Gwendolyn’s Revenge

Skylar Robbins fans: I need your help! I’ve written a fantasy novella, Gwendolyn’s Revenge, which is a mini sequel to Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills. The theme is witchcraft, spells, karma, and payback. Which of the attached stock photos do you think I should buy to make the best cover? Please vote for #1 (blue/green smoke), #2 (Ouija board), #3 (Candles and star) or #4 (candles and feather.) Leave your vote in the comments and you will be entered to win a free copy of Gwendolyn’s Revenge!

Skylar Robbins book 2: Synopsis

BoM 2014 December Skylar Robbins

A deserted mansion perches on a steep hillside, overlooking a rocky canyon. Tattered curtains hang behind broken windows, and a turret stretches toward the sky. Three years ago the wealthy owner disappeared suddenly, leaving behind a house full of secrets: A mysterious note, tantalizing clues, a hidden floor, one piece of a treasure map, and a missing fortune in diamonds.

Thirteen-year-old sleuth Skylar Robbins moves into the mansion with her parents and embarks on a new and dangerous mission. Armed with her detective kit, and with the support of her BFF Alexa and a team of secret agents, Skylar sets out to decipher the clues and find the diamonds. Can she outwit a gang of aggressive bikers and find the hidden jewels before they do? Or will the perils of middle school–like battling ruthless bully Emelyn Peters for the attention of class hottie Dustin Coles–get in her way?

The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels is available now on Amazon.

Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills Chapter 1

Win your free copy!

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CHAPTER 1: My Detective Kit

Heading for Malibu on a sunny Saturday in June would normally have been a good thing. I could have spent the day bodysurfing with my BFF, Alexa, and playing games in the arcade on the Santa Monica pier. If I was totally lucky I might have shared a bumper car with Dustin Coles, the cutest boy going into Pacific Middle School. Alexa and I liked to lie in the sun and watch surfers ride the waves on Zuma beach. If there were pinball and corndogs ahead of me instead of what I was in for, I would have begged my dad for a ride down the coast. But today? Not so much.

If I’d gotten out of the car right then and spread out my beach towel, everything might have turned out fine. But my dad kept right on driving.

We stopped at a red light before heading down the incline to Pacific Coast Highway. Comforted a little by the weight pressing against my leg, I stared out the window and watched the ocean. The faraway water was navy blue where it met the sky. A frosting of whitecaps drifted sideways, winked, and disappeared. The sea was teal-blue in the middle, and the shallow water glowed bright green as if it were lit from below. Small waves welled up, and then the whitewater bubbled forward and sizzled flat on the sand.

Thin sunlight shimmered on the ocean while I tapped my fingers on the detective kit leaning against my leg. I’d always wanted to become a private detective like my grandfather, and used his old leather briefcase to hold my tools. Back when he was a policeman, Grandpa’s case used to be a rich tan color. But after decades of visiting crime scenes, sitting outside in the sun, and baking in a hot cop car, it had faded to grayish beige. There was a burn mark on the bottom from when he’d policed an arson scene. The handle was stained with dark smudges from dusting robbery sites with fingerprinting powder. After he went undercover, the corners got battered from years of being tossed into the trunk of his unmarked car.

I had been adding to my detective kit slowly over the last two years by using my allowance and asking for pieces of equipment for my birthday. The first pocket hid a thin penlight that I used for searching through boxes, suitcases, or suspicious people’s belongings in the dark. Another one held a laser pointer that shot a red beam of light up to a hundred yards. My mom always worried that I would blind myself or someone else with it, but I kept it in case I was ever chased by robbers or someone I needed to blind to save my life. My pink Super-Zoom binoculars, perfect for long-distance spying, rested inside the biggest pocket. A heavy-duty flashlight for nighttime investigations was snug under a strap.

Zipped inside another compartment there was a measuring tape, wax for taking impressions, and a box of chalk in case I had to outline a dead body. I had a pen and sketchpad for describing crime scenes, a magnifying glass, and tweezers and evidence envelopes for picking up and storing clues. There were latex gloves like doctors use, and safety goggles. Pepper spray for self-defense. Best of all was my fingerprinting kit and Case Solution cards for mounting the prints.

I loved my detective kit and everything it stood for. Where I was headed, there was no way I was leaving it behind. Uh-uh. Not today.

The light changed, and we turned onto Pacific Coast Highway and passed the Santa Monica pier. The Ferris wheel spun lazily around, carrying happy people toward the sky. The pink chair at the top of the wheel swung back and forth, empty. I always felt lucky when it was my turn to get on the ride and a pink car stopped in front of me. I didn’t feel lucky today. Wishing I were waiting in line for that ride right now, I looked out the back window and watched the Ferris wheel turn until I couldn’t see it any longer.

A few miles farther up the coast, my mom pointed at a mansion built high up on a cliff. “Look, Honey,” she said to me. The huge house had a wall of windows that faced the ocean. A black Ferrari was parked in the driveway, and a modern metal sculpture dominated the yard. “I bet a movie star lives there. Or a rock star.” She smiled at me over her shoulder. “Maybe that’s Justin Bieber’s house.”

My mom didn’t watch Extra, read People magazine, or download music from iTunes. If it wasn’t in a textbook, she usually didn’t have a clue. “He’s gross, Mom.” My detective kit tipped over when we stopped for a light and I bent sideways to grab the handle and straighten it back up.

“Just because someone can afford a house like that doesn’t mean he’s famous,” my dad said. “Maybe a chemist owns it, for example.” He winked at me in the rear-view mirror and his blue eyes crinkled behind his glasses. Ha ha. My dad’s a chemist. As if we could ever afford a huge beach house. “What do you think, Skylar? Who lives there?” he asked, trying to start one of our old car games like I was a fussy six-year-old.

“Mickey and his roommate Donald?” I stared out the window at the roiling ocean. “I still can’t believe I have to spend the whole summer with Gwendolyn. You know how she is,” I complained, picking at a thread on the seat belt. My cousin and I did not get along. And that was the understatement of the century.

“Gwendolyn acts out because she has low self-esteem,” my mom told me for the millionth time. Like that made it OK.

My dad sped up when we hit a straight part of the coastline. “Just ignore her. If she doesn’t get a reaction she’ll get bored and leave you alone.” His shoulders bunched up and he tapped his fingers quickly against the steering wheel.

“I try to ignore her. It doesn’t do any good. She just gets in my face and asks me if I went deaf.” I flicked the seat belt buckle as we passed a long row of unevenly spaced palm trees.

“Gwendolyn got suspended for a week last semester for bullying that boy in her class, remember?” my dad asked. “I’m sure she’ll be on her best behavior.”

Gwendolyn doesn’t have any best behavior, I thought.

My cousin had picked on me since we were kids. She made fun of me because I was skinny and got good grades. My mom said it just showed that my cousin wished she were thinner and did better in school. But that didn’t make it feel any better when I was at the end of her pointing finger. I remembered what happened two weeks ago on report card day. I got mostly A’s and Gwendolyn barely made C’s. “Gee Skylar, no wonder you don’t have a boyfriend with your nose always stuck in those big, boring books,” Gwendolyn said. “I don’t know how you can stand to be so bo-oh-oh-ring.”

After she’d said that I pulled out a small notepad that I always carry with me. I jotted a note to myself while staring at Gwendolyn with a little smile on my face: I’m not as boring as you think.

So then Gwendolyn whined, “What are you writing?”

I’d won that time. But she got me back after dinner.

“Hey Skylar, are you sure you’re a girl?” Gwendolyn asked, bending over to stare at my flat chest. “You look like a scarecrow.” She walked away, laughing and stuffing cookies into her face.

It seemed like my cousin only smiled when she was laughing at someone else. She had short, frizzy hair and a round face, and she didn’t shower very often. Sometimes she would stand right next to where I was sitting and fart on purpose. Then she’d hold her nose and look at me like I did it.

“It’s not all about Gwendolyn,” I said. “Staying at her house also means I can’t hang out with Alexa for like, forever.” I couldn’t spend the whole summer without my BFF. No way. And it would be impossible for her, too. Especially if she had to go to summer school and I wasn’t there to help her.

“Maybe one Saturday Caroline can give you a ride and you can meet Alexa and her mom halfway. For lunch.” My mom ran a hand through her hair, which was dark brown like mine, except hers was short and wavy while mine was long and straight.

“I don’t want to ‘do lunch’ with Alexa, Mom. I want to be able to ride my bike over to her house and be there in five minutes. Or go swimming, or go to the mall.” Or what if we just want to hang out and spy on boys? I thought, but didn’t say. Wouldn’t have helped my case.

“You’ll meet all sorts of new friends at Malibu Middle School this summer,” my dad said helpfully. He was trying to make me feel better, but the thought of starting a new school just made me nervous. My situation was like the next wave. It was coming whether I liked it or not, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

My mom craned her neck around and looked at me sympathetically. “I’m sorry we couldn’t take you with us, Honey, but the trip is for the professors and their spouses only. No children are coming. Plus you’d be bored silly. We’re going to visit all the historical monuments I teach about in class. The Berlin Wall—” she laughed, shaking the hair away from her heart-shaped face. “Well actually where the Berlin Wall was….”

“It’s OK, Mom,” I said. Visiting the remains of the Berlin Wall sounded as exciting as a triple helping of detention. But it was still so not OK. “I just don’t see why I couldn’t have stayed at our house.”

“We can’t let you stay home alone for eight weeks, Kiddo,” my dad said, scratching his head through his thin light brown hair. “You’re too young.”

“I’m thirteen, Dad.” I fingered one of the locks on my detective kit, spinning the digits around.

“Exactly.” He put his hand firmly back on the wheel. “Case closed.”

I stared out the window to my right. The rocky hillside was covered with dry tumbleweeds and dead bushes, some still black from last year’s fires. It happened every year when everything was all dried out and the Santa Ana winds blew hot air through the hills. Sometimes a homeless person cooking outside would start a fire by accident, or some crazy person would start one on purpose.

Other times the hillside seemed to burst into flames all by itself. Whenever it got windy and we were at my cousin’s house, Aunt Caroline’s eyes would pinch up at the corners as she squinted out the back window. She’d twist her fingers around as she listened for fire engine sirens, sniffing the air every five seconds to see if she smelled smoke.

The mountain looped and snaked with the coastline, and now there were no plants or trees on the hillside. It was just a wall of striped rock that looked impossible to climb. My parents kept trying to convince me how great my summer would be as we got closer to Gwendolyn’s, which was up in the Malibu hills past Point Dume. Behind her house, a rocky mountain range stretched toward the sky. The face was covered with low bushes and big rocks, creating pockets of light and dark. Each time you looked up at the hillside it looked different. The shadows seemed to move and dance, darting and disappearing with the setting sun. They looked like caves where people or animals could hide.

The locals had nicknamed those mountains, “Shadow Hills.”

Excerpt From: Carrie Cross. “Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills.” iBooks.

Available on Amazon

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5 Magic Stars!

5.0 out of 5 stars, August 19, 2014

This review is from: Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills (Kindle Edition)

Skylar Robbins wants nothing more in life than to be a Private Investigator like her late grandpa. Skylar learns she will be spending the summer in Malibu with her Aunt Caroline, Uncle Jim and bully cousin Gwendolyn. She will also be attending a new school for the summer. Armed with PI kit and diary she sets out to have the best summer she can while her parents are in Europe.

There are few rules that need to followed: she is never to enter the attic, her great Evelyn’s things are stored there, she is also not to go into “shadow hills” that is located behind the house. Shadow Hills is a nickname for the Rocky Mountain Range behind Gwen’s house.

Skylar soon discovers a secret garden and a good friend from school. Kat opens a new world for Skylar. A world unlike Skylar has ever known. The adventure Skylar and Kat go on for the summer will have Skylar facing fears she never knew she had. She will find courage along the way that will save her and Malibu.

This book is for the younger readers but I LOVED IT! ! I hated to put it down! It’s well written and keeps you on the edge of your seat 🙂 It’s full of magic and mystery! I can see Skylar Robbins being a favorite with many little girls.

5 magic stars
Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow HIlls

Congratulations to Bree Wolf!

She just won a free copy of SKYLAR ROBBINS: THE MYSTERY OF SHADOW HILLS, just for Liking my Facebook page! Another copy will be given away soon. Just Like to enter: Other ways to win: leave a comment on this website, or send an email to with “win” in the subject line. That’s it!

Win your free copy!

Win your free copy!

Let’s Play, “Silent Detective!”

1525542_10152139976036357_1282891918_nMoms and Dads: need a fun game to keep your kids quiet in restaurants? Check out this passage from SKYLAR ROBBINS: THE MYSTERY OF SHADOW HILLS, and learn how to play, “Silent Detective.”

My grandfather always made everything fun. I remembered going to my favorite seafood restaurant with him when I was six years old. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep Skylar busy,” Grandpa said, winking at my mom as we followed the hostess to our table.

Goody! We got a window seat. Waves crashed right next to us on the other side of the glass, spraying white foam into the air like someone had just turned on a gigantic fountain. It was exciting and I talked too loud.

“Use your restaurant voice please,” my mom said.

Grandpa held up one finger, catching my attention. “Let’s play Silent Detective,” he whispered. I nodded fast, wiggling in my seat. “I see something…blue.” My grandfather’s merry smile and folded arms challenged me to figure out what it was. If I said anything out loud, I would lose. After looking around the restaurant for a second, I pointed out the window at the ocean.

I raised my eyebrows but Grandpa shook his head. Too easy. I tugged on my ear, signaling that I needed my first clue. He pointed at me with both index fingers, and then moved them closer together. Something smaller.

A lady sitting near us wore a light blue blouse. Grabbing a tuft of my shirt, I tilted my head in her direction and mouthed, “Her top?” while raising my eyebrows.

Was I right?

Grandpa blinked twice, signaling no. Brought his fingers together again. Something smaller than that.

I looked slowly around the restaurant. A big, multi-colored bouquet sat on a table near the entrance. Bright blue peacock feathers poked up in between green ferns and some weird-looking red-orange flowers. I pointed at the bouquet and flapped my arms like a bird. “Peacock feathers?” I mouthed silently.

Blink, blink. Wrong again.

I needed my second clue and tugged my ear again. If I couldn’t guess it after two clues, I would lose the game. My grandfather touched his fingertips together and pulled his hands toward his body: Silent Detective language for something closer. I concentrated on our table. Nothing on it was blue. I looked at my dad’s colorful tie. No blue there either.

A busboy set down four glasses of ice water and my mom reached for hers and took a sip. Her ring sparkled. Grinning with my success, I pointed at the blue gem on her finger and watched Grandpa touch his nose and smile. I’d won Silent Detective.

“I’m proud of you,” he said, reaching forward just as the waiter came to take our order. Grandpa pulled a quarter out of my ear, and I got to keep the prize.

Interview with Jaime Buckley

I had an opportunity to take a few minutes and talk with a wonderful author who has used her passions to empower a new generation of young readers in the time honored tradition of famous books like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series. Her name is Carrie Cross and she is the clever author of “Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills.” The book, now in paperback, was published in July of 2013 by Teen Mystery Press, and can be purchased through Amazon. Read the rest of the interview here.

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