Book 3–Chapters 3 & 4 Excerpts

Hello, Kids and All Readers,

Anticipating the November 9 release of Walnut Street: Phantom Rider, I am continuing to share excerpts from two chapters every Thursday via my weekly News Blog (

As a preview of coming attractions this fall, here are some scenes from Chapters 3 and 4:


From Chapter 3, “The Phantom Rider”


The Botanic Hill detectives were glad to finally know the details Moki had been keeping secret about the strange occurrences at the Mayfields’ mountain ranch. Ben’s additional revelation about a “Phantom Rider” certainly added more intrigue to their new mystery case.

“You said ‘him’ when referring to the Phantom Rider,” Lanny replied as the group huddled in Ben’s room. “How do you know it’s a guy?”

“Because of the way he sat in the saddle. And because he’s very tall and muscular.”

“Details, dude, details,” Moki added. “Give us the what, when, where, why, and how.”

“Please start with where and when you saw him,” Lexi said with her arms behind her back, resisting the urge to grab Ben’s forearm. She had a bad habit of squeezing skin when she was anxious or trying to pry information out of someone. It especially drove Lanny crazy.

“Well, the first time was about a month ago when my family and I were at the ranch house for the most recent saddle club session. I was woken late one night by the sound of a horse approaching. My room is on the second floor facing north, overlooking the side yard with a view of the barn and bunkhouse. I looked out the open window to investigate. The moon was full, so I could see him clear as day right below me.” Ben’s whole body shivered.

Rani said, “Ben, I know you’re nervous, but I need to ask. What exactly did you see? And why do you call him ‘the Phantom Rider’?” She felt her own heart beating faster as Ben spoke.

“I saw a man on a skittish white Arabian stallion between the barn and the ranch house. The guy sat tall in the saddle, the reins held high, leading the horse to rear up. Like something out of a corny old Western movie. As I said, the moon was full and bright, but the man was almost invisible. That’s why I call him a phantom.”

“Invisible?” Rani blurted. “Can you explain what you mean?”


From Chapter 4, “Off to Gold Mine Acres Ranch”


The large group, including the two Saddle Club kids Lionel and Catherine, and the detectives arrive with the Mayfields at Gold Mine Acres Ranch. After getting settled into the bunk house, they are escorted to the main house to meet the cook Aunt Maisie and have lunch.


Finally, the group walked toward the state-designated historic ranch house. It was an enormous two-story, brown wooden building with a covered porch. There was a bronze plaque near the front door commemorating the house being built by Papa Mayfield in 1875. Each generation of the proud family had carefully maintained the property and preserved its historical integrity.

A tall, older woman with short-cropped, curly gray hair and a chef’s apron around her narrow waist held open the front door. “Come in, come in,” she said brightly. She was introduced to the kids as Aunt Maisie. The woman smiled and shook hands with Lionel, Catherine, and the squad members, not forgetting to exchange hugs with Gracie and Ben. “Welcome to Gold Mine Acres Ranch. I bet you’re all hungry as bears after that long drive.” . . .

Aunt Maisie had excused herself and gone into the kitchen to get the platters and bowls of food. But instead of the meal emerging, the kitchen erupted with Aunt Maisie’s ear-splitting scream.



So, get a clue, Readers. Check for more excerpts on my blog every Thursday, or stay tuned for my end-of-month newsletters where I compile them for you. I hope you’re getting excited about the November 9 release. I am! And please don’t forget to check my website events page on September 9 for the Cover Reveal for Walnut Street: Phantom Rider at I think you’ll like it!

Book 3–Chapters 1 & 2 Excerpts

Hello, Kids and All Readers,

From now until Walnut Street: Phantom Rider is released on November 9, I will be sharing excerpts from two chapters every Thursday on my weekly News Blog (

As a preview of coming attractions this fall, here are some tidbits from Chapters 1 and 2:


From Chapter 1, “A Mystery from Walnut Street”

Moki Kalani couldn’t stop thinking about three things that warm October afternoon in Southern California. First, his pineapple-coconut upside-down cake, which he had baked for the Mayfields’ potluck barbecue on Walnut Street, was a hit. The guests had gobbled up almost every crumb, and the empty dessert plate in his hand provided the final proof. Second, the four amateur detectives—the twins Lanny and Lexi Wyatt, Rani Kumar, and Moki himself—tended to learn of their next mystery case as a squad. This time, the thirteen-year-old Hawaiian boy had a heads up that required his pledge of secrecy. Third, the secret’s details could finally be revealed once the barbecue ended.

[Ben Mayfield] had convinced his parents to . . . hire [the four detectives] to solve an ongoing, annoying problem at the Mayfields’ horse ranch and youth saddle club about two hours east of town. Ben’s parents had confidence in their son and in Moki, so they had agreed to the plan. But now, Ben had his own private reason far beyond his parents’ motivation for wanting the detectives’ help. Last month, he alone had witnessed a terrifying spectacle at the ranch. He hadn’t shared it yet with his family—or with Moki.


From Chapter 2, “A Golden Mystery”

Ben and his father are about to share the ranch mystery details with the detectives. In the Mayfields’ study, the kids are looking at a photo of a tall, muscle-bound Black man in full cowboy dress wearing a large brass star on his vest. . . . He looked like a sheriff from the Old West. Ben explains who the man was:

“That’s my five-time great-grandfather, Aloysius Mayfield. He was a famous Black cowboy. In fact, he was an important Black deputy U.S. marshal for California in the 1860s—one of the first in our state. Deputy Marshal Mayfield. Friends just called him Papa, though.”. . .

“Ben, what are the chances Papa has something to do with the ranch mystery?” Lanny asked. Hope was evident on his face. Cowboys, ranches, and mysteries, all in one lump? Could they be that lucky?

“I strongly suspect so,” Mr. Mayfield answered instead, patting his corn-rowed hair. He was already seated in his overstuffed, brown leather easy chair. “You see, Papa was the original owner and builder of our ranch east of here in the mountains near the old historic town of Cody. He named it Gold Mine Acres Ranch.”

“A gold mine is involved, too?” Lanny said. “Best case ever!”. . .

On tiptoe, [Ben] led all four kids up the back staircase to his room. Once there, he shut the door. Perspiration beaded his forehead. “There’s more. I’ve seen something—or, to be more exact, someone—at the ranch.”

The squad quickly encircled the nervous boy. “Who, dude?” Moki whispered.

“I call him the Phantom Rider.”


So, get a clue, Readers. Check for more excerpts on my blog every Thursday, or stay tuned for my end-of-month newsletters where I compile them for you. I hope you’re getting as excited as I am about the November 9 release! And please don’t forget to check my website events page on September 9 for the Cover Reveal for Walnut Street: Phantom Rider at



Got Some Press!

Hello, Readers!

Authors love seeing their name in print in a news story, and I’m no exception.

Click HERE to check out this article in the Del Mar Times (a San Diego County newspaper) about the Barnes & Noble book signing event in which I and other Acorn authors will participate. I’ll be selling Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets, Book 1 in my Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series.

So, get a clue, readers. If you’re in the San Diego area on Sunday, August 15, from 2 – 4:30 PM, please stop in. I’d love to meet you. Bring kids!


Be the First to Read Book 3!

Hello, All Readers,

Want to read Book 3, Walnut Street: Phantom Rider, in the Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series before the general public?

The formatted files for my book are now out in the world! ADVANCE READERS are busy reading Walnut Street electronically to help me in two ways:

  1. To find any errors needing correction before the book is published on November 9, 2021
  2. To provide an honest review for posting on various sites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, GoodReads, BookShop, et. al.) in November

If you’re interested in being one of my ADVANCE READERS for a free e-copy now in exchange for a book review later, please contact me HERE.

So, get a clue, readers. All readers and writers need reviews! Won’t you please help while getting your eyes on the book pre-publication?


Golden Flicks: Reel #1

Hello, Movie Lovers!

One of my favorite pastimes is watching movies from and studying the history and bios of The Golden Age of Hollywood. As you might guess, I have a book collection to nurture my hobby.

There is something timeless and enchanting for me about Hollywood movies from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Many have earned the designation “classics” because the age of the films and the viewers doesn’t seem to matter. My five-year-old granddaughter is currently enamored with Abbott and Costello and The Three Stooges movies. I have been watching “old movies” since I was a kid, enjoying Universal Studios’ 1950s and ’60s revival of its ’30s and ’40s monster classics, namely, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, etc. I still watch them repeatedly–and not just at Halloween. That began what developed into a lifelong passion. Yay for TCM–Turner Classic Movies.

Some dismiss the “old” black-and-white movies as dated. But I think there is much to be learned from them. For example, many special effects, camera angles, and lighting techniques we marvel at in movies and video games today came from those intrepid directors and cinematographers back in the day who were willing to experiment. Animator Willis O’Brien (1886 – 1962) produced the special effects for King Kong (1933). Think, King Kong battling aircraft as he clung to the Empire State Building. Then came O’Brien’s student, Ray Harryhausen (1920 – 2013), who refined the art of stop-motion animation and other visual effects to bring us the fighting skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), the enraged Cyclops in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), and the freaky Medusa in his last film The Clash of the Titans (1981). 

Want to see those battling skeletons while admiring Harryhausen’s genius? Click HERE. (From YouTube, MadmanFX68 Collection, 2010. Photo of Ray Harryhausen and some of his creatures from

Another time, I will tell you about one of my favorite movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Stay tuned.

So, get a clue, Movie Buffs. Butter up that popcorn, cozy down with your best bud, and let the magic roll.



Here’s the Scoop!

Dear Kids and All Readers,

For many, summertime is ICE CREAM time. But did you know that the frozen treat has an interesting history?

Kathleen Kalb from Facebook’s Cozy Mystery Village (of which I’m a villager) posted some fun historical facts about how ice cream came to be. She got the information from #goodreads in its #ThrowbackThursday column. You can read all about it HERE.

Basically, here are the facts:

Ice cream was invented in New York City in 1714 by a British confectioner who also sold jams and sugarplums. Ice cream flavors of the day included oyster (yes, oyster!), parmesan cheese, and tea. The treat became popular with the upper class. George and Martha Washington loved it and reportedly spent upwards of $700 for it one summer while they were living in New York–even though Mrs. Washington complained that it tasted rancid. That’s a lot of ice cream money! (Further research reveals that ice cream made from milk and rice was created in China in 200 BCE,)

By 1820, the first ice cream cart vendors were selling ice cream to everyone in New York City parks. Those carts are still rolling everywhere to this day!

By 1850, ice cream parlors became popular destinations for the masses and appeared in many neighborhoods.

By 1900, soda fountains sprang up serving ice cream sundaes, sodas, and floats in flavors we would recognize today. Soda fountains became popular date-night destinations.

Chunky Monkey, PhishFood, and Cherry Garcia were a few more decades away.

So, get a clue, Readers. Oyster-, rose-, or violet-flavored ice cream may not be your first choice, but nowadays, we can pretty much pick our pleasure for a delirious ice cream brain freeze. Make mine chocolate!

Vintage print by Frederic Florian from Wikimedia Commons.