Salvador (14), and his friend Blas, are dragooned from an 18-century prison in Cadiz, Spain in 1795. They are forced to work aboard ship on an Atlantic crossing to New Spain, colonial Mexico. They are assigned to support the Junipero Serra expedition to establish the missions in Alta California. Salvador tangles with padres and pirates on his journey to discover the New World – and himself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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… https://www.britannica.com/topic/viceroy-government-official and Codex (Chapter 11) a manuscript book especially of Scripture, classics, or ancient annals. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/codex Join me on our adventure to the New World – Twisted Cross.
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