A Blast from the Past

Dear Kids and All Readers, 

Yesterday was another red-letter day for me. I had an Anniversary Lunch with my second, second-grade teacher, Connie Colonelli deWerd. We were celebrating SIXTY YEARS of friendship!

We first met when then “Miss Colonelli” arrived in my classroom in February of 1961 to take over for my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Clardy. Her military husband was being relocated to the Midwest. Christmas of 1960 was a sad one for me, knowing Mrs. Clardy was leaving. I dreaded who would be taking her place.

But in February, in walked the fabulous Miss Colonelli. Being young, pretty, and fresh out of college, she brought energy and new ideas to our class. And she drove a cool sports car!

Miss Colonelli got my classmates and me excited about new subjects. One was geology. My parents were impressed that I knew the meanings of and could spell terms like igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic! My heart soared with pride!

Also, Miss Colonelli taught us botany by growing bright green vine-like plants from sweet potatoes poised on toothpicks, sticking out of glass jars on the sun-drenched science table in front of a bank of French doors that looked east onto the playground.

She was our own personal Egyptologist, sharing her travel slides from the pyramids and ancient tombs on Friday afternoons.

And then, there were her art lessons! We all became little Monets and Gauguins with our watercolors and poster paint.

It was difficult to say good-bye in June when school ended, so I resolved not to. I continued to visit her after school throughout the elementary years and when I left the school and moved on to higher grades and college. She invited me to her wedding some years later. And she was deservedly one of the dedicatees in my Book 1, Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets.

Because of Connie Colonelli deWerd, I became a sports car-driving teacher who took pride in presenting myself professionally and delivering interesting, quality lessons to my own students.

I hope you still have someone in your life who has been inspirational. If you do, you’re lucky like me. Just thank them often and never let them go.





Book 3–Chapters 23-25 Excerpts

Hello, Readers,

Walnut Street: Phantom Rider officially launches on November 9. Here are the final excerpts from the last three chapters.

I hope you have enjoyed them as you anticipated the book’s release.

Now, at last, please click HERE if you’d like to purchase your own copy of the book!


From Chapter 23, “Spooky Moonlight”  

As the six detectives are bagging cookies for tomorrow’s Halloween party, Cookie once again enters the kitchen through the back door! Gracie leads her horse back to the barn.  


They were almost at Cookie’s stall when Gracie sensed something. Was that a soft neigh she had heard from the back of the barn? There weren’t supposed to be any horses there.

Gracie gulped. “Is someone else in here?” No one answered. Her mind instantly raced back to the other barn incident that resulted in her kidnapping. She wanted to retreat. If only I could get to the light switch, she thought, chiding herself for not turning it on in the first place. But Cookie wasn’t in her stall yet, so Gracie’s path was blocked. And the switch panel was too far away. She froze and listened.

Slowly and almost noiselessly, something emerged from deep in the barn. . . .  then, the moonlight revealed it . . .


From Chapter 24, “Tough Lessons” 

The Phantom Rider and the other thieves have been captured. The six detectives and the Mayfield parents, however, are saddened to have been let down by some of Cody’s citizens turned criminals. The kids turn to more positive tasks like preparing for tonight’s Halloween and farewell barn dance.  


“And don’t forget about those dozen or so pumpkins on the back porch,” Aunt Maisie added. “Lots of helpers will be needed to turn them into jack-o’-lanterns.”

“Then let’s have a pumpkin carving contest,” Rani said with a welcomed, perky tone.

Lanny replied, “You’re on.” He was glad they would have some fun distractions as they awaited Sheriff Buckley’s promised arrival later that morning with more news about the case.

“I already know what I’m going to carve,” Ben said. But no matter how much he was begged, he wouldn’t tell. “Just wait and see. Maybe it’ll be one of life’s good surprises.”



From Chapter 25, “Halloween Barn Dance” 

The Halloween barn dance is in full swing. As the four Botanic Hill Detectives look on, they start experiencing the old, empty feeling that overtakes them once a case is closed. They wonder how long they will have to wait before another mystery comes their way.  


Lanny said, “I was just thinking. Doesn’t it seem that with each mystery we take on, the world gets a little smaller?”

“I think I know what you mean,” Lexi replied. “Even though we started this case at a party on Walnut Street in town last weekend, here we are, way out in the country at a party in a barn. Hey! This was our first ‘away’ case as an official detective agency . . . .”

Rani said, “ . . . we’re definitely outside the neighborhood.”

And,” Moki added, “this probably won’t be our last ‘away’ case.”

“Wait, Moki,” Lexi said. “Are you hinting like last time that you already know where our next mystery is? Because if you are . . .”

“Nope,” he replied. “Not a clue. But I do hope we get to cover some ground.”

“I hope you’re right, bro,” Lanny replied, gently jostling his friend’s shoulder.

If jack-o’-lanterns could speak, those in the barn might have begun whispering to the kids, saying, “Moki’s right. Your next mystery is already rumbling on Botanic Hill’s Saffron Street. And get ready—because it will take you even farther from home.”

Book 3–Chapters 21 & 22 Excerpts

Readers, we’re so close to the release of Walnut Street: Phantom Rider on November 9.

Our excerpts are almost at an end. I hope you’ve enjoyed them.

One more round to finish the book!


From Chapter 21, “Hilltop Construction”


The detectives’ explorations in the mountains yield some interesting finds. They have just discovered a recently constructed building.  


The kids stared at Rani’s discovery—a long, windowless shed hugging the hillside just beyond the mine. It wasn’t what they had expected at all. From the building’s appearance, it had been constructed recently and hurriedly. Clearly, someone had known where the mine was this whole time, but they’d kept that information to themselves.

Beyond the shed was a steep dirt trail that led from the mountain and wound down onto the desert floor far below. Lexi snapped her fingers. “Ben, this is the path the Phantom Rider and Lightning must have taken when you and I saw them heading for Rainbow Flats by moonlight Wednesday night.”

“I think this proves he’s in this gold mine caper,” Lanny said, “whatever and whoever else it involves, right up to his black ski mask.”

Lexi rolled her eyes at her brother. “I never doubted it, but I know. Evidence.”

“Lanny, I think you’re right,” Ben replied. He pointed at the ground around them. “Lots of small horse tracks here.” “But how exactly are Rainbow Flats, the Phantom Rider, and this camp tied together?” Rani asked with a frown. “That’s what we need to figure out.”

Lanny was inspecting the building’s door. “First, let’s see what this shed’s used for. . . . Darn. As I suspected, it’s locked.” He grunted as he tugged on the combination lock.



From Chapter 22, “At the End of the Rainbow”


From clues discovered on the mountain, the detectives determine that they need to return to Rainbow Flats for further exploration. They ride there immediately.


Dusk brought orange and purple shadows across the desert landscape as the group galloped on to the ghost town. The cacti looked like giant sentinels with arms raised, warning them to turn back. None of the determined riders knew what they would find once they arrived in Rainbow Flats but hoped the sheriff wouldn’t be too far behind. The moon hadn’t risen yet to light their way. Nonetheless, within an hour, they were once again approaching Main Street.

“It’s almost as if this place is becoming one of our old haunts,” Moki said.

“Ha. Very funny,” Lanny replied with a sideways glance at his friend.

Lexi pointed ahead and said softly, “Look. I see a truck.”

Ben said, “Yeah, it’s at the church. No people around, though.”

Book 3–Chapters 19 & 20 Excerpts

Dear Readers, we’re less than three weeks away from the official launch of Walnut Street: Phantom Rider on November 9.

Here are two more excepts to whet your reading appetite!


From Chapter 19, “Papa Mayfield’s Claim” 

The detectives, the sheriff, and the Mayfield parents search the Phantom Rider’s room in the Rainbow Flats Hotel.  


The group continued examining the room for a few more minutes. Neither the sheriff nor

the Mayfield parents recognized any of the well-worn clothing as belonging to anyone they knew.

“Maybe we’re dealing with an unknown Phantom Rider, or ‘The Man,’ as Gracie heard Rufus refer to him,” Lexi said. “A stranger. Someone not from around Cody.”

Rani replied, “You might be right, bestie girlfriend. And Lightning seems to be a mystery to everyone, too.”

“If true, solving our case could be much more complicated,” Moki said.

Lanny grimaced.




From Chapter 20, “More Key Discoveries” 

The six detective are off to explore the northern mountainous rim of the Mayfield property in hopes of finding Papa’s gold mine and an explanation for the weird lights Lexi and Ben had seen from the campgrounds.  


“I feel today will be our lucky day,” Rani shouted, followed by a “Yee-haw!”

Lanny and the others joined in and waved their hats, too. Everyone rode on in high spirits, especially Gracie, who now felt like a fully accepted member of the group—even by her brother.

The warm morning passed uneventfully. As the group continued higher into the mountains, an occasional rabbit would skitter out of a bush, or a scurrying lizard stop abruptly on a sunny rock. Melodious birdsong gave the false impression that the kids were just out for a casual ride. In reality, each was getting more nervous about what they would find once they reached their destination. The long-lost gold mine? No gold mine? Trespassers? Maybe even the Phantom Rider himself? Hopefully, the sheriff or deputy.

Book 3–Chapters 17 & 18 Excerpts

Hi, Readers,

Excerpts continue as we anticipate the release of Walnut Street: Phantom Rider!


From Chapter 17, “Dangerous Barn Talk” 

The six detectives arrived back at the ranch after a productive investigation of Rainbow Flats. Gracie decided to attend to her sticker collection book and headed for the barn’s hayloft, her favorite spot for working on her hobby.


. . . The group’s visit to Rainbow Flats had reminded her that she had purchased many sheets of rainbow stickers at Cody’s general store a month ago that needed pasting in.

A few minutes later, Gracie entered the barn. It was growing dark and wonderfully quiet except for an occasional rustling sound as a horse moved in its stall. The humid smell of the barn on rainy days gave her a sense of peace. She climbed the old wooden ladder to the hayloft and hunkered down in a thick pile of crunchy straw near the big window to make use of the dwindling light. Lying on her stomach, she lost track of time as she worked away placing various stickers on theme pages. She enjoyed hearing Cookie and the other horses as they softly ate and snorted. She could just spy them through the slats in the loft’s floor.

Soon, however, Gracie discovered that she and the horses were not alone. A man’s familiar voice drifted upwards, interrupting her reverie. He was on the barn’s wall phone below, and his tone sounded frantic.


From Chapter 18, “Gracie Mayfield, Deputy Detective” 

When Gracie failed to show up for dinner, the family got worried and checked the barn. Clues led them to Rainbow Flats to search for the girl.


In no time, Gracie’s parents, Jax, and the five kids were in the van heading for the ghost town. Mr. Mayfield applied as much speed as he safely could on the slick, muddy road that led northeast from the ranch. Moki never dreamed he would be back in that desolate place again, let alone tonight.

No one spoke as the car sped along. A few rays of sunlight glimmered through the leftover pink and gray rainclouds, but the brightness wouldn’t last much longer.

When the van finally pulled into the ghost town, the pitch black night had descended. Mr. Mayfield turned off his headlights so as not to announce their arrival. Then, he drove quietly right down the middle of Main Street.

“Look for some lights in a building,” his wife said as she scanned both sides of the street. Soon, Lexi called out, “I see some flickering lights in the old church up ahead.”

Book 3–Chapters 15 & 16 Excerpts

From Chapter 15, “A Colorful Ghost Town”  

The promise of severe rainstorms prevented the six detectives from exploring the mountains where Lexi and Ben had seen the lights the night before from the campgrounds. Instead, they decided to check out the ghost town Rainbow Flats. As they approached the windswept, deserted town, they spied the livery barn and headed for it to get out of the imminent storm.

“Just in case we aren’t alone, [Lanny said], I think we should tie up our horses in that barn. No sense in tipping off someone who might be hiding here—if anyone really is— that we’re around.”

Everyone followed Lanny in single file. Lexi and Gracie slid off their horses first and tackled the job of opening one of the barn’s double doors. Surprisingly, it opened almost effortlessly. The six kids walked their horses inside. All were happy finally to be out of the wind although chilly drafts still stubbornly pushed through the decrepit, wooden slats, causing a faint whistling sound.

The group quickly surveyed the inside of what had been a livery stable and found a central work area with an ice-cold forge and anvil where a blacksmith had once pounded horseshoes and other ironware. . . . Ben and his horse were in front of the others, so they ambled to one of the back stalls. Just as the boy was leading Jet into one of them, both stopped abruptly. “Uh, guys. Come check this out.”


From Chapter 16, “The Phantom Rider’s Lair”  

After stabling their horses, the detectives left the livery barn to explore the town.

The group made their way across Main Street. Lanny momentarily imagined that they had traveled back in time. He half expected a couple of disgruntled cowboys to come charging out of the saloon up ahead any second for a shootout in the middle of the street. The others, very much in the present, were glancing at windows to see if the Phantom was spying on them. As far as they could tell, they were alone.

In addition to the saloon, the row of buildings on the left once housed a barber shop, a dressmaker’s shop, the local dry goods store, and a hotel. Across the street were the former sheriff’s office, a telegraph office, a post office, and a bank. Farther up the street were the church and its cemetery, and the old schoolhouse. There were no students, teachers, preachers, or anyone else in sight now.

“Let’s check out the saloon first,” Lanny said. The others joined him as they stepped carefully over broken sections of the raised, wooden sidewalk.

Moki was the first to push open the high swinging saloon doors and step inside. Just as he did, he heard something shuffle, followed by a dreaded buzzing sound.

“Freeze, Moki!” Lanny said, grabbing the boy’s arm. He didn’t need to signal his friend a second time that a deadly danger was nearby.