Anita Perez Ferguson

Teens, History

Author Profile

Anita Perez Ferguson

Dr. Perez Ferguson is a cross-cultural educator and consultant. Her fiction brings to life the voices of California inhabitants living 200 years ago. Her non-fiction promotes the voices of under-represented communities in the twenty-first century. This earned her the 2014 Lacayo Lifetime Achievement Award from the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute. She is an Advisor and Former Chair for the InterAmerican Foundation and a Visiting Lecturer for the Council for Independent Colleges. She enjoys living and writing on the Pacific coast.


Golden Secrets

Working Title: Golden Secrets

This Book Is In Development

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.

Rough-Cut Book Bubbles from Golden Secrets

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

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

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.

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