Anita Perez Ferguson

Teens, History

Author Profile

Anita Perez Ferguson

Imagination. You must have it or you would not be reading this page. Curiosity. What is it like to write a book? For me, it was an internal and external journey. A journey I would be happy to share with you. My adventure story, Twisted Cross, reveals people and places that have been hidden in history for centuries. I've written from the perspective of my own California family with roots in Spain & Mexico. Who or what inspires you? There are many hidden heroes whose stories wait to be told, in my family and in yours; in my imagination and yours. Meet me in the Old West and I will share my stories, and a few surprises, with you.


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

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.

Golden Secrets

Book Bubbles from Golden Secrets

Golden Secrets


Golden Secrets YA Golden Secrets is Book Two in the Mission Bells trilogy for YA readers. The series of historic adventure-themed accounts focus on the lives of teens from various social and ethnic strata. This retelling features the lives of young Mexican, Spanish, and indigenous California girls, in the early 1800s prior to California statehood, who are aggressively courted by land-hungry Yankees and rough-cut fur traders in the Spanish colony. State and local historic documents, as well as Mission archives, document family lineage and livestock and land grant transfers via marriage in the territory. Daughters from the ranchos are sent for refinement to the Anglophile Laredo School in Texas during the brief period of Mexican rule preceding U.S. annexation and statehood. They are pursued by Yankee immigrant merchants and sailors hoping to cash in on rich lands and access to Pacific ports. Indigenous girls are valued by traders, trappers, and US sponsored surveyors for their knowledge of the terrain and their network of tribal relations. Many are sequestered on the Franciscan Mission compounds, trained as domestic workers for the White settlers, and separated from their families. Those individuals who have not converted to Catholicism under the pressure of the Mission system find that their traditional territory and tribal ways are vanishing. Alicia Ortega, the youngest daughter of a Mexican army veteran, is featured along with the family’s Mission-trained Chumash maid, Nina. The girls struggle to protect the Ortega family’s land and back market dock from conniving suitors.

Book Bubbles from Golden Secrets

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