road to Alta California with Padre Serra. Sadly, friends often separate as they grow older. Families break apart. Neighbors move away. Or worse, there is an argument that breaks up a childhood friendship. In this excerpt from Twisted Cross, a broken cart ends the companionship between Salvador and Blas. Salvador stays behind to repair the cart, and Blas continues traveling north with Padre Serra. "Coraje," Salvador says to Blas. Thank you for following Salvador's adventures in Twisted Cross, the first book in the Mission Bells trilogy. *Find all three adventures at New stories are being recommended and created in 2023. *Find my free weekly newsletter and learn more at

Saints & Sinners

We are all human. Some authors gloss over the real-life personalities of our heroes when they write history. They make everyone sound so ideal. But diaries and letters often reveal the passions and quirks of historic personalities. With due respect to our saints and sinners, I've used these archival documents to create the characters in Twisted Cross. In this excerpt, our main character, Salvador (Sal), is part of an historic adventure from Mexico City into Alta California. There was no easy way to travel, it was just one foot in front of another. Fortitude and faith were needed for the journey, but that does not mean that every traveler was perfect. Join Salvador on this journey by reading Twisted Cross, the first book in the Mission Bells series. *Learn more about the plots and characters at *Follow my weekly newsletter to enjoy my book selections and diversify your library and classroom resources. See it at

Bad Influences

"Those kids are having a bad influence on you. Keep away from them!" Did you ever hear those words from your parents? Were they right? The bad influences are seen in this portion of Twisted Cross as Salvador mixes in with the young soldiers in the stable where he is assigned to tend horses. He's drawn to the young men who tell tall tales and play poker at night. It doesn't take too much time before he realizes they are ruder and cruder than he is willing to be. Will he ever get away from their influence? Join me in the adventures of the Mission Bells Trilogy. Real history wrapped around characters who speak to our modern lives, fears, and wishes. Twisted Cross is the first of three exciting books. All are currently available at regular outlets in Paperback and eBook. They are also available at Also: Learn more about books featuring diverse voices from my free weekly newsletter


We all long for our freedom, until we are unexpectedly left behind. In this excerpt from Twisted Cross, the first book of the Mission Bells Trilogy, the teens resist the strict instructions of their taskmaster, Brother David. Not long after they come to respect him as a mentor, he is ordered away on a new assignment and leaves the boys behind. Their life is consumed with hard labor and little hope of escaping their indentured servitude. Find out what events prompt their escape to new adventures and dangerous passages. I invite you to enjoy all three books in the Mission Bells historic fiction trilogy for young adults: Twisted Cross, Golden Secrets, and Broken Promises. Learn more at

Truth & Consequences

Our young adventurer, Salvador, is in the New World and learning more adult secrets each day. Life is full of surprises for all teens, and we wish that they could all be pleasant. Between our assumptions and reality, we must learn many hard lessons. Twisted Cross, the first book in the Mission Bells trilogy sets the pace for real history and real adventure. In this Excerpt, Salvador discovers the pure intentions of Brother David. He salvages precious indigenous records even at the risk of his own punishments from the church authorities. Lesson: sometimes breaking the rules is the best decision but it always carries consequences. Join Salvador and all the characters in the Mission Bells trilogy for more history of old California and life's lessons. Learn more at

Secret Passages

Salvador, an impoverished teen from Spain, is discovering the New World, complete with soldiers and priests who stretch the limits of their mission. This is not your grandmother's history lesson. The Mission Bells Trilogy introduces teen readers to historic fiction that is told through the voices of diverse characters. In this passage, the question of preserving or destroying indigenous practices and artifacts is played out in a surprising turn of events. All the scenes and content are familiar in our current world. Tough questions are addressed in a manner that prompts student involvement in classrooms, libraries and summer reading groups. Read all three books covering Colonial California, 1776 to 1850, or enjoy the books individually. Educators appreciate the reference and referrals included in each book that are equal part adventure and history. Learn more at

In the Classroom

Writing for youth often involves classroom presentations about your books. As I spoke to a group of college students this week, I found myself searching for an example of my method for writing historic fiction. I used a movie reference that, luckily, they could relate to. "What does the novel, Forest Gump, by Winston Groom (1986), and the award-winning movie of the same name (1994), have to do with the way I write historic fiction?" While the critics identified the movie as a romantic comedy, I saw the movie as historic fiction. Afterall, the character's story arch followed the chronology of events in the US, and elsewhere, in the 60's, 70's, and 80's. When I wrote the Mission Bells trilogy, I identified significant events in colonial California, pre statehood, then created characters that interacted with those events. This excerpt from my first book, Twisted Cross, contains such references as the plight of Father Serra and the missions due to the decision made by the King of Spain to withdraw his support of the troops and the padres in the territory. See more of the history and the story in the other books in the series, Golden Secrets and Broken Promises. Visit

New Year's Resolutions

Do you make the same resolution year after year and never really accomplish your goals? I solved that problem by changing my resolution. When I first imagined my character, Salvador Tenorio, my goals for the year began to revolve around him and his experience in the New World of the 1800s in colonia California. Writing his story, over the course of three historical novels, became my story. It was my means of thinking about life, past, present, and future. My New Year's resolution shifted to my goal of completing the trilogy, and now, to introduce it to readers everywhere. Salvadore's goals are different than mine ever were. But the challenges, fears, and limitations of my character are universal. Enjoy reading Twisted Cross, Golden Secrets, and now, Broken Promises. How might you change your resolutions this year?

Facing A Challenge

As you read this excerpt, you are in the last moments of a bear hunt described in the historic novel, Twisted Cross. Are you facing a bear hunt, a challenge, as we enter a new year? I thought of this passage because of the learning that takes place in the main character, Sal. At the beginning of the scene, he is so sure he can overcome several bears. In the end he accepts help and sees how the group works together. As an author, I want to create, publish and promote my books all by myself. Over the years I've learned how a group effort brings the best results. You, as a reader, are part of my group and I thank you. May all your challenges in the new year open the way to friends and allies to help you accomplish your goals. See more about my books at

On the Run

How do I describe Twisted Cross?" I say, "Young Salvador struggles with padres and pirates to find his way in the New World." The longer version is: "In 1795, eighteen-year-old Salvador Tenorio and his best friend, Blas, embark upon the most adventurous journey of their lives, leaving their impoverished families and painful memories behind in Imperial Spain. On a quest to find adventure, the clever young Spaniard battles the demons of his past and religious uncertainty on an epic expedition to the New World. Determined to make the best out of their challenging circumstances, they aspire to claw their way out of poverty. Sal and Blas discover more than they ever imagined as they witness the fragmented cultures of California’s native people. Tangling with corrupted padres and escaping from ruthless pirates, they realize that all that glitters is not gold. Sal and Blas must quickly learn the rules of the sea and the new western frontier—or die trying. Can Sal handle his own twisted secrets and rise from the depths of his past while discovering his own purpose in life?" Book 1 in the Mission Bells YA Triloigy.

Costumes Disguise Danger

Even the pirates in days long ago understood the value of a good costume. Put on a mask and become someone else. Cover your face and do whatever you want. In the adventures of Twisted Cross young Salvador Tenorio is captured by a group of pirates off the California coast. Using a bag of disguises, the pirates scheme to use Salvador's knowledge of the missions and have him steal precious goods. Twisted Cross is book one. in the Mission Bells trilogy. This historic fiction ads adventure and fresh, diverse voices to western stories from the 1800's. The second book in the series, Golden Secrets, continues the intrigue with youthful family sagas prior to the famous California gold rush. The final book in the series, Broken Promises, will be released in January 2023. Start your adventure now!

Death Row

Even in an adventure story, the good times only last so long. Sooner or later, we learn that our actions have consequences. Worst yet, we often get our friends ensnared in the same problems. The friends in Twisted Cross, Sal and Blas, end up in the worst kind of jail. It's a sinky, crowded place with rats climbing the walls. Sal is full of remorse. He starts to talk to one of the rats, since his friend Blas has been beaten unconscious. Sal confesses his regrets and sorrows to a rat he names, Chaco. What type of a YA book is this? Twisted Cross includes plot turns that keep the reader engaged. It is book one in the Mission Bells historical fiction trilogy. Teachers and librarians recommend it as a supplemental text in Southwest/Latino regional studies, 1800s.

Bad Planning

Youngsters in tough circumstances often make risky decisions. This is what Huckelberry Fin, Oliver Twist and David Copperfield have in common. Add one more character with a troubled youth that led to adventure to that list: Salvador Tenorio the protagonist in Twisted Cross. His difficult childhood in Spain [1790's] gave him strength and motivation to find a new life, in a new world with an old friend. Twisted Cross is book one in the Mission Bells trilogy, a work of historical fiction that introducing diverse voices to the colonial development of Alta California, pre statehood. Today's students see their own family origins and appreciate their place in history. Enjoy the adventure.

A Growth Spurt

As an author, I birth characters and nurture their development, much as a parent does their own children. As a reader, you notice when circumstances change in the plot. In a good story, characters respond, and the plot thickens. In a slow story, the protagonist remains the same, never challenged, never changing, predictable. It may interest you to know that authors are sometimes surprised by their character's reactions. Just as we anticipate that our own children will go through growth spurts, even our mature characters have growth spurts. In this exert from Twisted Cross, the protagonist, Sal, is confronted with injustice and cruelty toward his Native companion. Sal does not lash with violence as he did in his younger years but moves on in peace with his friend.

Blind Friendship

Blas's good behavior faded the longer he traveled with his risk-taking companion. He now cursed, drank, and told lies just to survive as a stow-away in a dangerous new land. Where would this loyal friendship with his childhood friend, Salvador Tenorio, lead next? It was scary, but somehow exciting, to be blind with adventure. The historic saga of Blas and Sal in Twisted Cross leads to unexpected places. This is book one in the Mission Bells trilogy, a historic fiction focused on colonial California in the 1800s. Teachers and librarians use these exciting texts to supplement SW historic studies and introduce students to a diverse array of unsung heroes. Free resource guides are found here:

Devils & Angels

Twisted Cross received Special Mention from the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators 2022. Their Reviewer wrote: "Though the devil whispered to Salvador during the dark, quiet nights on his pilgrimage, the real evil, cloaked in white vestments at the altar was far more dangerous. The theme of challenging authority runs through this work of historical fiction about a teen who escapes abuse to labor aboard a Spanish galleon in the late 1700s before finding his purpose in life." Enjoy Twisted Cross by Anita Perez Ferguson, book one in the YA Mission Bells Trilogy and book two, Golden Secrets. Broken Promises, book three, will be released January 2023.

Make a Contribution

Do women make a contribution to society, or do they just do what they are told by the men in their lives? What has that question got to do with a 200 year old story? In old Alta California, 1810, two women, Ria and Maria Theresa, prepare for a party, each has a different answer to that question. Those differences will alter the events of the evening and the events in the household for the rest of their lives. This excerpt from Twisted Cross is one of the few that features two women in conversation. This historical fiction adventure story features a young man, Salvador, and his struggles to survive a series of life threatening challenges that deposit him on the shores of the New World--alone, afraid, and adrift. At the end of this scene he will meet and fall in love with one of these women.

Ugly Discrimination

The world is full of people with experience, origins, and customs different from our own. Learning to respect those differences is one of life's tough lessons. Many adults have yet to learn this lesson. Students learn as they grapple with growing up. My characters in Twisted Cross are no different. This portion of the book features a Spanish immigrant traveling with an indigenous guide. They encounter a Missionary who works with a different [native tribe] people group. The distrust that the Missionary and his converts demonstrate to their visitors is a reaction of fear and ignorance. Discrimination often starts that way.

Bravery Recognized

Living and working among people from many different traditions and beliefs is something that Americans are beginning to appreciate and respect, slowly. It is always easier to work on a team, go to a school, or interact socially when you feel comfortable with those around you and confident that you know how to behave and succeed. It takes a certain amount of bravery for adults and teens to exist outside of their own boundaries, socially, politically, economically and racially. The characters in Twisted Cross are at a moment in history where the western territories are inhabited by indigenous persons, Spanish colonists and missionaries, as well as Mexican ranchers and settlers. Each group has it's own rules. Political and cultural change is occurring and conversations can be tense, and sometimes dangerous. It is a time for bravery, and for understanding.

The Outsider

Life changed dramatically for all of us over the last two years. When our habits and routines were taken away we felt confused and uncertain about how to act. In Twisted Cross, Sal camps with a new group of people, native Americans led by a man named Paciano. The group accepted him, with caution, but Sal is uncertain how to act. To make matters worse, he is attracted to Paciano's beautiful wife, Salina. When the men prepare for a bear hunt, Sal is nervous about facing the huge ferocious animals. It is then that Paciano calls him out. What can Sal expect from the big man?

Overcoming Regret

Salvador, 18, achieves a long-desired goal and regrets the route he took to get there. He struggles to forgive himself and he still has to break free of the pirates who are trying to control him. How can so many troubles and doubts burden such a young man? It is all too common for teens to feel overcome with self doubt and regret. Violence against themselves and others is sometimes their outlet. In Sal's story, the one person who cares about him is the very man the pirates want him to get rid of. He feels trapped, alone and miserable. Will he do the thing that will bring him more shame and regret?

The Quiet Heart

Do you have time to consider the important decisions in your life? Can you make time? In this passage from Twisted Cross, Salvador decided to escape from his dangerous companions, yet he needed a quiet moment to think his plan through. In that silence, the voice of his best friend haunted his imagination, instructing him to care for another. Sal argued with a ghost, who interrupted his resolve to escape and protect only his own safety. Silence and meditation are not always peaceful. Our own internal fears are genuine. When I write, I reflect on the anguish of many a teen who appears cool and casual on the outside but struggles with the foreboding questions of the life ahead of him or her.

Dark Voices

Kidnapped by pirates, Sal had dangerous men threatening him and dark voices in his head. All alone in the world, he fights for his life. In Twisted Cross, an adventure story turns into a nightmare as one bad thing happens after another. Even the main character is not always using his best behavior. But he is resourceful and full of grit, the two qualities that it takes to survive in a difficult world. This historic saga is book one in the Mission Bells trilogy..Twisted Cross can be read separately or paired with book two in the series, Golden Secrets. Enjoy the adventure.

Friends Without Benefits

Pure and lasting friendship is difficult to find. Childhood friends who shared our neighborhood, stories, and confidence, grow up and move on. The older we get, the more we are aware of the conditions our new so-called friends put on our relationships. In Twisted Cross, Sal is separated from his lifelong friend and thrown together with a cut-throat group of pirates who want to use him for their own purposes. Pirates may seem a little dramatic when we think of our high school friends compared to our grade school friends. But it is not unusual to struggle with questions of who you can trust when you go from one school to another. Sal is drawn to the pirate adventure, but leary about how they will treat him.

Surrounded by Threats

Back to school means being thrust into new circumstances with new people, some of whom seem to threaten. In Twisted Cross, Sal had a devastating experience, losing his best friend, and immediately found himself surrounded by strangers who wanted to use him for their own purposes. I can only hope that teens returning to the campus after a long hear of distance learning are joyful and not feeling threatened. But we can often be afraid of new circumstances, new people, and our future safety. Sal had reason to fear the pirates who took him aboard their ship. Yet, he found one of them to admire. Read Twisted Cross and join Sal on his voyage to safety.

Acting Out of Fear

How do students act fairly when they feel overcome with suspicion? Giving a newcomer or stranger the benefit of the doubt is a tough lesson to learn. Teachers focus on justice and equality in civics classes, but it is often hard to act fairly when we are shoulder to shoulder with people we do not know. In Twisted Cross, Sal is the stranger. He encounters many new cultures and customs. This exert shows how quickly he becomes suspicious of those he does not know. As an author, I thought about how my characters, young and old, often act out of fear, rather than trust.

Summer goals

By the last month of summer, our hopes for reaching all of our project goals begin to wane. Tasks that seemed so doable in June, get bogged down in July and seem impossible in August. You may be less than halfway through your reading list, your craft project, or your travel schedule. Do not despair. Do the next thing. The main character, Sal, in Twisted Cross experienced many serious setbacks. What was it that motivated him to keep moving forward against all odds? His goals were about reuniting with friends and finding a new direction for his life. Who or what is inspiring you to meet your goals? The tasks that I share with friends are the ones that get done.

Caring for others

The further I go along life's pathway, the more I encounter those who need help. My goals and ambitions reveal a strong streak of independence and self-competence in my personality. Learning to be aware of the needs of others is a new task. Meeting those needs is an acquired skill. You may be a natural helper, I am not, and my character Sal was not a born helper either. Not until he was traveling with his companion, Jimenez. This was a man Sal always envied for his wealth and his family connections. It was only when Jimenez fell ill with a deadly fever that Sal realized his responsibilities. It was his last chance to do so.

The Unexpected

It is the unexpected events in our lives that are the most memorable. The things we plan, come and go, sometimes with success and many times with disappointing results. But the unexpected occurrence, the surprises in our day are the real treasures. It is the same in an adventure story. As an author, I have a plan for my characters. At times my plans are not what my characters experience. They too have unexpected events, and that is when the real adventure in the story begins. The story selection today is an introduction to one such unexpected adventure. A young woman that Sal is about to encounter teaches him a lesson he will never forget.

Danger Everywhere

We escape one pandemic, just to find ourselves in a fresh round of vulnerability. So many friends are discouraged and afraid of what will happen next in our ever-changing lives. Forest fires, heat waves, COVID variants, and gun violence threaten our lives and the safety of our families. Where do you turn for strength? My characters, Sal and Blas, leave the dangers of the sea only to find additional hazards on the land. Sal thinks this is a punishment from God. Blas begins to sing.

The Struggle to Believe

Some of us grow up faster than others. When a disaster, poverty, or abandonment assault you in your childhood, it is a struggle to have hope. Reliable and ready love is a gift I have always enjoyed. It stokes my faith and belief. Not so with my characters, Sal and Blas, in Twisted Cross. For them, hurt leads to doubt, doubt to cynicism. Yet one of these two boys is much more willing to believe. The other is pessimistic but looks out for his friend. They balance each other out until fate steps in to separate them. Do you have a friend who balances you out and helps you to believe?

Creating Tension

Much of the advice we get as authors is to create tension and action in our writing. In an adventure story for young adults, this is especially important. How do you keep a reader on the edge of their seat and take them to places that they have never been? In the passage quoted today, my character is in a dangerous situation that I have never experienced, on an enormous ship that I have never experienced. As a writer, I research. Describing the times, places, and circumstances makes my scene realistic. Research and imagination are tools at my disposal. Then, there is that faint voice of my character whispering his story to me as I write the next page. You cannot find that in any book.

Mid summer must-do

Just when I think I am ready to relax, 'must-do' jobs appear out of thin air. Mid year, July, is mid summer--it's vacation time. Writing a trilogy means juggling 'must-do' tasks while the beach is calling my name. Twisted Cross, book 1 is re-leased. Golden Secrets, book 2, will be launched in October. I am researching Broken Promises, book 3 for 2022. Like you and I, my characters jump from one challenge to another, from adventurers to new surprising realities.

Travel Gone Wrong

May all your travels be pleasant! It is a thrill to plan an adventure, but to be kidnapped, threatened, and enslaved is a horror story. That is exactly what happens to young Salvador Tenorio and his amigo, Blas in Twisted Cross. They are thrown in jail, then narrowly escape a firing squad, only to become prison labor in the belly of a Spanish Galleon headed to the New World. Travel back in time to the 1700s and help Sal escape. Twisted Cross is a great summer escape for you. It delivers history, discovery, and adventures of all types while you put your feet up and enjoy the trip.

Disillusioned and Disappointed

Teenagers are older than they used to be. Wait a minute, how can that be true? What I mean to say is that kids learn more about the world, especially the rough side of life, at an earlier age than they used to. When we share stories and books that include themes about abuse, crime, and unfaithful parents it's not really a surprise to many young readers. These are never cheerful stories. Even the principal character in Twisted Cross, Salvador, loses his mother to illness then finds his father as another illegitimate family. Disillusionment and disappointment are not modern teenage problems, they are a part of growing up. Such issues always stimulate conversation among young readers. Learning how to share such stories and overcome life's obstacles is a part of the learning process.

A Fresh, New Identity

Twisted Cross is about to take on a new identity. You will still find it here, plus the series will continue with a new historic adventure. There is an excitement about having a fresh look and sharing it with friends. We all hope for such a change at one time or another. Sal traveled with Jimenez and hoped to take on his identity. This excerpt reveals his thinking. It was easier for him to consider stealing a life, rather than changing the tough life he already had. Find out what happened next. And follow here to see the fresh, new identity for Twisted Cross.

Disappointing a friend hurts.

Even in an adventure story, life is not always about action and thrills. Comradery and friendships give our life meaning. Relationships are at the core of our stories. This makes it especially sad when friends are torn apart. If a friend is disappointed or hurt because of what you do, even with good intentions, it's hard to save the friendship. Salvador and Blas are in big trouble at the beginning of Twisted Cross. Sal's big plans take a turn for the worse and his friend may never recover.

A Story With Many Voices; Our History

Did the people who came before us get along better than we do? There are so many conflicts in our modern world. Students often think it was easier to grow up years ago. That may be because history is often told from only one point of view. Who tells the genuine stories of our country's past? History teachers can include many perspectives and engage students from various backgrounds. In this portion of Twisted Cross, the Spanish Brothers, who started the California Missions, face the authority of the new Mexican ruling powers. Tensions erupt and confusion splits communities and families. Sharing our actual history, and all that we have overcome, gives us hope for resolving today's troubling issues. We share the stories with teachers who share them with students.

The Tradition of Prejudice

I intend all my stories for our Latinx students and focus on their history, pride, and agency. Teachers and librarians are our gateways to discover the heroes in our history. We have often reduced our heritage and traditions to Cowboy and Indian narratives. Even worse are the comic images of Banditos and Pepe Gonzalez. This may make us laugh, but it does not inspire us to be proud leaders, workers, scholars, and teachers. Yet, those Hispanic, Latino, Mexican, and Spanish heroes exist in our history and traditions. We continue to make social contributions and be at the center of social controversy. I am a native Californian and my name is Anita Maria Perez de Gonzales...Ferguson, Ph.D.

Teens Know Life

Are teens ready to read about death and God? The question never occurred to me when I wrote Twisted Cross. Later I was told teachers, librarians, and parents do not accept serious subjects outside of a fantasy or war story. But what about the teen readers? They know the issues we face in this world. Students know some people have firm religious beliefs and others have none. They have their own beliefs and doubts. The characters in Twisted Cross are not good boys solving hometown mysteries. They are lost kids scrambling to survive and overcome misery. We read, feel, and hope for a better world when we visit the hard places in life before we get there.

Spring Reading Inspiration

Readers and writers find their inspiration in different ways. Many wish to know the story behind the headlines in our current-day news. Some look for stories in a certain theme or time period that will take them away from the concerns of the present day. My protagonist had a story that he begged me to share with you. As a writer, I simply passed it along. What does your inner voice invite you to explore? Be open to new learning as you select your next book.

Risk Takers

I admire the writing of those who take the risk to tell the truth of the world as they experience it. In young adult literature that includes; Benjamin Alire Saenz and Meg Medina. In history; Miroslava Chavez-Garcia in Negotiating Conquest. In adult fiction; Sandra Cisneros and Barbara Kingsolver. In Twisted Cross, Salvador is just learning the truth of his world. As the author, I work to learn and express the truth of a time and place.

Politics and the Church

There is nothing new about this theme, but the story in Twisted Cross introduces readers to new personalities that face conflicts between competing forces. The settlement of Alta California in the 1800s had its share of leadership challenges. In this excerpt Captain Portola representing Mexican Military control, challenges Brother David, a Franciscan committed to the Mission settlements. The young Spaniard, Salvador, stands by his newfound friend, Paciano, an indigenous Californian.

POV Point of View

How do you feel when you hear someone else tell your story? Our own point of view, POV, is a crucial element in our life story. Every history ever written has a POV, and it is usually not that of the working people, the foot soldier, or the women. As a writer, I get to determine whose point of view I will use to tell my story. It's an enormous responsibility. Some writers tell the same story from several points of view, and the reader can determine the reality of the story. In this selection from Twisted Cross, three characters prepare to take the same action. All will visit the Bishop. One character is excited about the event, one is apprehensive, and one is secretive.

What's love got to do with it?

Everything. Even in a historic adventure story, love has everything to do with the plot. Love of one sort or another motivates our characters. They may express the love in attraction or desire. Other characters express love in their religious devotion. Twisted Cross is not a romance novel, but it is driven by a desire for a better life and eventually an attempt to love someone besides oneself.

Reuniting With A Friend

Writing for those you have never met is not a simple task. A school assignment for your teacher is a more predictable job. In that case, you know how your work will be graded. A letter to a friend is a joy to write. Friends are always happy to get your news. But writing for those you do not know is a challenge. In the excerpt I selected from Twisted Cross, Sal is reunited with an old friend. They have both been through many hardships while apart from one another. Will their friendship still be strong when they reunite? Will we enjoy stronger friendships when we reunite after COVID restrictions? Will I meet you, my readers? I hope so.

Finding Shelter in a Storm

Where do you find your shelter in the storms of life? As a writer, I find it in my stories and characters. I work to provide shelter, and hope, for you, the reader. Twisted Cross, published 2020, began the trilogy of the Mission Bells. This excerpt from book two, continues the story. Creating the characters and locations shelters me during our national and personal transitions. Follow me here and I will seek to give you shelter and hope. Oh yes, the title! The Laredo School for Young Ladies: A Place of Secrets coming in late 2021.

Transition - what now?

Some life transitions are subtle, coming upon us when we are unaware. Others are so momentous we cannot possibly miss them. In either case, the consequences of a transition are unknown until long after the change occurs. The characters in Twisted Cross, locked in a prison cell in Cadiz Spain, prepared themselves for execution. At the last moment, an unexpected transition sets them, and our story, on a fresh course. I invite you to join me in the story, Twisted Cross, and the sequels to follow, that introduces us to the New World in a novel way.

New Leadership

Our contemporary life in 2021, and my fictional world, share similar challenges. In Twisted Cross, Salvador must come to grips with a change in the territory's leadership and also in the Mission system. How do we encourage young readers to face change without fear? The Padre encourages Salvador to recognize his own strengths and to trust in the future.

History Re-Written

As kids, we relied on our teachers to share history, science, social studies and all the required classes for our education. Teachers and children of the 21st century know there are multiple voices translating our history and contemporary events. Often, they disagree with one another. Twisted Cross gives a glimpse of one of the original intentions of the California Mission System; sharing the resources of missions with the converted indigenous population. We know that the plan was not fulfilled in most cases. In those days,1800s, as now, political forces overcame delicate alliances and honorable intentions. Sadly, the rights and needs of many were ignored.

Gift Giving, A Tradition

We are in the midst of gift giving traditions. We remember our loved ones and honor those who have gone before us. This is a custom in all cultures. The first peoples, indigenous to the Pacific coast, honored promises and respected their elders with special traditions. Twisted Cross gives the reader a glimpse of the original promises made between the native population and the new settlers, the colonists. Not all promises were kept. When we understand how far back our conflicts and compromises go, we see the need for reconciliation. Gift giving and respect are at the center of Twisted Cross. The theme continues in the third book in the Mission Bells Trilogy, Broken Promises.

Pirates vs Padres in 1800's

Pirates off the California coast? Many modern day residents along the Pacific find this hard to believe. Commerce and trade have always been the reasons for exploration and travel. The Pacific Rim trading routes were well traveled by Spanish, French, Russian, English, and American ships. In addition to the official convoys, the buccaneers of the 1800's did a brisk business off the coast of California. The plot of Twisted Cross carries our hero, Salvador Tenorio, to the dangerous waters where the Padres and the Pirates cross paths.

The Gift of Honest Conversations

"I could really relate to him and the thoughts he struggled with; his faith, his lusty feelings and desire for a new life." A young history teacher surprised me with these comments about Salvador, the main character in Twisted Cross. It can be tough to have a direct talk with the younger generation. In 2020 we can have the gift of honest conversation through books. Sometimes it surprises me what others say as a result of reading Twisted Cross: "...he struggles with his impulses toward corruption," and "...he glimpses the rapidly disintegrating cultures of the native people..." Share the story and have a conversation that may surprise you.

A Five Finger Discount

Everyone likes to look for a bargain when shopping. Some of the characters that appear in Twisted Cross are looking for a 'five finger discount'. In other words, they are thieves. I hope you do not encounter this type of shopper in this busy buying season. My character, Salvador, did not even realize that he was in danger or that his belongings were in jeopardy. It took an older and wiser traveler to keep Sal safe. Thieves and crooks have existed in every marketplace throughout the history of humankind. Let's stay sharp and keep each other safe throughout this season.

Not Invited to Thanksgiving

Reading and writing about food is an endless pleasure. When I describe a hot dish of steaming treats, or detail a tall glass of sweet delicacies, my readers are ready to indulge. This is especially true for accounts of Thanksgiving recipes, when all our family's traditions are on display. One memory that is not so welcome describes the meals shared by early colonists who excluded Indigenous peoples from their rightful bounty. It is not a pleasure, but an act of grace, for us to acknowledge our tradition of thanksgiving and our history of separation with native peoples over many years.

The Calm after the Battle

Never forget the calming effect that comes with true inspiration. In our rush to celebrate the razzle-dazzle of life, we overlook the value of solid skills. Writing an adventure story means that I leap from danger to danger. That leaves little time for reflection and learning. My youthful character, Salvador, engages in his first bear hunt. How thrilling is that? Yet, his real inspiration and learning come from observing his indigenous companions after the hunt. He marvels at their respect for life and the co operative spirit in their community. The calm after the battle is the real adventure to be celebrated.

Tough to write about her

It was tough for me to right about my character, Rosa. Or was it? In some ways she was very real to me. But she was a little too real for the Young Adult book market on the first draft of my novel Twisted Cross. Some readers have said that they appreciated my main character's lusty desires. Some critics have said that the brief relationship between Sal and Rosa was too spicy. Then, there is the challenge of writing with respect and some dignity about a woman who sells her services in order to survive. Tell me what you think of her story.

Judgement Day

Salvador learned about the nature of powerful men as he traveled in the new world. He was no stranger to the behavior of the King's soldiers, the government leaders and even the holy men wielding power. The three companions face the end of one leg of their adventure in Puebla. Each of the travelers has different thoughts: Sal knows their meeting with the Bishop could have serious consequences. Brother David seems to have a plan in mind to deal with the Bishop's judgement, but he is not sharing his ideas with the others. Blas, on the other hand, is clueless. He has never met a Bishop and does not realize the type of trouble that awaits them in the Bishop's ornate chamber.

Letting Go of a Friend

Not everyone we meet shares our dreams. It seems unfair that life can give some people months of agony and just a few days of joy. In our story, Twisted Cross, too many people pose as kind souls and turn out to be cruel predators. Others pose as trustworthy humans and turn out to be cruel traitors. One night made all the difference for Salvador. Former helpers and converts were shown to be enemies, and brother against brother, their dream was turned to ash. Sal's best efforts are not enough to save his friend from harm’s way. His grief left him in the hands of bad company.

Music as Magic

In tough times our hopes and prayers can fall short if we do not also have a good song to keep us encouraged. In Twisted Cross, Sal's trials at sea lead to new miseries in a foreign land. His compadre Blas sings regardless of their fate. The twenty-first century immigrant experience also reflects dreams of freedom quickly turned to nightmares of alienation. It is not enough to escape a crisis in your homeland if you have lost all hope when you reach your destination. Continue to sing. This story conveys a young immigrant's inner passage as well as the historic colonization of the Americas. The colonization left a rich heritage, and a deep wound, on our entire continent.

She was proud.

Historic sagas and adventure stories rarely feature brave women. Rosa was both proud and pathetic. Young people everywhere, like Sal, are set adrift - doing whatever is necessary to eat and live. Rosa and Sal drifted together. Midway on his journey to reconnect with Blas in San Diego, Sal needs a new friend to help him reach his goals. Who else is there to help him other than this girl who makes her living on the dock among the passing sailors? Help often comes to us in the most unexpected ways.

Friends Fight!

Sooner or later even the best of friends fight. This story helps us talk about how that feels. Do we tell ourselves that it is okay to confront a friend for their own good? When do we realize the power of our hurtful words and how fragile friendships can be? The main characters in our story, Sal and Blas, are no different. The distance between friends who fight can feel like a vast ocean. They start with resentful feelings then go on to flinging accusations. The resentments turn into landing actual punches where it truly hurts. Sometimes the biggest discoveries we make in life are revealed in the distance between friends who fight.

When kids see adults fail...

How early in life do we learn that grown ups make mistakes? How do we discuss adult failures and lies with kids? Twisted Cross opens the door to honest conversations. Submitting to authority is tough for any teen, especially one who doubts the truth of those in leadership. Salvador Tenorio may have the most to learn from the very people and things he wants to escape. But he may not discover these truths until it's too late. Classroom discussion notes and resources are available to lead readers, teachers and parents though the questions raised in Twisted Cross. Courage and hope keep the conversation, and the characters, moving forward.

Tough Story - Rough Kid

HISPANIC HISTORY & HERITAGE Not every teen comes from an ideal home or enjoys the support of a loving family. This has always been true, but seldom written about in teen literature. When readers tell me that my character, Salvador, is not a 'good boy' or too likable, I defend him and say, "Who would be, given his circumstances?" He is the character behind the headlines about abuse and abandonment. How many students know this experience? How many of them find themselves in the books they are assigned to read? Yet Salvador finds the strength to go forward, to support his friends, work, travel, even learn to read and help a community survive. Yes, Twisted Cross is a tough story about a rough kid than you never expected to like.

Vocabulary Lists?!

Back-to-school may have meant new notebooks, shoes, or calculators to some, but for me it meant new vocabulary lists. "Ug! Too many words,” I complained. In 2020 my teachers would be shocked to know I am a writer! My new book, a historic fiction for young adults, is Twisted Cross: Adventure to the New World. Today I am creating a vocabulary list to help students understand the story and background of my character in the 1800s. Teachers and students in public, private and home school settings enjoy this irreverent action-packed fiction that links to the real history of colonial California and the founding of the Franciscan Mission system. Courage and controversy fill the pages along with new vocabulary words such as: Viceroy (Chapter 4) one who rules a country or province as the representative of his sovereign or king. Viceroy was the title given to the principal governors of Spain’s American colonies… and Codex (Chapter 11) a manuscript book especially of Scripture, classics, or ancient annals. Join me on our adventure to the New World – Twisted Cross.

New land, new life, new hope

The last stop on Sal's map and the last chapter in our story come together. New adult rewards and responsibilities await Sal, even though the shadow of his childhood fears emerge whenever change is in the air. He no longer runs away but learns to walk forward on a new path.

Rancho Society

Even after trekking to the missions with badly needed supplies, Sal's honesty and credentials are called into question. He is introduced to the power plays of Rancho society where land and cattle prove a man's worth. Worst yet, he is a Spaniard in a land now under Mexican rule.

Change is coming

Sal's story is just one among hundreds of people, covering hundreds of miles, over hundreds of years in California. The Spanish and Father Serra, with his Franciscan Brothers, were the new comers. The First Peoples, native people, were the old timers being pushed to the edges of their homeland. The Presidos, the Priests and the Pueblos: once, this was the plan to establish and share a new land. That plan became a Twisted Cross.

Suspect the Strangers

Why are we so ready to make enemies of those who look and speak differently from us? Sal's own relationship with the native guide, Paciano, changed from distrust and competition, to respect and friendship. But this is not the case for everyone. He cannot understand why Brother Pieras suspects Paciano on sight. The men at Padua receive the gifts of food and water with no word of thanks.

Negotiating a Transition

The older we get the more responsibilities we take on. The bear hunt taught Sal to rely on others in the face of danger. Now his role is expanding. Sal negotiates between two strongmen: Captain Portola, a part of the new Mexican rule in Alta California, and Brother David, loyal to Spain and the Missions. A dangerous task awaits Paciano and Sal. They face a new lonely journey in this changed territory.

Making an impression

Sal is in the middle of a new community. This mission settlement is different from anything Sal has experienced. Brother David is a true member of the group. He learns their customs and traditions. Now he tries to instruct Sal. But learning to hunt with a group does not suit Sal's need to make an impression, get the glory or be seen as the hero of the bear hunt.

Choose: old life or the new?

Do you believe in devils and guardian angels? Why do voices haunt Sal? First the Devil's voice bullied him to make bad decisions. Now Blas's ghost begs him to stay and help Brother David. Are both voices just a part of Sal's imagination or are they real? Does it matter? How do you face tough decisions?

The harsh truth revealed

Sal sees a different side of Brother David, a man he always underestimated. He learns why the Brother was once so welcoming and kind to he and Blas. It is not until Sal is at gun point, that he confesses - he is now in league with the pirates. Making an excuse, he challenges the Brother, "What has the church ever done for me?"

Old Friends - New Secrets

How far would you go to hide your failures from those who once trusted you? Long ago, Sal would have given anything to reunite with Brother David, his mentor in Mexico. Now, he must face an unavoidable meeting with the Brother. His pistol is at the ready. Is Sal more afraid of being revealed as a pirate, than he is of shooting Brother David? Can he rely on their old friendship?

The past catches up with Sal

Haunted by the past Sal sees danger everywhere. He believes hostile natives are watching the pirates from the shore. He hears his name called toward a watery grave and feels cramped in the small dinghy, comparing it to a coffin. Jean Paul is a disappointment as a Captain. He taunts Sal and takes credit for his ideas. Under Jean Paul's orders, Sal is caught between the pirates and his former friend, Brother David.

Even the Captain struggles

Among the pirates Sal is treated like a kid. He is made to swab the deck and steal from the Missions, yet, he still admires Captain Jacques. Of all the men he has seen in his life, Jacques is the strongest, most adventurous and cut throat. Sal watches him. It is not easy for Captain Jacques to keep command of his men. The crew argues and complains. The treasure hunting is going badly.

No Turning Back

If Sal were a hero, he would jump ship and escape from the buccaneers. Instead, he is sneaking up the coast with a small band of pirates who plan to steal from the Spanish Missions. He may even be stealing the same silver crafts he made in Mexico with Brother David. Why does he care about impressing the wily pirate captain, Jacques? Sal’s first victim, a young port guard, reminds him of Blas.

Back in the devil's grip

It seems unfair that life can give us months of agony and just a few days of joy. Too many men pose as kind souls and turn out to be cruel predators. Others pose as trustworthy humans and turn out to be cruel traitors. How many dangerous characters would Sal encounter in this desolate land? His grief left him in the hands of bad company.

Brother Againist Brother

Sal and Blas have joined forces to make the San Diego site a success. At last, they can use their skills and work as free men for a good cause. Not everyone at the building site in San Diego shares their dream. One night makes all the difference. Former helpers and converts are shown to be enemies, and brother against brother, the compound is turned to ash. Sal's best efforts are not enough to save his friend from harm's way.

Blas takes the lead

After a life of following his friend's plans and schemes, Blas takes the lead. His excitement about the Mission construction in San Diego is obvious. This new confident Blas is not the same friend Sal remembers. If he leads, what is Sal's role? Something is not right. Sal is skeptical about the compliant natives assisting on the Mission project. But, he and Blas are together once again and his friend is happy, so Sal goes along.

Will anyone be waiting for me?

Anticipation is often more satisfying than a long awaited event. As he came closer to his destination Sal may have been thinking, 'What if I've come all this way for nothing? Will my friend recognize me?' With little fanfare Sal arrives in San Diego, a desolate dusty place. He does not meet the friends he longs to see until...

Unseen Angels

This short voyage on the Pacific, serves Sal's goal to reunite with his friend Blas. He has set aside his search for silver, adopted the character of a military officer, and tries his best to appear respectable. Our own driving ambitions can move us far from home and expose us to dangerous circumstances. But not everyone we meet is out to get us. Old Macias makes only a brief appearance in the story of Twisted Cross. Like other helpers who encounter Sal, he is barely noticed and never thanked for his kindness.

Rosa, proud and pathetic

Young people everywhere, like Sal, are set adrift - doing whatever is necessary to eat and live. Rosa and Sal drifted together. Midway on his journey to reconnect with Blas in San Diego, Sal needs a new friend to help him reach his goals. Who else is there to help him other than this girl who makes her living on the dock among the passing sailors? Help often comes to us in the most unexpected ways.

First, break all the rules

Sal is given two tasks; get to the coast and protect the church supplies. Both are soon forgotten. On their long and lonely trek Jimenez shares his own family secrets and shows Sal how to find villages and barter with the natives. They trade the church goods for food, liquor and women.

Baptism in the desert

Following this holy man is more challenging work than Sal, Blas, and Jimenez anticipated. As they trek west across the Sonora desert, Father Serra speeds ahead, Sal and Jimenez fall behind. The Padre, dedicated to his mission, stops only to convert new souls in a wilderness baptism. What drives such a man as this? Why do the natives honor him with gifts?

From the frying pan into the fire

Hard work is no fun. We all watch for a get-away, a vacation, or an adventure to take us away from day-to-day chores. Grunt work in the Presidio stables takes a toll on Sal's adventurous spirit. He leaps at an opportunity, hoping to regain his freedom. Sal and Blas have no way of knowing how life-changing their decision to follow Father Junipero Serra to Alta California will be.

Telling lies to pass the time

Have you ever found yourself hanging out with a group of liars, and not really caring about it? Just when Sal thinks his life is on the upswing, things fall apart. His choices are limited and his best friend, Blas, barely talks to him anymore. Looking for company and a way to forget his troubles, Sal ends up spending his time with the other stable hands at the Presidio brig. A rough bunch, Sal has no idea that one of these men will influence his life and change his identity.

Judgement Day

Three companions face the end of their adventure in Puebla with different thoughts: Sal knows their meeting with the Bishop could have serious consequences. He is no stranger to holy men wielding power. Brother David seems to have a plan in mind, but he is not sharing his ideas with the others. Blas is clueless. He has never met a Bishop and does not realize the type of trouble that awaits them in the Bishop's ornate chamber.

Her dying wish

If only there were just two sides to every question, how easy growing up would be. Sal and Blas disagree on many things. Now, Sal learns that Brother David and the Bishop do not see eye to eye. La Senorita Xichete's death, and her efforts to preserve the story of her people, reveal new cracks in the Twisted Cross. It is not her silver earrings or her beauty that bring Sal to his knees, but her sacrifice for her people.

Your name tells a story

When you sign your name to a letter, or a paper, it means something. When your name is on a list as part of a group, or a team, it says something about who you are. Sal's name is one of the few things he can read. Separated from his homeland, his parents and anything to believe in, Sal only has his name. Now he sees it in a book with the golden seal of the King of Spain. And he sees another kind of book with odd designs that tell the story of an entire people.

Brother David's secrets

A little rebellion leads to a lot of trouble. Sal's simple scheme to snatch and grab the silver he spots in the marketplace leads him into a bigger mess. He learns a new truth about Brother David, the one man he thought he might be able to trust. Sal's disappointment gives him permission to be his worst self. Or it may teach him that life, and adults, are complicated.

The distance between friends

Sooner or later even the best of friends fight. Sal and Blas are no different. Flinging unspoken truths and resentments turns into landing punches where it truly hurts. Do we tell ourselves that it is okay to confront a friend, for their own good? When do we realize the power of our hurtful words and how fragile friendships can be? The story of Twisted Cross leads with adventure, travel and challenge, but the biggest discoveries we make in life are revealed in the distance that lies between friends.

Good is never good enough

Sal and Blas have a place to stay, food to eat and they are actually becoming real blacksmiths, but that is not good enough for Sal. The lure of fame and fortune blinds many of us to the good things we already enjoy. Sal never had much of anything and his desire to achieve great wealth drives him away from his home, his friend and even his own conscience.

Will this place be better?

Moving to a new location is always fraught with questions and a few fears. Sal and Blas survive the jungle trek and blood-sucking mosquitoes, only to be put to work in Mexico City at the Spanish Presidio, the fort. Sal sees the horses, the soldiers, and all the provisions -- he has high hopes. Blas sees the native laborers shackled and mistreated -- he is worried that his tall tales will get them into trouble and they will be found out as impostors.

Hopeless in Purgatory

It is not enough to escape a crisis if you have lost all of your hope. Sal's trials at sea lead to new miseries in a foreign land. Yet, his compadre, Blas, sings, regardless of their fate. Our twenty-first century immigrant experience also reflects dreams of freedom quickly turned to nightmares of alienation. The story of Twisted Cross conveys a young immigrant's inner passage as well as an historic venture of colonial power in the Americas. A venture that has left a wound on an entire continent.

The Sea Voyage From Hell

Sal's desire for adventure blinds him to the dangers of life. He risks his own safety and the life of his best friend, Blas. Trapped as prison labor on a gigantic Spanish ship, they live in fear and grief. Each day they pitch the dead bodies of the less fortunate overboard. The boys who boarded the ship in Cadiz grow to be men on the Atlantic crossing. By the time they reach the New World, Vera Cruz, they still need to believe that they will find some treasure at the end of their struggles.

Dragooned and Threatened

To begin a planned adventure is a thrill. To be kidnapped, threatened, and enslaved is a horror story. Salvador Tenorio and his amigo, Blas, escape the firing squad only to become prison labor in the belly of a Spanish Galleon. Twisted Cross delivers unintended adventures of all types. This is life itself. Some would say Sal is truly and fully enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks.

Papa's Other Family

Salvador Tenorio faces more challenges after his mother passes away and his father takes him to a new town. How many teens see their family break up and learn things they would rather not know about their parents? Some early readers have said, "Your character is not a very likable fellow." But I defend Sal and see how his misfortunes have hardened him to life. His strong character will develop as he faces adversity. Unfortunately, good role models are few and far between.

Religion, Power and Permission

Salvador comes to the end of his first journey at the Cathedral of Santiago in Northern Spain. Submitting to authority is tough for any adventurous teen, especially one who has been hurt by his church. Sal may have the most to learn from the very people and things he wants to escape from. But he will not discover these truths until it's too late.

Salvador is tangled in the Twisted Cross

Not all youthful adventures are cheerful vacations. Salvador is dragged to a place he does not want to be, Santiago. He is forced to travel along with people he does not trust, the religious Brothers from his hometown. This is the first of many journeys Salvador Tenorio, a 14 year old Spaniard, undertakes in Twisted Cross. The entire story is a long adventure. Salvador travels half way across the world, through his 24th birthday, to a new world. Along the way he tangles with padres and pirates to find a home and to discover himself.

Broken Promises


2022 SFWC YA Fiction Writing Contest Winner

"Young Sparrow's dilemma had me wondering how she was going to make her way through such a tension-filled situation. I could almost see her growing up, finding unexpected allies, and using her mama's native skills as she faced the political firestorm of the 1840s in California." —Stephanie Foster, author of Take Action: Fighting for Women & Girls

In 1844, fifteen-year-old Sparrow fears what dilemmas her grown-up life will encounter. Sparrow's mother is from the Chumash nation whose territory borders the Pacific. Her father is an American trapper and trader sent by his government to explore the rich California land owned by Mexico. 

Sparrow's difficulties are compounded when she learns her father also has an American wife and daughter. Then, she overhears him making plans to overthrow the Mexican Governor of Alta California and acquire the Mexican lands for the United States. 

Sparrow's tribal family and indigenous customs are threatened. She must decide if she will keep her father's secret and lose her homeland, or warn her mother and the Mexican authorities but suffer the loss of her father's love.

Book Bubbles from Broken Promises

Confusing Truths

Students and teachers are surprised that Broken Promises reveals long-forgotten facts in the history of early California. A professional reviewer can alert readers to the surprising truths hidden in a novel. Kirkus Reviews posted this about Broken Promises: "...when Sparrow finds her estranged White father implicated in an American plot to wrest Alta California from the Mexican governor’s control, she finds her future, loyalties, and perception of herself cast into doubt." Have you ever paused to reconsider a decision? The truth of history, family, and life itself, can get complicated the more we learn. Join me in the Mission Bells Trilogy to unravel the mysteries of the Old West and the choices that young teens made to survive.

Mama's Worries

The gap between a teenager and her parent is a vast wilderness of uncertainty--for both the grownup and the child. In the historic fiction, Broken Promises, a young lady is burdened with confusion and fears. Her name is Sparrow, a biracial teen whose native land in Alta California is being threatened by soldiers and prospectors in 1840. When Sparrow works up the courage to share her troubles with her mother, she realizes that Mama has worries of her own. Broken Promises is the third book in the Mission Bells trilogy. Each book, written for teen readers, blends historic fact with fictional characters that bring the challenges of the old west to life. I invite you to learn more at

The Stranger

In this excerpt from Broken Promises, our teenaged protagonist, Sparrow, learns to keep her eyes and ears open. Being a spy for the good guys is not easy. Sparrow overlooked her closest ally, and then she learned exactly what she needed by paying attention this stranger. Finally, it dawned on her, just how much was at stake. The Mission Bells Trilogy features diverse characters in history whose point of view is often overlooked. Real history is full of intrigue, setbacks, and reversals. Glossy, hero-centered, history leaves out the confusion and complexity in everyday life. I welcome you to join the characters in Broken Promises, Golden Secrets, and Twisted Cross.

Manners Matter

How do you act friendly? Sparrow, a teenaged girl is confused about what manners to use with those she considers enemies. Is her aunt leading her astray or giving her valuable lessons? Each culture determines their own social norms and good manners. Equally true, each culture does it's best to pass these norms along to their children. It's not easy. In this excerpt from Broken Promises, book 3 in the Mission Bells Trilogy, Sparrow struggles to follow her aunt's instructions when she knows in her heart that something is very wrong. I invite you to follow Sparrow's adventures in Alta California, and the changing fortunes of early settlers, before the Mexican territory becomes a state. See more at https://anitaperezferguson

Alone in a Crowd

Loneliness can occur anywhere, even in a crowd. When I feel isolated and burdened, I carry those feelings with me. Students often carry their concerns into the classroom. In this excerpt from Broken Promises, Sparrow feels isolated from the other students. Added to that discomfort, are the worries she has about her father and the pressure to keep his secrets or lose his love. Recognizing challenges and finding a way to meet them is a consistent theme in the Mission Bells trilogy. These historical fiction books about teens in the old west share a gritty reality and the brave individuals who forged ahead. I invite you to meet the characters and share the stories with your family and students.

Understanding Adults

Being treated like an adult is exciting and uplifting until you realize you don't really know exactly what is going on. This is the case for Sparrow, a 16-year-old girl who looks mature for her age. She is featured in this passage of Broken Promises, book three in the Mission Bells Trilogy. Sparrow has dressed up and met her grown-up looking self, but her confidence dwindles when she becomes unsure of the adults around her. Can she trust their motives? Do they have secrets? Is she in danger? Enjoy the ups and downs of my award-winning historic fiction novels; Twisted Cross, Golden Secrets, and Broken Promises. See more at https//

What We Eat

Food can tell us about a character, a time period, or a special location where a story is set. In this excerpt from Broken Promises, the lead character, 16-year-old Sparrow, is preparing a simple meal for her mother. Next door her best friend and her family are enjoying a lavish meal prepared by their private cook. The two families come together to share a special cocoa recipe after dinner. What type of story could your own kitchen tell? Food is always featured in cookbooks, but kids' books and history books dwell on other types of descriptions. Yet, the difference between the dinners our two families share tell us something about their lives, their traditions, and the relationship of these neighbors.

Making Good Decisions

Making good decisions, or choices, is never easy. The older we get, the more experience we have. Although, that does not guarantee 100% good decisions. But young people, teens like the protagonist Sparrow in Broken Promises, have little experience making decisions. In this passage Sparrow is advised by several people, with different opinions, about what she should do next. The choice she makes will determine the rest of the story. Young readers see her dilemma. Some side with Clara who urges Sparrow get out and to see the world. Other readers stick with her best friend Josefina, who wants her to go to school and listen to the nuns. In this moment, when she is tempted with a new dress and slippers, Sparrow decides to leave the house and skip school without telling her mother. Learn what happens next by reading Broken Promises and learn more about at

A Painful Peace

Stories of war and peace are typically written from the point of view of the victors. But there is always another side to the story, the painful peace of the vanquished. When I share my story, Broken Promises, with students, I am able to tell that other side. In the middle of this historic fiction the conclusion of the Mexican American War plays out in Monterey California. Young Sparrow, a native American teen, is filled with emotion. It is not a happy tail, but one of grit and persistence. First there is confusion and fear among the people. Mistrust of the enemy, now turned victor, clutches the hearts of the defeated people. Families of the conquered are torn apart by their suspicions of treachery and efforts to save what is left of their kin and household. It is a story of survival. Read more at

The Past Lives in Us

Broken Promises recently made news as the best Young Adult Fiction at the San Francisco Writers Conference. An interviewer asked me some questions that shed light on my inspiration as an author. Q - What is your biggest takeaway from working in the field of political service that has transitioned into your passion to write historical fiction? A - In the 1980's to 2000, my political work was centered on bringing new voices to the decision-making table: women’s voices, underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, and other marginalized people groups. From that work, I wrote A Passion for Politics, independently published in 1999, and co-authored Women Seen and Heard in 2004 with Dr. Lois Phillips. In 2016, I began to write about other unheard voices and untold stories in our Western history. This resulted in my Mission Bells trilogy for young adults. Q - You have spent a career helping women find their voice in politics; does this translate into your latest novel, Broken Promises, which features a female biracial teen caught between both sides of war? A - Broken Promises (2023) is the third novel in that series, intended to represent and respect untold stories that are foundational to our region. My character, Sparrow, struggles with multiple challenges and finds her voice. See the entire interview and a photo at;

Revealing Details

Last week a reader asked me why Mama Nina and her daughter Sparrow lived in such a rundown shack when they were next door to an elaborate hacienda. This passage demonstrates how the daughter tries to make her mother comfortable in their humble living quarters. The girl's helpful gesture is nice, but should it be necessary? As a writer I create individual characters, a unique setting, and an action-oriented plot. Each aspect has its own description and together they create the story. The reader who asked me about the shack was picking up on the unjust circumstances demonstrated in the story and in the historic period. The way characters live with one another is a story within a story. Students often spot details that reveal more than the action sequences or obvious conflicts. When they do, the questions and the discussion begin. See more of the Mission Bells Trilogy at

Everyday Drama

In contrast to Boom! Pow! Wham! everyday drama unfolds in subtle ways. Our daily drama appears in the secrets we hold, the hopes we harbor, or a yearning we nurture. One challenge we face as writers, teachers, or parents is to express the implications of small actions and everyday decisions to our students, readers, and children. They have been used to big action scenes in movies, video games, and series sagas. So have adults for that matter. This excerpt from Broken Promises shows a teen harboring an important secret about her father, yet she feels she must carry on in a normal school day and safeguard this knowledge. It is an enormous burden. It is drama. As a writer I am challenged to express action and engage young readers without the benefit of a sword fight or a fist fight, but by pealing back the veil of normalcy to reveal the drama we carry within our everyday lives. Acknowledging the importance of hidden anxiety allows us to examine and learn about the choices we can make. I invite you to read about these choices in the Mission Bells series at https://anitaperezferguson

Accepting a Compliment

I recently received a compliment for my novel from a notable, quotable source. As I accept it, I ask you to read it, re post it, and pass it along to your teacher, librarian, and bookselling friends. Your reviews are always appreciated. Thank you. Anita "...the novel [Broken Promises] provides a necessary look at historical events and peoples that have often been ignored in fiction (and in real life). The tightly wound plot flows effortlessly from one moment to the next, never leaving readers disengaged or in the dark. ...the reader will feel compelled to follow her journey from girlhood to adulthood and self-determination, wishing her well at each step. Critically, the novel does not paper over the abuse, exploitation, or erasure of Indigenous people at the hands of colonial forces while remaining suitable for its audience. A simple, plot-driven read that introduces younger readers to underrepresented characters and histories." Kirkus Reviews

Growing Pains

I feel a little bad about throwing you into the middle of this confusing excerpt from Broken Promises. The truth is, life can be very complicated, especially when you are growing up. I use the category of 'growing pains' to describe my character, a teen named Sparrow, and also my own growing pains as an author. Her challenges involve secrets she harbors about her father's political schemes and his other daughter, her half-sister. These secrets influence her thinking about her future and her plans for her adult life. As an author, my growing pains are about reaching out to you, a reader, and how to find more readers in schools, libraries, and community reading groups. Will you like my stories and characters? Can my books encourage teen readers about their life decisions? Sparrow and I are finding our way together. I invite you to read about the diverse pathways of more of my characters in the Mission Bells Trilogy. Learn more at

Fear of Success

I know you have heard of 'fear of failure', an emotion that inhibits our ability to take risks. There is also a state of mind that protects our anonymity and secures our private lives, it is a 'fear of success'. As I work with students who are capable of writing riveting personal stories, I witness their reserved use of emotion and their cautious use of detail. It is natural to protect ourselves. It is essential if your family has been subjugated by overriding social norms. In this excerpt from Broken Promises, the student, Sparrow, has been rebuked by her classmates for co leading a successful class. She does not wish to be the subject of attention because her thoughts are about protecting her own family secrets. That sounds familiar regarding millions of first-generation students in our schools and also children who are attempting English as a Second Language. Praise can come with a cost to the student that their teacher finds difficult to calculate. Learn more about Sparrow and her extended family in the Mission Bells Trilogy. I welcome your visit to

Connected Lives

Are you curious about your ancestors? I enjoy seeing our family tree going back hundreds of years. Old photos of my ancestors are near my writing desk to inspire my stories. In this excerpt from Broken Promises, I refer to previous characters and family connections in the Mission Bells trilogy. Sparrow and her mama live on the property of Salvador Tenorio and his wife Maria Theresa - both were characters in book one of the trilogy, Twisted Cross. This story refers to the nieces, Clara and Alicia, who live in the big house with Salvador and Maria Theresa. We also meet Sargent Valdez; all of these characters were important figures in book two, Golden Secrets. Here we also meet Sparrow's best friend, Josefina. Sparrow envies her friend's life as this story begins. Remember, all lives are connected. Learn more about the Mission Bells trilogy at

Finding Our Purpose

At what age do we become confident in our life choices? Teens, like our character, Sparrow in Broken Promises, see their whole life stretched out before them and have many questions about what they will do and who they are meant to be. Even older persons, experienced and accomplished, can still have questions about their purpose and value -- even authors, like me. This week I entered Broken Promises in a competition with the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington DC. I wonder, is the story of value and significance to teen readers? Should I be writing and competing? The courage to try is often the pathway to finding our purpose. My Mission Bells trilogy for teens is full of young characters facing challenges, daring to try, and finally accomplishing the unexpected. I speak to teens, to myself, and to all of us.

Spying on Papa

Children listen. For love, or out of curiosity, I remember straining to hear what my parents discussed after I was sent to bed. Here, I share a scene when my character, Sparrow, hears something she regrets knowing. Her papa, who is estranged from the family, is a mystery to Sparrow. She seeks him out at work, hides to eavesdrop on his conversation, and hears more than she wants to know. Right or wrong, the girl misses her papa and now has a secret that she must decide to keep, or to share, and risk losing his love altogether. Thanks for reading about Sparrow in Broken Promises, the third book in the Mission Bells series.

Personal History

My story is built on my own history. Yet it is historical fiction, not a memoir. Let me explain. I did not rise with the sun to pick herbs and berries with my mother, but my family life did include various chores, routines, and memories with one parent or another and with my sisters. My character, Sparrow, is more like my great, great grandmother. Sparrow is from a specific time and culture. When I study history, Sparrow's circumstances come alive and Broken Promises, the third book in the Mission Bells trilogy is born. Where do you find the story in your own personal history?

Meet a girl named Sparrow!

Welcome, and thanks for reading this post. This is my first bubble about the final book in the Mission Bells trilogy, Broken Promises. I am happy to introduce you to the protagonist in this story, a girl named Sparrow...enjoy! In 1844, fifteen-year-old Sparrow, fears what dilemmas her grown-up life will encounter. Sparrow’s mother is from the Chumash nation whose territory boarders the Pacific. Her father is an American trapper and trader sent by his government to explore the rich California lands owned by Mexico. Sparrow’s difficulties are compounded when she learns her father also has an American wife and daughter. Then, she overhears him making plans to overthrow the Mexican Governor of Alta California and acquire the Mexican lands for the United States. Sparrow’s tribal family and native customs are threatened. She must decide if she will keep her father’s secret and lose her homeland, or, warn her mother and the Mexican authorities, but suffer the loss of her father’s love.

Golden Secrets


2021 San Francisco Writers Conference Young Adult Writing Contest Winner


Alicia Ortega, a 14-year-old Mexican girl, struggles to protect her father’s land when she and her older sisters are aggressively courted by land-hungry Yankees and rough-cut fur traders in the Spanish colony. It’s up to Alicia, her sister Clara, and their Chumash friend Nina to shoulder the responsibility of caring for the Ortega home and business.


When Alicia’s oldest sister is sent to finishing school in Texas for protection and refinement, the remaining younger sisters must run the rancho alone. Dangers on all sides begin to descend as the sisters are pursued by Yankee immigrant merchants and sailors hoping to cash in on rich lands and access to Pacific ports.


Alicia is trying her best to keep her family’s home and business afloat and thankfully, her companion, Nina is there to help. But as an indigenous girl, Nina is valuable to traders, trappers, and surveyors for her knowledge of the Californian terrain and her network of tribal relations. However, she won’t always be there to help Alicia’s family, especially since she has problems of her own. The Franciscan Mission is pressuring her family to convert to Catholicism, a charming trader is courting her, and, worse of all, their tribal territory and tribal ways are vanishing.


The girls struggle to protect the Ortega family’s land and black market dock from conniving suitors, but tough family secrets are threatening everything, and Alicia doesn’t know if they’ll be able to survive until her parents return.

Book Bubbles from Golden Secrets

Papa's Brandy

Is this the first excerpt from Golden Secrets that you have read? Welcome. You should know that these two sisters, Alicia and Clara, don't usually get along very well. In this scene Alicia is trying to be extra nice to her sister and they both find that a little sip of their father's brandy helps smooth their conversation. I know you will enjoy their entire story along with the other two books, Twisted Cross and Broken Secrets, in this series. You can obtain them all here at in paperback or as eBooks. My goal in this series is to share stories about Latinx characters in early California. You can learn more at I share other Latinx authors and their stories in my weekly posts, Diverse Voices - Bravo! at Join me and enjoy the books.


A coming-of-age story is bound to include revelations about life. In this excerpt from Golden Secrets, Alicia is uncovering many secrets. Her growing list of questions rises after each discovery. Alicia is our protagonist in book two of the Mission Bells Trilogy, a historic fiction including the diverse voices of Alta California prior to statehood in the 1840s. Diverse voices are the focus of my writing for young adults and others who enjoy YA literature. The characters and content blend historical fact with fictional characters whose stories are seldom acknowledged in history texts. I invite you to enjoy this trilogy which can be ordered here at I also invite you to follow my weekly Substack page, Diverse Voices - Bravo! wherein I introduce you to other Latinx authors and stories each week: Gracias and happy reading!

Polite vs Honest

Are there times when you decide not to tell the whole truth? Navigating tough conversations is a skill--one that many of us never learn. The character that appears in each of the Mission Bells Trilogy stories, Salvador Tenorio, he is determined to be polite, rather than brutally honest in this excerpt from book two in the series, Golden Secrets. I share this portion of the text to demonstrate characters who have distinct, if not perfect, personalities. Not all soldiers are brave, not all women are generous, not all persons in authority are dishonest. This historic fiction for young adults is set in a time period of rapid change. Awkward tensions exist between old timers and colonists. Some young readers may believe our contemporary difficulties with immigration, land ownership, and environmental degradation are modern occurrences that past Americans did not have to deal with. The opposite is true. The Mission Bells trilogy tells a story of diversity, inclusion/exclusion, and national boundaries in flux. All three books may be purchased here at Learn more about the trilogy at You are also welcome to follow my weekly posts at Diverse Voices - Bravo! and meet other Latinx authors and stories. See

Allies and Codes

Keeping track of the good guys and the bad guys is a challenge for me when I read a novel. It's especially difficult if some of the bad guys turn out to be good guys and visa-versa. But that is also what makes a story interesting and full of surprises. If you haven't yet read Golden Secrets [and why not?] you will see characters in this excerpt who take on new roles in the story and help resolve a mystery. As a writer, keeping track of the characters is part of my job. Even those who are not central to the plot have their own story line: strangers can become allies; friends begin to speak in a sort of code language to protect their secrets. I hope you will take time to read the Mission Bells Trilogy including Twisted Cross, Golden Secrets, and Broken Promises, all available here on See more of the back story at

Ancestor Secrets

Trace your ancestors to learn your family history and BE PREPARED. Creating a family tree is a route to understanding those who came before you. It can also be a method of self-understanding and the basis of a good story. But there are secrets that you may not expect. Such is the case for Alicia Alvarado in Golden Secrets, book two in the Mission Bells trilogy. All three books are available here at You can learn more about this historic fiction trilogy for young adults at Latinx stories and authors are introduced each week on Diverse Voices - Bravo! in order to broaden your reading lists, your classroom discussions, and your library collection. Follow me on

A Grim Adventure

All of us, especially young readers, enjoy an adventure story. But not all of the scenes are enticing, some are grim--like those bodies swept out to sea in the story behind Golden Secrets. History has many grim scenes. Our California history is no exception. Turn your classroom conversations to reflection and respect for those who came before us. All three of the books in this Mission Bells Trilogy contain adventure, and hardships, discovery and discouragement. These stories contain the diverse voices that are so often left out of our glossed-over historical accounts. All are available here on Bublish .com. Enjoy them with your students and follow other diverse voices at Diverse Voices - Bravo!

Confusing Middle

You have just been dropped into the middle of my book and if you have not been following the story of Alicia and her sister Clara it's going to be confusing. Sorry. Their story, Golden Secrets, really is about gold that is secretly hidden somewhere on their family's property. The time and place are early 1800's in colonial California before statehood. The complications include a tax collector who happens to be a distant uncle, a sailor named Harris who wants to swindle the family out of their land, and a drunk who probably knows where the gold is hidden. This is the second book in the Mission Bells historic fiction series for young adults. It has a definite coming-of-age theme perfect for teens and, unfortunately, you've arrived when Alicia is starting her minstrel cycle for the first time. She hasn't got a clue what to expect. Her friend Nina tries to explain things in her broken English. My best advice is to start the trilogy in book one, Twisted Cross and read through to book three, Broken Promises. All three books are available here at You can learn more about them on my website: I also invite you to follow my weekly newsletter, Diverse Voices - Bravo! where I will introduce you to other Latinx authors each week. https/: Thanks for taking a moment to read this post.


When did you begin to suspect the truth about Santa Clause? More importantly, when did it dawn on you that your parents had an entire lifetime before you were born? These are the memory points I use as an author to guide my character through a coming-of-age story. Many tales in this tradition place the young protagonist in a battle with evil forces where their victory will prove their wits and strength. For my character Alicia, the inner battles of discerning the truth from family fairytales is the challenge. She is ready to support her parents and defend their land even if the history she has been told is dubious. Join me in this Mission Bells Trilogy and hear the stories of colonial California told with diverse voices. You may obtain books here at Also follow other Latinx authors in my free weekly newsletter, Diverse Voices - Bravo! at

Defending Papa

Alicia never expected that she would have to defend her Papa's honor and property. Now she is learning she does not know as much about her family secrets as she thought she did. Alicia Ortega, a teen in Alta California, 1800's, is the protagonist in Golden Secrets, book two of the Mission Bells Trilogy. Join her adventures and experience true California history through thru diverse voices in all three books: Twisted Cross, Golden Secrets, and Broken Promises. All are available here on My own writing adventure is featured at I also invite you to learn more about other Latinx authors and stories in my weekly newsletter: Diverse Voices - Bravo! Expand your reading list, classroom materials and library collection by visiting me here: Thank you for following these posts week to week!

Caught Trespassing

A stranger poses a threat to a small community. Many stories begin with this premise. Here, in Golden Secrets, the trespasser turns out to be a government agent sent to assess the territory. This plot twist transforms a simple story into a multi-layered tale about a family in the midst of historic change, Colonial California prior to statehood. This book and the others in the Mission Bells trilogy (Twisted Cross and Broken Promises) offer a diverse blend of voices. The characters are meant to illuminate the variety of early settlers whose lives are impacted by the course of events in the West from the 1790's through 1850. Each story is threaded with historical fact and fictional characters. I invite you to purchase these books here at and learn more about their development at I share other Latinx authors and stories each week at Diverse Voices - Bravo! see

Suspicious Circumstances

Daily life glosses over the turning points of life. Reading a scene about a breakfast table conversation allows you, the reader, to find hints of future events. In this excerpt from Golden Secrets life seems to be progressing in a normal way, but big events are about to happen. Thanks for following the life of Alicia Ortega and her family at Rancho Refugio in early California. All three of the Mission Bells Trilogy books can be found here at To learn about other Latinx authors and stories follow my weekly newsletter at

An Old Family Argument

Every family has a history of stories, celebrations, and sometimes, age- old arguments. In this excerpt from Golden Secrets, Alicia learns a new story and worries about how an old argument may threaten the security of her family. Golden Secrets is book two in the Mission Bells Trilogy. All three books are available here at Learn more about these historic fiction stories at You are also welcome to follow my weekly newsletter featuring other Latinx authors and stories at

A Warning

A simple conversation can have many meanings. This excerpt seems to be a discussion about a new baby, but it is really meant as a warning to an intrusive dinner guest, the conniving Captain Harris: "Back off. This family and our land are protected from your evil plans!" Thank you for following Golden Secrets, the second book in the Mission Bells trilogy. The series is available here from in paperback and eBook format. To learn more, go to https://www.anitaperezferguson.comYou can also sign up for my free weekly newsletter Diverse Voices - Bravo! to learn more about other Latinx authors at

A Bossy Sister

I love my sisters, but we don't always get along perfectly. Family squabbles reveal personality differences and points of friction in a household. The excerpt from Golden Secrets sheds light on the competition between sisters, Alicia and Clara. A tense situation emerges when the local Padre, Brother Romo, drops in with unexpected news from their parents. Golden Secrets is book two in the Mission Bells Trilogy. [] All three books are available in paperback and as eBooks from popular outlets via I hope you enjoy them. You may also enjoy my free weekly newsletter, Diverse Voices - Bravo! on Substack, where I introduce other Latinx authors and stories. []

The Intruder

In this excerpt from Golden Secrets sister Clara invited a man into the Ortega household and expects her younger sister Alicia to wait on him. It's not just any man, but the very scoundrel who already made their older sister pregnant. He is intent on stealing the Ortega land and fortune in any devious way he can. Golden Secrets is the second book in the Mission Bells Trilogy. All three books are available here at in paperback and as eBooks. I also invite you to follow my free weekly newsletter, Diverse Voices - Bravo! to learn about other Latinx authors and expand you reading list, classroom selections, and library holdings. Join the newsletter at:

Secret Plans

There is never enough excitement in a book when only one character solves one problem. An engaging story presents twists and turns, then, unexpected resolutions that change the story and the characters. As a writer, I imagine my initial plot, then add complexity, mystery, and surprises. In this excerpt from Golden Secrets, Alicia and Nina discover that someone has intentions to take over papa's rancho. It takes them some time to realize that the reason Captain Harris is taking such careful measurements of the land is so he can make a map and claim ownership. Alicia is horrified to see that her own sister, Clara, is helping the captain with his plot. This is just one of the complications Alicia must face in Golden Secrets, book two, in the Mission Bells trilogy. Obtain all the books here at the site. You are also welcome to follow my free weekly newsletter, Diverse Voices - Bravo! where I introduce you to other Latinx authors and their books. See it at

Another World

Reading about other times and places, beyond your own experience, is like traveling to another world. Writing about historic times and foreign places requires study, imagination, and respect for those who have come before us. In Golden Secrets there is a Native village in a meadow behind the Mission. It is home to our character Nina, and it is like another world to her best friend. The busy, productive community is a delight to Alicia; however, she is confounded by all of the adults who have warned her about the dangers of this village and its inhabitants. My work as a docent at our local California Mission and my study of the time period [1779 - 1850] aided my imagination as I wrote this historic fiction trilogy. Besides early California history, the books are about friendship, discovery, and hope. Enjoy them here at Meet other Latinx authors in my weekly newsletter, Diverse Voices - Bravo! found at https://www.anitaperezferguson. Enjoy!

Best Friends

The more we know about our best friends, the more they surprise us. This is especially true when our circumstances or location changes and we see our friends in a new setting. This happens to best friends in Golden Secrets, Alicia and Nina. In this passage the girls visit Nina's grandmother, Masagawa, a respected Native healer. Alicia learns more about Nina's childhood and family, then realizes the unique influences in Nina's life. Alicia recalls her mother's notions of Native people and questions what she has always been taught by her parents. Follow these friends in Golden Secrets and their continued friendship in Broken Promises. The books are available here at in paperback and as eBooks. Learn more at For weekly recommendations of other Latinx authors follow my free newsletter, Diverse Voices - Bravo!

A Writer's Winter Cold

When I am sick with a yucky Winter cold, I see the world in a crooked, confusing way. A horrible head cold can sometimes stop me in my writing process. On the other hand, it can give me some new ideas for how my character is suffering. In this excerpt from Golden Secrets, the second book in the Mission Bells series, my main character, teenaged Alicia, needs magic solutions to solve her problems. Her best friend, Nina, knows where to find that magic. I wish I had some of those healing herbs in my house this winter! I hope you are well and enjoying Twisted Cross, Golden Secrets and Broken Promises. You can use this Bublish site to order the books in paperback or as eBooks. If you also follow my free weekly newsletter, Diverse Voices - Bravo!, you will learn about other Latinx authors each week. Stay warm and well, friends.

A Fox Among the Hens

A saying in rural communities, where families raise chickens, is 'Beware the fox in the hen house.' It signals DANGER. It's also a way to describe the danger lurking around the family in Golden Secrets where one young scoundrel, Captain Harris, is plucking off one sister after another. Thanks for joining me to hear more about book two in the Mission Bells trilogy, Golden Secrets. In this story, three sisters live with their parents on a distant rancho land grant and there are plenty of secrets reveled along the Pacific coast in the days before California was a state. Learn more about this book and others here on the site where you can purchase from several locations in paperback or as an eBook. Learn more about other Latinx authors by following my weekly post at

Winter Worries

It's difficult to be optimistic in the gloom of winter. Creative thoughts are hidden behind the dark clouds. All our extra energy is expended on staying warm and healthy. Yet, our story goes forward, and our characters often reflect our own concerns and challenges. That is what it is like to be a writer in January. The excerpt posted today, from Golden Secrets, the second book in my Mission Bells trilogy, contains Alicia's worries and regrets. Her life as a child is quickly fading and she is facing the realities of a grown-up experience. Aren't we all? Let's do it together as you follow me each week here on where my books are available through many outlets. I also provide a free weekly newsletter Diverse Voices - Bravo! where you will find recommendations for other Latinx authors. Visit https://www.anitaperezferguson.

Her Sister's Secret

Did you ever eavesdrop on the conversations of older girls, perhaps your sisters or cousins, to learn their secrets? In this passage from Golden Secrets our young character, Alicia, reads this letter from her older sister, Dolores, and learns that she has experienced love, sex, and now pregnancy. Alicia is shocked and afraid of what might happen to her while her parents are away from the hacienda. See more about all three books in the Mission Bells Trilogy and buy them here on or from my website at I also invite you to visit Diverse Voices - Bravo!, my newsletter. Each week I recommend other Latinx authors for your enjoyment, classroom and library. I appreciate your support.


What clues do you find about the book, Golden Secrets, in this excerpt? As the author I try to give a sense of location and characters in the beginning of a story. Here's a girl, Alicia, in a hacienda in the 1800s near the Pacific Ocean. She's praying to a ceramic statue. Yes, the statue is responding to her! It tells her to be careful. The beginning of a new book is similar to the beginning of a New Year. Some things are familiar, but you can be sure that unexpected events will occur when you least expect them. I personally invite you to read Golden Secrets and the other books in my historic fiction trilogy found here at More information can be found on my website. I also invite you to follow my free weekly recommendations for other Latinx authors, Diverse Voices - Bravo! at Happy New Reading Year!

Which Pathway?

At the beginning of a new year, and at the beginning of a new story, a writer tries to decide which pathway to follow. In this early excerpt from Golden Secrets there are hints of several routes into this story. The back-market dock is full of intriguing possibilities. The bold Captain Harris, who makes jokes about the harbor master's daughters, has a story to tell. The youngest daughter, Alicia, who knows she is not allowed to have sailors enter the house when her parents are away, struggles at the doorway with what writers call an inciting event. Let's follow Alicia's story in Golden Secrets, the second book in the Mission Bells Trilogy. Find all three books here at You can also find my recommendations for other Latinx authors in my free weekly newsletter, Diverse Voices Bravo! HTTPS:// Thanks for following my posts and have a Happy New Year!

Stormy Weather

It's good to have a book to read in the midst of a storm, or, during a long holiday break. May I introduce you to Alicia Orgeta, a teen with ambitions, caught in a family with low expectations for her future? Alicia will surprise her family [and you] with her curiosity, daring actions, and results! She is the star in the second book of my historic fiction series, Golden Secrets. I wish you a cozy read and a wonderful holiday. Thank you for following my weekly posts. Find this book and others, in the Mission Bells series, here on I also invite you to learn about other Latinx authors on my free newsletter, Diverse Voices - Bravo! available at Feliz Navidad!

Thanks to Bublish!

Who is key to your life, your dreams, and your wishes fulfilled? With the holidays upon us, I am reminded of my network of friends and family, all of whom support me in my writing and publishing. This excerpt from my Acknowledgements Page in Golden Secrets, the second book in the Mission Bells Trilogy, shares the many individuals and organizations that have assisted me with the writing and production of my historic fiction novels for young adults. is at the top of that list and I thank them for their expertise and also for keeping you and I together, as an author and her readers, each week through these Bubbles. I encourage you in your own writing; short stories, poems, or even books. Bublish has many services to offer you as well as my own three books, Twisted Cross, Golden Secrets, and Broken Promises. For a weekly suggestion of other Latinx authors see my free newsletter, Diverse Voices - Bravo! at anitaperezferguson.substack. com. Enjoy a wonderful holiday!

A Transition

Here is a hint from the second book in this series, Golden Secrets. Some of the characters are new, like Alicia, the second generation of the family in book one, Twisted Cross. Nina, her brothers Pedro and Flaco, and their grandmother Masagawa, are all a part of the adventure that takes place in the 1800s in the territory of Alta California prior to statehood. Then there is Padre Romo, a character caught between the injustices perpetrated on the indigenous residents and the avarice of the pioneers and military scouts. I wish you a peaceful and joyful holiday season and thank you for following my posts about my award-winning Mission Bells Trilogy. You can get more details about these books on this site or visit my website at I also invite you to sign up for a free weekly newsletter, Diverse Voices - Bravo! featuring other Latinx authors and stories at this location


History is a mix of half-truths alongside acts of bravery. This excerpt from Golden Secrets contains both. As an author of historic fiction for teens, I struggle to balance the stories I write in order to tell a truthful tale and urge readers to research the details. In this scene, two childhood friends are separated by life's circumstances. The mixed roles of the Mexican settlers, the indigenous residents, and the new American explorers is a powder keg about to explode. When it does, it is not pretty. Do I describe the bounty hunters, the genocide, the invasion of a sovereign territory? Not here. In these stories, Twisted Cross, Golden Secrets, and Broken Promises, each character is brave in their own way. All are resilient models of perseverance. I do not want to tell teens half-truths, but I do want to shine a light on the valiant hearts of those who came before us.

Step into the New Year

Just because it is the end of December, it doesn't mean all of our troubles are tied up with a neat bow. Alicia faces new questions in this last chapter of Golden Secrets. Don't worry, there is no spoiler revealed in this excerpt. But when we enter the new year, more adventures are revealed. As a writer, I am always thinking about what will happen to my characters in my next book. In 2023 we will learn more about Alcia's future. Where does she live? Does she marry? Who? Does she reconnect with her childhood friend, Nina? The new title is a bit foreboding. It is titled, Broken Promises. Keep following my bubbles and you will be the first to know. Thank you for reading my books and joining me and my characters on this journey. Twisted Cross, Golden Secrets, Broken Promises, https://anitaperezferguson

The Stranger

Old family friends show up during the holidays. Their connection to our kin is unknown and often mysterious. In this section of Golden Secrets the Ortega sisters meet Old Ernesto who holds some of the long held secrets of their parents history. As I wrote Golden Secrets I was thinking of the past, present and future of the Ortega family. The past is buried with old Ernesto in the days of ship wrecks and golden coins on the beaches of Rancho Refugio. The present is our story about the Ortega sisters maintaining the Rancho and it's secrets. The future is discovered in my next novel, Broken Promises, when the sisters are grown women in Monterey, California. Broken Promises will be released in 2023 and the story continues.

My Christmas List

What does a writer want for Christmas? I can only speak for one writer, myself. The answer to my wish list is found on my dedication page in the front of my novels. Although many writers will put, 'new readers', at the top of their wish list, I put the memory of those who came before me, and those I love today, on the top of my list of holiday wishes. Sure, I want more readers. I want to engage, inspire, and teach those who read my young adult trilogy, Mission Bells. But before any of those blessings, I want to honor and thank those who have inspired and taught me. I want to remember and respect those who have come before me, in my family and on this land. And I want to remind students to do likewise when they imagine their own story. In my reality, we do not truly have our own story. I believe we have a shared past, present and future. Follow my books and awards from the San Francisco Writers Conference on this page where you can also see a family photo from my great grandfather Perez in Mexico.

A Big Dinner

What can you expect at a large family dinner? A gathering for a farewell meal brings together hopes, fears, and some regrets in this passage from the last chapters of Golden Secrets. Today, we experience the same conversations around the table during our holiday dinners. The generations are often confused by one another. The elders remember their children as infants, yet everyone knows that times are changing, and life will be different in the days ahead. The Mission Bells trilogy shares the lives of families in Alta California before statehood in the 1800s. The history of the state is buried in the day-to-day experiences of regular people doing extraordinary things. Read about them in Twisted Cross, Golden Secrets, and Broken Promises. Learn more at

A Family Gathering

Big dinners and celebrations with guests teem with stories, intrigue, and sometimes, hurt feelings. In this scene from Golden Secrets the Ortega family have a gathering to celebrate the homecoming of Mama and Papa with a new baby boy. Not everyone is happy about this event, as you can see by reading this passage. When teens read a less than perfect description of families and social eventarise comparing a perfect, idealistic world, history, or family to our current day experiences engage reluctant readers and invite a more honest classroom exchange. Find many of these conversations in the Mission Bells Trilogy: Twisted Cross, Golden Secrets, and Broken Promises, award-winning YA literature at the San Francisco Writers Conference 2021 and 2022. s, they compare it to their own experience. We all do. The conversations and questions that

Discovering Your Family

What if you discovered a new perspective on your family’s struggles and accomplishments? My trilogy, Mission Bells, speaks to young adults and Latino readers who long to see their own faces and hear their true stories in history. Investigation and imagination fuel the novels I write. Colonial California holds the secrets that give birth to my characters and plots. These characters are often overlooked in our history books. History teachers and librarians use my books [Golden Secrets, Twisted Cross, & Broken Promises] to add diverse voices to the classroom. Bienvenido – follow my work and come with me and meet our family. See more at

Remember Lost Souls

Every culture has its ways of remembering those who have lived and died ahead of them. Halloween. The Day of the Dead. Stones placed on a gravesite in the cemetery. All Saints Day. Candles and Prayer Flags. Teens often focus on the spooky aspects of death with their costumes and preferences for horror stories. That is, until they lose someone they love. It is the same for all of us. In these tragic days of school shootings and mass violence in public places, the impact of death becomes painfully real. In this portion of Golden Secrets our teen, Alicia, observes two characters from different cultural traditions remembering lost and beloved souls. Is this appropriate for YA literature? Is this a part of an adventure saga? Yes, when we mix adventure and time passing it is inevitable that we will face death. Reading how others handle this experience helps us to discuss and learn our own traditions and beliefs. Golden Secrets is book 2 in the Mission Bells trilogy of historical fiction for young adults about the old west. See more at

Three Sisters

Read stories about siblings, especially sisters, and discover a secret look into the lives of a family other than your own. As readers, we compare the character's lives to our experience. We judge the realistic quality of their interactions. As students, we begin to understand that actions are motivated by emotions. We also learn that all actions have consequences. The three sisters in Golden Secrets, book two in the Mission Bells historical trilogy, have different personalities. They each have their own goals and their own secrets. As you get to know Dolores, Clara, and Alicia, you also learn about Alta California, before statehood, in the 1800s. Come, join the family!

Pow! Action and Reaction

Action and adventure books do more than show the reader the Bam! Pop! Pow! of events taking place in a story. In your own life when you see something unexpected, does your mind go blank? The moment your eyes take in a scene that surprises you, your mind also springs into action. Every action causes a reaction when characters are lifelike and realistic. In this scene from Golden Secrets our characters, Alicia and Manuel, meet unexpectedly. We read about their outward movements and their conversation. But their reactions to one another are buried in their thoughts and slight gestures. Alicia and Manuel are also featured in the next book in the Mission Bells trilogy, Broken Promises. Their story, along with other diverse characters, describe the lives of residents in Alta California before statehood in 1845. This historical fiction for young adult readers is used as a classroom supplement by teachers and librarians. Learn more and follow

Growing Pains

My intent is to draw the student into the story. I hint at where the story is going. It is up to the reader to find out how events unfold. Students and classrooms; these are two features I keep in mind while writing for a young adult audience. In Golden Secrets, book II in the Mission Bells trilogy, I used a series of events to replace a table of contents. This stair step of challenges faced by the characters is reflected in the plotline. I think of those challenges as growing pains. Teenagers are faced with life's realities, many are harsh. The Mission Bells historical fiction series reflects the growing pains of teens in Alta California 200 years ago amidst the controversies of statehood. Teachers and librarians use the historical reference links in each book to further the learning process. Join the story: Book I, Twisted Cross, Book II, Hidden Secrets, Book II, Broken Promises (2023). See more at:

Alone Time

Alicia wanted to solve the family mysteries. When she had time alone, she reflected on new questions. She recalled inconsistencies in the stories passed down through her family and had doubts about the truth of what she was told as a child. Golden Secrets, a family saga, reflects the lives of Mexican and indigenous settlers in old California before statehood in 1845. This historical fiction for young adults, supplements classroom readings in history and social studies with adventurous tales of diverse characters in the southwest. This is book two in the Mission Bells trilogy. See for more information.

Attraction and Tension

Alicia Ortega, a 16-year-old independent Tom Boy, finds herself intrigued by an army Private who is up to no good. How can this cocky young man be attractive and annoying at the same time? Golden Secrets is not a surgery love-at-first-sight teenage romance. It is an adventurous historical fiction that features a long-term alliance between these two young adults who grapple with the changes taking place in the New World and struggle to find their place amidst the political intrigue. Alicia and Private Valdez will continue their grown-up story in book three of the Mission Bells YA trilogy, Broken Promises. See more at


Three sisters, with distinctly different personalities, face grown up challenges when papa and mama leave the teenage girls in charge of their ranch. One sister wants to take change, but tensions arise when they discover long held secrets in a shoreline cave and realize that danger lurks nearby. Golden Secrets is book two in the Mission Bells trilogy; a Young Adult historical fiction based in the 1800s in Alta California prior to statehood. Classroom teachers and librarians use the adventure story with diverse voices, and the resource sections in Golden Secrets, to supplement their textbooks. See more at

Will they or won't they?

Two teenaged sisters, left alone to manage their family's ranch in old California, 1830, discover golden treasure hidden on their papa's land and the secrets of their father's past. Will they keep his secrets, report the riches to local authorities, or use the gold for the adventure of their lifetime? Golden Secrets is book two in the Mission Bells trilogy for young adults. Teachers and Librarians use these historic fiction adventures to supplement classroom studies of the southwest under the colonial rule of Spain and Mexico, then its journey to statehood. Each book profiles the lives of diverse characters, offers historical information links, and a supplement for Spanish vocabulary terms used in the story. See more at

Independence Day

The 4th of July is U.S. Independence Day, but each of us has our personal Independence Day when we begin our adult journey in life. In this passage the sisters learn that even their mother once had her own independence in the days she lived in the society of military officers and government officials. In the Mission Bells trilogy, we follow the independent plans of various characters, each with their own personality and challenges. At the conclusion of book two, Golden Secrets, Alicia and Clara are about begin a new adventure in Monterey, the first capital city of Alta California. Will they be prepared for what they find in a new location? Will they survive the changes that are about to take place in the territory?

The Party is Over

After a long awaited celebration, wedding, graduation, or birthday, life goes on. One day or event rarely changes our lives or the personalities of our family. This is sometimes called the 'inbetween' times when we do the regular things in life and once-in-a-while come up with a bright idea. Golden Secrets is a story where inbetween times become struggles, then adventures, then life changes. Such is the pattern for a teen's life and all the topics of hope and yearning, disappointment and misunderstanding, are experienced by the sisters Alicia and Clara. Students, parents and and teachers discuss how the sister's plans are conceived in the same way our everyday lives happen. Where and why did they fail or succeed? Golden Secrets is book two in the Mission Bells trilogy of historic fiction about the old West for teens. See more at .

A New Door Opens

June graduations remind us, teens move on to new adventures as they become young adults. Some families embrace the change, some are less enthusiastic. Our sisters, Alicia and Clara, in book 2 - Golden Secrets, have worked hard to secure the family's ranch lands but now see a new door opening to them. Their curiosity about the capital of Alta California, Monterey, intrigues them. Their uncle's standing invitation makes the journey possible. In book 3 - Broken Promises, the sister's lives continue with unexpected circumstances in Monterey.

Mama's Secrets

Take a moment to imagine your parents...before they were your parents. Perhaps you have heard the same old stories and cautions about growing up and making the right friends again and again. Ask yourself, where did those cautionary tales come from? Teens are often surprised by the early life experiences of their own mom and dad. The sisters, Alicia and Clara, in Golden Secrets are so concerned about their prospects for the future, they cannot imagine what their mother was like as a girl and why she made the choices she made. Everyone has a story. If it is not told out loud, it is often passed on in habits, warnings, and even in the bloodline of a family.

Poor Boy, Rich Girl

Yes, the adventure saga, Golden Secrets, has a little romance in it. The relationship gets off to a rocky start. Young Alicia feels she is working hard on her family's ranch, but a young soldier reminds her that not everyone is lucky enough to have land and a wealthy family. He grew up poor and joined the military, she does not know much of the world beyond her parents property. Teen relationships are about comparing families, values, and life expectations. As students read about their own similarities to those who lived 200 years ago history takes on a personal flavor. This Mission Bells trilogy is historical fiction for young readers. Educators use the books in History and Social Studies classes.

Dress for Success

What do your clothes say about who you are? In a short description of Alicia Ortega's work clothes we learn about how she distinguishes herself from her sisters and how her work clothes give her a sense of freedom and adventure. Golden Secrets follows the lives of two sisters and their efforts to save the family property while their parents are away. The Historical Fiction set in Alta California 1800's is a different perspective on the territory prior to statehood. This second book in the Mission Bells Trilogy ties together the colonial outposts established by the Spanish [book 1] and later, Mexico's loss of the territory to the United States [book 3]. Teachers and librarians include this in 4th and 8th grade history lessons.

Who's Who?

A story that is full of action requires many characters. My main character, Alicia, requires a sidekick--that turns out to be her sister Clara. The action moves forward with the help of allies like Padre Romo, the unnamed banker, and the handsome Private Valdez. Who are the cast of characters in your life story? In Golden Secrets, surprises await the reader when some friends turn out to be foes, some enemies turn into secret supporters, and trusted advisors happen to be ghosts. Golden Secrets is the second book in the Mission Bells trilogy of historic fiction for teens. The stories are set in colonial California and some Spanish phrases, with a vocabulary insert, are included. English, History, and ESL teachers enjoy using the Mission Bells Trilogy.

A Calm after the Storm

Family squabbles and life crisis are outlets for emotional tension. This is true for teens, as well as their parents. Secrets, rebellions, and restrictions are a regular part of family life and have always been so. When life simmers down, the reckoning begins. This passage from Golden Secrets visits the Ortega household after a big party and fiasco. Some family members, the parents, are seeing their children in a new light. Others are making plans for their lives going forward with a fresh perspective on what it means to take grown up responsibility. Find out where those plans take Alicia and her sister Clara in the third book of the Mission Bells trilogy, Broken Promises, to be published later this year.

Are we forced to pay taxes?

Did California residents pay taxes two hundred years ago? This month is full of tax questions and complaints, but even the family in Golden Secrets in 1820 was required to keep track of their sales and pay taxes. Their fees did not go to Washington DC, but to the Mexican government since California was not yet a part of the USA. If this is beyond your imagination, consider having your two teenage daughters be in in charge of the family taxes. In this historic fiction we find Alicia, 14, and Clara, 16, taking on many adult responsibilities to protect their family land grant while their parents are traveling in Texas, another Mexican territory.

An Unwelcome Discovery

The title, Golden Secrets, sounds enticing, however not all discoveries are joyful. Within this historical fiction saga, Alicia Ortega comes of age and her understanding of the world around her expands in some unhappy directions. Sometimes we call this facing-the-facts of life. Some of those facts are harsh and some are delightful. Alicia's relationship with Sargent Valdez is just about to bud into her first romance. Then, she finds out the atrocity he committed carrying out his military duties. She discovers it is Valdez who evicted her friend, Masagawa, from her tribal homeland .

Roles and Goals

Growing up and taking on adult responsibilities is not an easy task. Some of us never get it right. The teens in Golden Secrets are forced to take on mature responsibilities quickly. Alicia is hopeful and celebrates every accomplishment. Clara yearns for her old life when someone else took care of the difficult tasks. Together, the sisters face the future. Each acts according to her own personality. Golden Secrets is book two in the Mission Bells Trilogy. Alicia and Clara are revisited, when they are ten years older, in the third book, Broken Promises (2023).

The Roles We Play

Do you find it difficult to be the person everyone expects you to be? Were your teen years fraught with rebellions, large and small? In Golden Secrets, family roles and parental assumptions are shattered when the household finds itself in dire straights. This excerpted passage displays how two sisters must extend themselves in new roles and tasks to meet the demands of their changed lives. How many families find themselves in unexpected circumstances in today's world? The joys of the Swiss Family Robinson are replaced with the challenges of displaced refugees in the 21st century.

When Families Change

The young women in Golden Secrets are experiencing major changes in their household and are uncertain what their future will be. When teens become independent they still rely on the stability of the family they knew as a child. When families change through a move, an older sibling moving out, parents separating, or passing away, it takes time to adjust to the new family dynamic. Some teens flounder in this transition and blame themselves for the actions of the adults in the household. The girls in Golden Secrets have lost their older sister to a boarding school, then they discover that their mother is bringing an infant son into the household. On top of these changes, their childhood friend is growing up quickly and moving away. Will life ever get back to normal?

Caring for Children

The honesty of a parent as she struggles to protect her children is raw and painful. Yet, it is a pain derived from an act of love. In our contemporary headlines and in the lines of my historic fiction you will see the same challenges of family love enacted. Modern literature, especially books for young readers, do well to tell a full story of struggle, hope, failure and success rather than gloss over life's challenges in an effort to reach a happy ending. As an author, I work to find an honest depiction and an encouraging message that will assist young readers to relate to my stories yet accept hardship as some thing to be overcome.

How do we know?

It is a mystery, that we can sometimes sense events before they happen. This is more common in some people and some cultures. Alicia learns to trust such predictions in the story of Golden Secrets. But others are suspicious and call the practice of prediction magic or evil. How do we know, what we know?

Welcome the Stranger

"Beware of strangers" is a common warning that parents convey to their children. In a world filled with fears and unknown neighbors, it is not surprising that parents want to teach their children to be cautious. In another time and place, the advice was just the opposite: welcome the stranger, for you never know when you might be entertaining an angel. The young women in Golden Secrets are faced with a stranger at their door that they are none-to-anxious to entertain. Yet, it is their own uncle who has led the stranger to their home. As the family saga turns, this stranger holds the answer to many secrets in the family's past.

Unraveling a Mystery

Families have secrets. Some are intentional, some are revealed as kids grow up. In Golden Secrets the mystery of the Ortega family riches dominates young Alicia's curiosity. Everything is at stake as her sisters plan to marry men who want the family land and wealth more than just a loving wife. Alicia will not fall into that trap. She is working to preserve their California land grant and pay back taxes that her papa has neglected. It is a big job for a young teen but her future depends on her success.

Grown Up Secrets

Long before encyclopedias and Google were invented, older adults were the holders of historic information, and secrets. Our main character, Alicia, in Golden Secrets, has many questions about her parents and what may have happened on their land, Rancho Refugio, before she was born in 1818. She turns to the local Padre hoping he will shed some light on the past. Alicia's curiosity is natural to many teens. She is yearning to understand herself and looks for answers within her family history. She learns stories that change her opinion about what it means to be a grown up. Golden Secrets is the second book in the historical fiction Mission Bells trilogy. Twisted Cross, the first book, features a young man battling with padres and pirates in the New World. The final book, Broken Promises, will be available Dec. 2022.

Your Magical Place

Is there a special place, real or imaginary, where you go to think through your problems? Is there one place you can go to dream your dreams and make your plans? Alicia, in Golden Secrets, had such a place. The problem was that much of her thinking led to more questions, more unanswered mysteries that needed to be resolved—honestly. Many family secrets emerge in this story. These secrets are not only about the past. They affect modern times and decisions Alicia is about to make for her own life. Alicia's family, life, and world are changing, and she must understand how to make the best decisions to move forward. She needs to spend some time in her special place to think this through. Join her in Golden Secrets,book 2 in the Mission Bells trilogy.

Normal Times

What is your definition of 'normal times'? We have been using this term for almost two years, and yet, everyone means something a little different when they say it. Even the girl in Golden Secrets wished for normal times. For her, it was a return to the stability of having her parents at home to run the ranch. She wanted to end the doubts and fears that surrounded her. It sounds familiar to what we say in 2022. A good story, even if it takes place 200 years before the present day, can reflect our current worries. It can help young readers see how others overcame their fears and uncertainty. The Mission Bells trilogy is set in colonial California. The fears and uncertainty of early inhabitants reflect many of our current dilemmas and give a voice to the youth who lived through these times.

Surprises Await

Just when we think we have life figured out, things begin to change. What will 2022 be like? What new challenges will you face with your friends? Young Alicia is learning new things about her best friend Nina in the story of Golden Secrets. Teens can become close to new friends quickly. But just as quickly new circumstances, revelations, and troubles can tear friends apart. There are also delightful surprises in life; unexpected visitors, success, and accomplishments of all types. The characters in Golden Secrets experience challenging times and hard-won victories. Young readers, teachers, and parents know that life cam be a surprising adventure.

Doubt and Uncertainty

One of the more difficult parts of growing up is the Doubt and Uncertainty we experience as teens [and adults!] The secure world of childhood is lost to the big questions in life; why are we here, what is the truth, what is important? Rather than add more pat answers to the questions teens ask, it is well for our characters to also suffer with Doubt and Uncertainty. We can bring our fictional characters through their fears and sometimes leave a path for our readers, too.

Sharing Secrets

Have you ever been awake in the middle of the night worrying about the next day? Imagination can go wild on a long, dark night. This is just the time when it is good to have someone to talk to—someone to share your secrets and fears. Our character, Alicia, wakes her older sister, Clara, to share her secrets and fears. Unfortunately, Clara's response only gives Alicia more to worry about. The mystery and adventure of their family, past and present, in Golden Secrets, keeps readers guessing about what will happen and who will reveal the truth about the family's land and fortune. History teachers enjoy using this historic fiction to engage their students in their studies of colonial California, pre-statehood. Casual readers enjoy the western suspense. Golden Secrets is the second book in the Mission Bells trilogy. Twisted Cross is the first book, and Broken Promises will follow.

A Spiritual Guide

How do you grow up and claim your life values? Making decisions and building character are signs of coming of age. In the ideal world we have parents, teachers, leaders, and friends who help us mature. Some readers of Golden Secrets see Padre Romo as the person who guides and supports the family. Does your family have a favorite friend who plays that role? One reader noticed that the character, Alicia, often prays to her mother's little statue of Mother Mary that sits above the fireplace. At this time of year, December, many people decorate with religious symbols. What do those symbols say about your values and beliefs?

A Trilogy Sister Adventures

I just celebrated Thanksgiving at my sister's house. You may have, or wish you had, a sister to join you over the holidays. The twists and turns of sister relationships is a good part of my book, Golden Secrets, excerpted here today. The growing up years can look and feel different from the adult years you share with your sisters. Even the childhood memories of parents, places, and events can vary from sister to sister. Follow the Ortega sisters in this trilogy of books from Twisted Cross, to Golden Secrets, and finally Broken Promises, which will be released in 2022. If you have sisters, you will recognize the joys and challenges these young ladies encounter. If you don't have sisters, you will gain some in the characters within these pages. Join the adventure.

Hopeless for the Holidays

The pressure to fulfill family expectations over the holidays can be oppressive for many people. The hustle and bustle of extra hosting, buying, and making-nice with relatives that have contrasting beliefs produces stress during a season meant to celebrate joy. How do you acknowledge family connections, respect differences, and maintain a spirit of peace and gratitude? Family stress is featured in this excerpt from Golden Secrets, a historic fiction for teens. Tensions can be especially high between generations. Yet, there are many individuals who spend the holidays alone and would trade a lonely holiday for one with all the confusion and fuss that a full family event can include before, during, and even after the official holidays. Some friends of this author share a special book during the holidays and extend regular conversations, in person or via the phone, to enjoy a less pressure filled season and a more relaxed genuine exchange.

Authentic Voice

Featuring diverse voices with respect and authenticity is not an easy job. The characters in Golden Secrets come from a variety of backgrounds and language groups. The Mexican settlers in Alta California speak Spanish and English, The indigenous persons speak their native language and some English. The American traders speak English and some Spanish slang and indigenous greetings. It is the sort of mix you might experience visiting a foreign country. The short excerpt selected for today includes an indigenous Chumash girl and a Spanish/English speaker, Nina and Alicia. My goal is to make the dialog respectful and authentic for all characters. My readers will also come from a variety of language groups. Students look for themselves in every book they read.

Alone & Afraid

The training we receive as women and girls in the art of self defense comes with a dose of self respect and confidence. Throughout history we have had to defend ourselves from unwanted advances and outright danger. Modern young women are recognizing historic characters who displayed courage and determination without ever having a single class. It is a spirit and tradition that Golden Secrets fosters in characters like Alicia and Nina.It is also a characteristic that protects more than a woman's honor, but also her household, children, and property. Strong girls make strong women and strong communities.

Underestimating 'Them'

Families, traditions, and backgrounds that differ from our own are often difficult to appreciate. Living in a diverse community includes the responsibility of learning about and valuing our neighbors and their points of view. The Mission Bells trilogy includes many diverse voices and gives students the opportunity to observe and discuss their interactions. In this portion of Golden Secrets, book two in the trilogy, best friends Alicia and Nina discover that for all their shared experiences, they still have many differences that neither girl fully understands nor appreciates. Educators use the series to discuss issues of race, class, and gender in early California history. The story is an adventure that individual readers, young and old, enjoy.

Commitment & Courage

Writing a story that includes surprise, adventure, and intrigue requires the creation of interesting characters. It's best if you have at least two characters who are pitted against one another, each trying to outsmart the other. In this excerpt from Golden Secrets a young sailor seeking his fortune, Harris, is committed to securing property in Alta California any way he can. His determination includes finding an eligible woman with family land and securing a convenient marriage. On the other hand, our protagonist, Alicia, has courage as she attempts to protect the family's land and keep Harris away from marrying her sisters. The story features Harris's commitment versus Alicia's courage. When there is family devotion at stake young Alicia rises to the challenge, but she must face many obstacles along the way.

Clues to Friendship

How often have you been surprised by a new revelation about an old friend? We can become overly comfortable with our assumptions about the lives and circumstances of others. When crisis hits, we learn more. In those times of growing friendship it is not only the words of another that demonstrate what they are feeling or who they are. There are also clues in their gestures, expressions and little habits that reveal more about their personality and circumstances. This portion of Golden Secrets features two friends on a walk, one learning about the other.

Golden Secrets

Golden Secrets


Alicia Ortega, a 14-year-old Mexican girl, struggles to protect her father’s land when she and her older sisters are aggressively courted by land-hungry Yankees and rough-cut fur traders in the Spanish colony. It’s up to Alicia, her sister Clara, and their Chumash friend Nina to shoulder the responsibility of caring for the Ortega home and business. When Alicia’s oldest sister is sent to finishing school in Texas for protection and refinement, the remaining younger sisters must run the rancho alone. Dangers on all sides begin to descend as the sisters are pursued by Yankee immigrant merchants and sailors hoping to cash in on rich lands and access to Pacific ports. Alicia is trying her best to keep her family’s home and business afloat and thankfully, her companion, Nina is there to help. But as an indigenous girl, Nina is valuable to traders, trappers, and surveyors for her knowledge of the Californian terrain and her network of tribal relations. However, she won’t always be there to help Alicia’s family, especially since she has problems of her own. The Franciscan Mission is pressuring her family to convert to Catholicism, a charming trader is courting her, and, worse of all, their tribal territory and tribal ways are vanishing. The girls struggle to protect the Ortega family’s land and black market dock from conniving suitors, but tough family secrets are threatening everything, and Alicia doesn’t know if they’ll be able to survive until her parents return.

Book Bubbles from Golden Secrets

Scary Family Secrets

Some family secrets can be scary. Are you brave enough to know the whole truth about your true family history? Should you? Many teens are especially curious about what their parents were like as kids, how they got together, and what rules they broke when they were young. Some parents are reluctant to share these stories and it is often a crisis, a visiting relative, or an old photo that reveals the family secrets. The sisters in Golden Secrets are experiencing a crisis in their family and they may not be able to get through their troubles until they can find the out the truth about to their family secrets.

Challenging the Church

The authority of the church was absolute in the Spanish colonies. Yet, the priests and padres were often part of the community interacting with the ranchers, workers, and soldiers. In Golden Secrets, Padre Romo is treated like a member of the Ortega household. He is in charge of the local mission. Besides providing religious instruction, the missions run by the church were money-making enterprises with cattle, sheep, vineyards, and other types of industry. When one of those business functions was attacked, all hell broke loose.

Nina Gets Traded

Nina and Alicia, 15, have traveled to the next village to get protection to defend their home, but they end up getting in more trouble. Nina's Chumash family have strong traditions and different customs than the ones Alicia experiences at home. Troubled times test the bonds of even the best of friends. The girls are certain of only one thing, they need to stick together in order to survive. When Nina's brothers trade her as a guide to a trapper she has no choice but to do as they say. Can the friends still find a way to work together to protect the ranch?

Making a Decision

How do you make a moral decision when you are under pressure? Alicia, a teen, in the novel Golden Secrets, is trying to protect her family's rancho from being taken over by a land-hungry Yankee. Her parents are away from home and she has little time and few resources. I often see young people who face great responsibilities in our modern-day life. They, like Alicia, make precarious choices. As an author, I wanted to give my character time and support. I determined to give her a faithful friend even if that meant complicating her choices.

The Bad Guy

Every story needs a bad guy. Have you ever read a story where the main character had no problems whatsoever? Such stories are rare for two reasons; characters without any challenges are boring, and almost everyone has experienced problems in real life. Golden Secrets is a historic adventure with enough problems to keep you reading and wondering how things will turn out in the end of the story. Just as in real life, we never know what is coming next. Will the bad guy succeed? "Probably not," you say. Will you join me and find out just how he gets outsmarted at his own game? Golden Secrets is the second book in the Mission Bells Trilogy. It can be read separately or paired with book one, Twisted Cross.

Cover Art

Have you ever imagined writing your own book? The story, characters, and plot are foremost in an author's thinking. One of the last steps prior to book production is the creation of an interesting cover. Based on the design elements of the genre and content of the book, your cover will speak to would-be readers. It may be the deciding reason for a reader's choice. How many times have you picked up a book because it looked interesting? Cover art must lead a reader into the plot without giving away the ending of the story. The cover for Golden Secrets gives you a sense of the time and location of the book elements. There are little hidden elements in the artwork that the reader understands as the story unfolds. Thanks for taking the time to investigate my Golden Secrets.

Big Sister's Room

The temptation to search your big sister's room is irresistible. Golden Secrets reveals more than one revelation among a family of girls in an old West hacienda. The personal stories of three teens, and their indigenous housekeeper in Alta California, blend a historic family saga with actual events that ultimately lead to engagements, betrayal, a golden discovery, and even statehood in the far West. Golden Secrets is book II in the Mission Bells trilogy for young adult readers. The author includes classroom aids for historic event links and a Spanish vocabulary reference for select phrases. Follow Golden Secrets here.

Clues in a Letter

This letter, left behind by Alicia's older sister, contained many clues that were overlooked. Alicia's life, at 14, changed dramatically when her parents left to enroll her sister in a boarding school for young ladies. They did not explain why they left. Her friend, Nina the household maid, explained the truth to Alicia. The story of Golden Secrets begins with a secret and many more revelations are encountered the longer Mama and Papa are away from the family home, Rancho Refugio. Golden Secrets reads like an adventure, a mystery, and a history of colonial California before it became a state. Join me here weekly to learn more. Release date: Fall 2021

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