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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
"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.
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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