My second Skylar Robbins mystery just went live on Amazon. Get it in time for the holidays!

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?

Here’s what one reviewer had to say:
5 stars: A real gem!
By JV on December 6, 2014
Carrie Cross has created a jewel of a story with Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels. A follow-up to Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills, in Ms. Cross’s latest book, Skylar is now fully teenaged: more assertive, technologically savvy and into boys. It was fun seeing how Skylar has matured as she embarks on her latest adventure – solving the whereabouts of an heiress’s missing jewels. All while dealing with the trials and tribulations of adolescence. And with some bad guys looking for the same thing, it becomes a race against time as Skylar tries to stay one step ahead of the bad guys (and some mean girls at school). In this latest edition of the Skylar Robbins Detective series, Ms. Cross captures a young person’s curiosity which will surely inspire young readers. As an adult reader, while I would’ve appreciated a little more rising tension in the plot, I found that the story was a wonderful reminder of the enthusiasm only a teenager can have.


FREE KIDS’ BINOCULARS! Preorder The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels


Book 2 in the Skylar Robbins mystery series, The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels, will be available on Amazon December 9th, Read Tuesday! The first ten to preorder a personally autographed copy by messaging me here will receive a free pair of kids’ binoculars! Get your ‘tween reading and start their own detective kit with a free spy tool.

If your 9 to 13-year-old hasn’t read Book 1, The Mystery of Shadow Hills, it’s on sale now on Amazon.

Skylar Robbins is described by several reviewers as, “The new Nancy Drew.”



SKYLAR ROBBINS: THE MYSTERY OF THE HIDDEN JEWELS, Book 2 in the Skylar Robbins Mystery Series, will be out in paperback on December 9, 2014: Read Tuesday!

Be one of the first 20 people to preorder your personally autographed copy through my website, and receive a FREE copy of book 1: SKYLAR ROBBINS: THE MYSTERY OF SHADOW HILLS! Makes a great holiday gift for a boy or girl, ages nine and up.

To preorder, leave a reply (below), fill in the contact form on my website, or send me a personal message on Facebook. Stay tuned for a free sneak preview (Chapter One) coming soon!

Stay Out of Shadow Hills at Night

“You’re going to have a wonderful time with us while your parents are abroad, Skylar.” She put her hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes with a sympathetic little pout on her face. Like she knew how I was feeling.

She had no idea how I was feeling.

“Come in, come in,” she said, leading us out of the stuffy foyer and into the living room.

The smell of their house hit me right away: old carpet and boiled cabbage. My mom called their house “a Malibu mansion,” when she talked to her friends about what a catch my uncle had been. When she spoke to my dad in private she used words like “dated,” and “needs remodeling.” I thought the place was pretty creepy, but it was kind of cool, too. Like there’s this spiral staircase that starts in the corner of the living room and leads up to a round mirror on the ceiling. When you look up the stairs and into the mirror it looks like the staircase goes on forever. But it really leads nowhere.

There are other spooky things about the house that you wouldn’t notice right away. One of them has to do with my dead Great-Aunt Evelyn, and the attic. It makes the hair stand up on my arms. Worse yet, there’s a rumor that people do wicked things up in the hills at night. A trail leading into Shadow Hills starts a little way past a row of pines at the end of the backyard. You could see those trees through the kitchen windows, if you wanted to.

My uncle walked in and set down his briefcase. Uncle Jim was still in his business suit but he’d loosened his tie. He was an entertainment lawyer, so sometimes he had to meet clients on Saturdays. When he turned to talk to my dad I saw the shiny bald circle on the back of my uncle’s head. My cousin slouched against a dark wall between two huge paintings, eating ruffled potato chips out of a jumbo-sized bag. Gwendolyn scraped potato off a back tooth with one finger, examined the morsel, and ate it. “You’ve had enough chips, Gwendolyn,” my aunt told her.

“OK,” my cousin said pleasantly. She tipped her head back and poured the last few crumbs into her mouth, then crumpled up the empty bag. “Pick your room carefully,” Gwendolyn warned me. “Hope you’re not afraid of the dark.” She let out a cackle and left the room.

My mom glanced at my dad and then they both turned toward me. I gave them a look like, “See what you’re doing to me?”

Aunt Caroline called after my cousin’s back. “Subtle threats? No bullying, Gwendolyn, remember? Consequences,” she hinted.

Gwendolyn shrugged as she turned a corner. The dark hallway swallowed her up like a frog gulping down a chubby fly. She knew there would be no consequences.

My dad leaned into me and talked softly, as if no one would notice. “Bullies thrive on making people angry. Don’t let her get to you.” Then he ruffled my hair like I was four years old. I looked at my feet, brushing my pink sneaker over a stain on the carpet.

“Pay no attention to Gwendolyn,” Aunt Caroline told me. “There’s nothing wrong with any of the bedrooms. Let’s go pick out yours.”

“Go ahead, Honey,” my mom said. Then she and my uncle started discussing curfews, check-in times, and house rules. If my aunt was anything like my mom, I was sure to get a written list.

Looking past the living room and out the kitchen windows, I saw the mountains stretching up behind the end of the long backyard. The sun was overhead, and Shadow Hills looked shiny and bright in spots, shaded and dark in others.

I followed Aunt Caroline up the stairs to the second floor and down a narrow hallway. We passed a row of cave-shaped nooks that held ugly knickknacks. My aunt showed me two of the guest rooms, and they were both dark and kind of creepy. The first one looked old-fashioned. Its pale bedspread was printed with dainty flowers, and the little table in front of a framed mirror was wrapped in a heavy skirt. On the shelves, thick boring books were layered with dust. The windows were tiny and too high up to look out of.

I shook my head.

“Gwendolyn’s room is at the end of the hall, so if you want to be near her, you might like this one.” Aunt Caroline turned a corner and opened the next door. I looked into a gloomy room with dark wood paneling, maroon curtains, and a brown bedspread. An ancient floor lamp stood in the corner. A thick spider web with a bug stuck in the middle of it spread from the shade to the post. Next to the lamp, a wooden chair with stick legs held a thin cushion. There was a painting on the wall of a stern farmer holding a pitchfork. He glared at me. Not only was the room awful, but I wanted to be as far away from Gwendolyn as possible.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Or there’s the rose room, but I’m afraid it’s kind of small.” We walked down another hall, my aunt opened a door, and I knew I’d found my room.

This bedroom was narrow, with a slanted wood beam ceiling that was real high on one side and sloped down sharply to meet the opposite wall. The bedspread and pillow covers were patterned with wild roses. Their swirling dark green vines matched the color of the carpet. At the end of the room there was a cozy alcove with a cushioned window seat. Its bay window opened to a twisted oak tree growing right outside. I thought it would be a perfect place to start writing a mystery story while I waited for the summer to be over. I could call it, “Trapped in Malibu: No Way Out.” It would star a junior detective who had just turned thirteen, and had brown hair and dark blue eyes, like mine.

“I like this room,” I said, and Aunt Caroline smiled.

We walked out of the bedroom and turned a corner, passing a narrow door that my cousin said hid a steep staircase. The hidden staircase led up to the attic. I had never been up those stairs, even when Gwendolyn dared me.

“You know the rule, right?” my aunt asked, and I shrugged.

“Stay out of the attic. Please.” Then the smile dropped off her face. “More importantly, Shadow Hills are off limits. Especially after dark.”

Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only

Skylar’s Porta-Detective Kit

The rectangular container actually held a miniature version of my most important equipment: a penlight, small magnifying glass, rolled-up measuring tape, and a square of soft wax for taking impressions. There was also a smaller fingerprinting set called a Uniprinter, since it was just big enough to take one print. It contained a tiny vial of powder, a one-inch square stamp pad, and matching tablet of paper. Unzipping the plastic pouch inside my notebook, I checked to make sure I had everything I needed for class. Pen, pencil, eraser, gum eraser, ruler. Put my notebook and Porta-detective kit in my backpack and I was good to go.

Sort of. Thinking about going to Gwendolyn’s school had me worried. I didn’t know my way around Malibu Middle, and I didn’t have a single friend there either. How would I find my classroom? What if the Malibu locals were stuck-up and picked on me? Why couldn’t I just stay home at my aunt’s house and investigate the secret spot I’d found behind the gate in the backyard?

I put some quarters in my change purse in case there was a snack machine, and double-checked my backpack to make sure I had everything I needed.

After I picked out a cute pair of shorts and a pink top, I set out one of my new bras. All of my bras were new since I hadn’t been wearing them for very long. Unfortunately, they were also the smallest possible size. I painted my toenails pink to match my striped flip-flops and set my thongs down next to my outfit.

Feeling a little hyper like I couldn’t sleep quite yet, I thumbed the combination on my detective kit locks and opened it. I pulled my pink Super-Zoom binoculars out of their pocket and knelt down in front of the window. My aunt’s words echoed in my brain: Stay out of the hills at night.

Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only

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

Interview with Indie House Books

AuthorProfileGive us the first five facts (about you) you think of:

1. I’m tall and I have long hair. (OK, that’s two, but who’s counting?)

2. I love to cook, barbeque, and eat sushi.

3. My dream house would have an ocean view.

4. Blue Jays and squirrels eat peanuts out of my hand in our backyard.

5. I’m obsessed with words. Not just forming them into sentences that turn into paragraphs that end up as chapters and wind up as books. Puns, riddles, making up silly names for things, playing Words With Friends, reading…I just love words.

Your latest book is part of your Skylar Robbins series. Tell us about the series.

Skylar Robbins is a smart, thirteen-year-old sleuth who plans to become a private detective like her grandfather. In The Mystery of Shadow Hills, Skylar is forced to stay at her bullying cousin Gwendolyn’s Malibu estate for the summer. She brings her detective kit, portable spy tools, and her journal for taking notes in secret code. On the first day of summer school an odd classmate passes a note in backward writing, introducing Skylar to the secret world of witchcraft. Practical Skylar didn’t believe in magic—until the spells they perform in an abandoned garden actually begin to work.

One reviewer likened this book to, “Nancy Drew meets Harry Potter,” but the series itself is not about magic. It’s about a spunky teen detective who is a compassionate friend with a penchant for finding and solving mysteries. Skylar shows readers creative ways to stand up to bullies, and has inspired more than one group of girls—and boys—to start their own detective agencies. Their pictures can be seen on my website:

Teen Mystery Press will publish the second book, Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels, in November. The Mystery of the Missing Heiress and The Curse of Koma Island will follow.

What was your inspiration for the series?

When I was six years old, my parents decided we needed to buy a bigger house. We looked at a creepy two-story in Santa Monica Canyon, and I played hide-and-seek with the little girl who lived there. There were closets and secret hiding places with doors that opened into other rooms. Later I wondered, “What if there was a clue hidden in one of those closets?” I never forgot that house, and it inspired me to write a mystery series featuring a quirky teen detective. That sleuth is Skylar Robbins.

When I write, I use a game I call, “What if?” for inspiration. What if I explored that creepy old house and found it had a hidden floor? What would I find when I got there? What if I used an ultraviolet light in the attic and found a secret message written on the wall in invisible ink? What would it say? What if I discovered a tunnel hiding under some leaves in my backyard? Where would it lead? What if someone scary was hiding at the other end of the tunnel? I put my main character in that type of situation and let my imagination go wild.

What is it about Skylar that makes her a great character for young readers?

Skylar is a rational girl who demonstrates deductive reasoning skills while she deciphers clues during each exciting mystery. She has strength of character and is tenacious, self-reliant, and courageous. In addition, she has a big heart. She’s not afraid to befriend the unpopular kids at school, and learns sign language so she can communicate with a hearing-impaired boy in her summer school class. In The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels, she helps her dyslexic BFF deal with her learning disability.

I asked my beta readers for feedback after reading The Mystery of Shadow Hills, and they all seemed to love Skylar’s character. Some of their quotes are printed on the back cover of the second Skylar Robbins mystery:

“I love Skylar because she is really brave and does not give up.” ~ Miriam W., age 12

“Skylar taught me to choose friends wisely, and don’t believe everything anyone tells you.” ~ Jared W., age 10

“Skylar shows readers like me that anyone can uncover amazing secrets!” ~ Ella M., age 11

“I learned from Skylar to be fearless. You can do anything if you just try. And trust no one while solving a case, even if you think they are telling the truth.” ~ Kalyn M., age 11

What are some of the themes and story elements you touch on in the series?

The kids’ quotes in the previous question touch on some of my themes. Skylar is courageous and self-confident, and shows readers the importance of using your brain to determine the difference between reality and fantasy, and between real friends and phony ones. Shadow Hills has the element of witchcraft and magic woven through the story. In Hidden Jewels, Skylar races against a threatening gang of bikers to decipher a string of clues leading to a hidden fortune in jewels. Skylar teams up with the cutest boy in school to solve The Mystery of the Missing Heiress in the third book, and then they travel to a remote location with an unusual group of gifted classmates to investigate The Curse of Koma Island in book 4.

What do you wish more juvenile novels had? Do you try to include those in your books?

I wish more juvenile novels had strong, fearless female protagonists, and I created one in Skylar Robbins. There are some exceptions, like Gilda Joyce, the Gallagher Girls, and Amanda from The Amanda Project series. But unfortunately so many of the ‘tween and teen books today have female protagonists that are silly, weak, or suffering from bad parenting. I wanted to create a gutsy hero that readers would cheer for and want to emulate. One who could survive against seemingly impossible odds, and defeat bigger, stronger, more threatening opponents. So far, Skylar Robbins has done just that. And in each mystery, her foes and challenges become more difficult to overcome.

What was your favorite book as a child? Do you think it had an effect on the type of books you write now?

My favorite book as a child was Judy Blume’s, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Not because of Margaret’s religious dilemma, but because of its coming-of-age theme. I read that book over and over as a kid who was dying to get her first bra, and who, like Margaret, didn’t fill it very well once I had one. Waiting for and wondering when we would get our periods was an exciting time for my preteen friends and me, and as in Margaret’s life, “getting it” was a badge of honor when it finally arrived. Margaret got to play “Two Minutes in the Closet” with the cutest boy in school. What a thrill that would have been! All of Judy Blume’s books are excellent, but that one is an absolute classic, and it did have an effect on my Skylar Robbins series. During each mystery, Skylar deals with some of the same issues Margaret faced as a girl just entering puberty: fitting in at a new school, feeling left out when she’s the last girl to get her period, and crushing on a cute boy.

Describe your perfect writing space.

I enjoy writing anywhere that has a beautiful view. When I write at my dining room table and look up from my computer I can see through trees, across a mountainside, and over a canyon. At night I can see distant neighbors’ nights twinkling against the hills. I love to write in bed when it’s raining—the harder the better! Throw in some loud thunder and crashing lightning and I’m ecstatic.

My favorite place to write is at the beach in a lawn chair with a pad and pen, or on the patio of a tiny condo we have in San Jose Del Cabo. Looking at and listening to the ocean is so inspirational to me.

I was listening to waves crash when I wrote the following scene from The Mystery of Shadow Hills. Skylar’s friend Kat challenges her to search three caves at midnight for magic seeds she promises will grow into gems.

“Sky,” Kat cried suddenly, pointing across the black sand. “Look. There they are.” I was more concerned about the rising tide, and looked out over the dark rumbling ocean. White spray flew up in the air as another huge wave crashed nearby. So loud it sounded like a refriger­ator fell off a tall building and landed right next to us. I hurried after Kat as the water rushed forward. “This is it. Three caves.” Moonlight cast shadows behind the boul­ders that guarded the entrance. We darted around them and climbed under the rock arch.

The dark cave stunk of washed-up kelp, dank and rot­ten. I shuffled forward on the damp sand with my hands out in front of me like a sleepwalker, hoping I wouldn’t stumble over a rock or bash into a wall. I pulled out my flashlight and turned it on. As soon as its beam lit up the cave, heavy flies woke up, buzzing around the seaweed and bonking into my face. I ducked, swatting them away. Kat hurried past me and rushed toward the back of the cave, peering at the ground. Suddenly she cried, “Sky—here they are. I found the gem seeds!” Hidden between the boulders, disguised as wet pebbles, shining gem seeds winked up at us.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently in the final editing phase of Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels, which Teen Mystery Press will publish in November. I have a rough draft of a third book, The Mystery of the Missing Heiress, and an outline of a fourth, The Curse of Koma Island.

Finally, what advice would you give to your young readers and writers?

Enjoy the writing process and revise, revise, revise. Get as many people as possible to read your manuscript and give you constructive criticism. Don’t just rely on family and friends for feedback. They love you and will tell you your book is great, even if it isn’t. Find beta readers in your target age group who you don’t know personally. For instance, I asked my account base at work if they had children who would be willing to read my book before publication, and emailed the manuscript to those kids. Finally, don’t let rejections from agents deter you from getting published. Self-publish if you don’t get a contract; you’re going to do most of your own marketing anyway. Calvin Coolidge said it best: Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!

Thank you, Indie House Books for the nice interview.

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

Coolly Believable Protagonist and Wise Lessons in an Exciting Adventure Mystery

4 Stars
 This review is from: Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills (Kindle Edition)
     Thirteen-year-old Skylar’s been collecting items for her detective kit, and plans to be just like her grandfather. What she didn’t plan on was staying at her annoying cousin’s mansion in Shadow Hills for eight weeks while her parents tour Europe. The Hills and the attic are off limits, and that’s just got to mean adventure, or even “escape from Malibu!” But by the end of this tale, Skylar won’t be the only person needing to get away.
     Skylar has a nice convincing voice as the first-person narrator of this tween mystery. Teens in her summer art class include the hearing-impaired boy with a happy, outgoing attitude, the genius artist, the skateboarder, the wannabe Wiccan and more, and they make a fine group. But outside school, Sky is soon puzzling over a Ouija board with her new best friend. She practices the arts of magical distraction on the grass of a secret garden, but who can she trust, and will she find a way to be true to herself?
     A pleasing blend of careful detective work, fanciful ritual, nature’s beauty, and tense excitement makes this a cool tween adventure as Skyler grows up, conquers her fears, solves a mystery, and learns wise lessons in friendship and how to live with bullies. Shadow Hills keep their mystery hidden right to the end, but this summer is one to remember, as is the book… and there’s even the chance to develop your own detective kit at the end. Don’t let those magic tricksters fool you!
     Disclosure: I was given a free ecopy of this novel and I offer my honest review.

The Mystery of Shadow Hills: Now 99 Cents!

To celebrate the release of my next book, SKYLAR ROBBINS: THE MYSTERY OF THE HIDDEN JEWELS (November 2014) I am offering SKYLAR ROBBINS: THE MYSTERY OF SHADOW HILLS for 99 cents on Nook and Kindle throughout July and August! Please help me spread the word. Autographed copies of The Mystery of Shadow Hills are available for $8.99 plus postage, and come with a FREE pair of kid’s binoculars! Please email me through the contact form below for details. Book 2 cover finalSkylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow HIlls


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Boys Like it Too!

JamesReadingAs more boys become fans of this new Middle Grade detective novel, Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills is proving to be more than just “a girls’ book.” In fact, one of Skylar’s best groups of Secret Agents is Wilkerson Boys, P.I. Come join them in The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels, coming soon!