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Which Creepy Door would Skylar Robbins Explore?

13-Year-old sleuth Skylar Robbins is always on the lookout for a new mystery. When faced with a variety of creepy doors to explore, which one would she walk through first, looking for clues to her next case? Leave a comment describing what you think might be hiding behind one of these doors, and you will be in the running for a signed copy of the new Skylar Robbins paperback: The Mystery of the Missing Heiress!

In Love with Words

I’ve loved words ever since I first learned to listen. Dr. Seuss’s silly stories enthralled me. Nursery rhymes, riddles, puns, tongue twisters…I savored them all. My parents and I used to make up funny names for people or things. A favorite velour jacket was my “scabaranzer.” When flowers died, they became “frivelly.” And when I got a knot in my yarn? It was a “boogle.” We imagined our new neighbors might be named Barney Bozoich or Rex Shekavondin. When my mom blew me a kiss at night, she said, “Zoot.” (Rhymes with put, not boot.) Zoot was the sound a kiss made, flying through the air. Apple breakfast bake was “applefumph.” Onomatopoeia. Now that’s a fun word to say. But why doesn’t its definition match its sound?

One cannot fall in love with words without falling in love with writing. I started writing “books” at age four. My first was an adventure composed in crayon: Blackie the Little Black Dog and the Flying Washing Machine. In junior high school my BFF and I wrote books, longhand, in our spiral binders. The plots were thin, involving crushes and unrequited, twelve-year-old love. But oh, how I loved to fill up those pages.

The books I cherished the most were those I read during that same time. Judy Blume’s Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret, Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Changeling and The Velvet Room. Harriet The Spy and Nancy Drew. These novels, devoured by a twelve-year-old only child who loved to read as much as she loved to write, shaped my future. These were the books that inspired me to write the Skylar Robbins series. I remember blissful Friday nights-–after watching the Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family—spent reading in bed. I couldn’t wait to crack open a new book, hold it in my hands, and read those exciting first words: Chapter One. My mom would make homemade molasses candy, each flat square individually wrapped in wax paper. A new Judy Blume book, a few pieces of molasses candy, a cat stretched out next to me, and maybe—a rainstorm? Now that was heaven!

I continued to write throughout high school, although by then my interest had turned more to music. I played guitar and sang, and began to write songs and poetry. By the time college rolled around my love affair with words was in full bloom, and I decided to major in Speech Communication. Linguistics, Journalism, Creative Writing…I can get a degree in this? Really? Sold! By then I was reading everyone from Ayn Rand to Stephen King, and after college I discovered Lee Child, John Grisham, and Robert Crais. I started to work on a rough draft of an adult novel, and analyzed the way they used foreshadowing and unexplained events to create suspense. When I wasn’t tapping out chapters on my computer, I was taking notes longhand on the techniques my favorite authors employed.

When I decided that I really wanted to write for the Middle Grade audience, I thought I’d better see what the current competition was like. Leaving the library giddy with an armload of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti novels made me feel like I was back in junior high, gleefully looking forward to a weekend full of glorious escape reading. I couldn’t wait to curl up with the first book, kick off my shoes, and dive in. No tablet or e-reader for me, just a fresh hardcover in my hands, smelling faintly of paper. Alternating between reading a greatly written MG or YA novel, getting a burst of inspiration for putting my own words down on paper, and blasting out a new chapter—that’s a rush I look forward to experiencing whenever I have free time. I might just have to whip up a batch of molasses candy. And I hope it’s going to rain.

Thank you to 3 Guys, 1 Book for the interview!

Which Doorway would Skylar Robbins Explore First?

Our favorite teen super slueth, Skylar Robbins, is always up for a new adventure! She loves to explore creepy houses, abandoned buildings, or anywhere a mystery might be hiding. Dying to solve her next case, Skylar is faced with five tantalizing doorways:

Which one would Skylar walk through first, looking for her next mystery, and why? Leave your answer in the comments and your idea could be used in a future Skylar Robbins mystery! Doorway #1 is first, #5 is the last one in the row. Be sure to leave your doorway number and your reason for choosing it. Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered into a drawing for a personally autographed Skylar Robbins novel!

Skylar Robbins mysteries are available on Amazon. Gwendolyn’s Revenge, a free novella, is coming soon.

Carrie Cross’s Advice to Aspiring Writers #8: How to Bounce Back from a Negative Review

Authors: like other creatives, we’re in a unique position. After spending months–maybe years–writing a book, designing a piece of art, or creating a musical score, we publish it for the world to read, see, or hear. And then, to critique on Social Media. Members of the general public (many of whom have never written, designed, or created anything) can mark us with one star, like a quick, red F on a report card. Devastating! Or is it?

When that first negative review comes, it can be crushing. How could this person not appreciate all the time and effort we put into our art? We threw a piece of our soul out there, and someone just stepped on it. A one star review adds an extra grind of the heel. Now it’s time to figure out why. Carefully read that review and look for clues. Remember that everyone was raised differently, with a wide spectrum of disparate beliefs and experiences that help form their opinions. Many of which differ wildly from ours.

One poor review I got was for my first Skylar Robbins novel: The Mystery of Shadow Hills. In this book, Skylar is stuck at her bullying cousin Gwendolyn’s house in Malibu for the summer, and forced to attend summer school where she doesn’t know a soul. In art class, a cool, creative girl named Kat befriends Skylar. Kat claims to be a junior witch, and introduces Skylar to “everything Wiccan.” They sneak down to the beach at midnight hunting for magic seeds, and cast spells together in a forgotten garden, intending to grow gems. By the end of the book, Skylar starts to question not only her friendship with Kat, but her own judgment. She wonders aloud whether everything magic and Wiccan Kat had introduced her was phony, slight of hand, and a series of hoaxes intending to fool Skylar for her own benefit. I inadvertently offended members of the Wiccan community with my portrayal of the witches and wizards in this novel.

Here is an excerpt from that long 2-star review which started out positive: “I did NOT like that the author felt compelled to label the Wiccan faith stereotypically, mainly as old women with rough hands and men who were socially inept, when there was a real opportunity here to be educational and accepting of the faith as much as she was accepting of person with disabilities.” When I took the reviewer’s perspective into account, the 2-star rating made total sense. It also made me revise Skylar’s opinion of “Wiccans” to “this group of Wiccans”. Look for keys to your reviewers’ personalities in their words. You might just find a priceless nugget of constructive criticism hidden there.

Finally, if you are still feeling down about a one or two-star rating, look up the works of some of your favorite authors on Amazon. I’ve been amazed that best-sellers also get poor ratings and reviews. How could everyone not have love that book as much as I did?! I think. Easy. They’re not me.

Skylar Robbins book 3 Now Available on Kindle!

Enter to win a FREE personally autographed copy of Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Missing Heiress, now available on Kindle!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Mystery of the Missing Heiress by Carrie Cross

The Mystery of the Missing Heiress

by Carrie Cross

Giveaway ends December 04, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

The first five Skylar fans to comment on this post will win a FREE Skylar Robbins ebook!

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’s Porta-Detective Kit

Porta-Detective Kit
New contest! What does Skylar Robbins’s Porta-Detective kit contain? If you have read Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels you will know the answer. The third book in the series also contains the information you need.

Enter your answer of 3 or more items in the comments here, and you will receive a secret underground Skylar Robbins mystery novella, Gwendolyn’s Revenge–not available for sale anywhere! Guess at least one item in Skylar’s Porta-Detective kit and you’ll get a personal email from Carrie Cross including a free chapter of Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Missing Heiress! Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Missing Heiress is available now on Amazon.

Sleuthing MG Style: Author Interview with Carrie Cross

Q. What made you decide to write for middle-grade readers? Was there any particular
author you read that made you think, I could write like that?

A. I decided to write for the middle grade audience because I fell most in love with books when I was between nine and twelve years old. I couldn’t get enough of Judy Blume, and read Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret over and over. Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Changeling and The Velvet Room enchanted me. I loved The Happy Hollisters mysteries and Nancy Drew. But it wasn’t until I was an adult, reading Lee Child thrillers and Robert Crais mysteries, that I wondered if and hoped that I could write like them. My first manuscript, The Dark File, was an adult novel exploring the nasty side of the modeling industry, which I experienced first-hand in my twenties. This book was never published, but while I shopped it around and waited for agents to respond, I had the idea for my first Skylar Robbins mystery, then tentatively titled, Magic Summer.

Q. How long did it take you to write your first book? How many rewrites did you do on
it? Who helped you with the editing?

A. One of my closest friends, Elayne Angel, is also an author, and she and my husband Ed edit the rough drafts of my novels and provide excellent feedback and critiques. I probably worked on Magic Summer for three years before I got it into good enough shape that I decided to hire a professional editor, Beth Lieberman, to proofread my “final” draft. She gave me some excellent advice. For example, I needed to add setting. She characterized mine as “a barely perceptible L.A.” I revised again, she pronounced it good enough to shop, and we began looking for an agent. By this time, I had added a detective angle to Skylar’s character and had renamed the manuscript, Skylar Robbins: Secret Agent.

After several rejections, Writers House signed me. Searching for a publisher is a tedious, time-consuming, frustrating experience. Like agents, publishers do not like it if you “simultaneously submit” to more than one. They don’t want to waste their valuable time reading a manuscript, only to be told when they decide they want it that another house has already snapped it up. So, my agent submitted to one at a time, and then we’d wait between two weeks to two months for a reply. All rejections—but, and this is a big but—some came with constructive criticism. Invaluable!

Q. We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of how you learned to write
past it.

A. The rejections I received from agents and publishers, one after another, was crushing. But the ones who cared enough to leave constructive criticism gave me the drive to continue to revise, and to not give up on making my book series a reality. (By this time, I had started on a new Skylar Robbins novel and decided this could be a series.) Several of the publishers wrote notes to the effect of, “Great story but we have a similar MG mystery series that this would compete with.” That was better than hearing a plain, “No thanks, we’re uninterested.” But what really helped was when one publisher noted, “Good writing, but I’m afraid this story is just too straight-forward a ride.”

That got me thinking. Good writing: yes! Too straight-forward a storyline? How can I make it better? So, I got back to work and revised again, adding another layer to the plot.

Q. What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?

A. Getting good feedback from publishers, even through rejection letters, was some of the best encouragement I’ve had in my writing career. Give me a challenge and I’ll take it. Make this manuscript less straight-forward a ride? OK! Here you go! Skylar Robbins went from a shy girl spending a nervous summer at her bullying cousin Gwendolyn’s house to a smart, savvy sleuth, hunting for clues using the tools in her detective kit. By the end of what was finally called, Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills, Skylar had learned how to determine true friends from phony ones, and had developed self-confidence and expert sleuthing skills.

Better than the feedback from publishers, what really made me feel validated as an author was when more than one group of kids formed their own “detective agencies” after reading my books. Even boys got interested in finding clues and looking for something mysterious—and I thought at first my novels would just appeal to girls. photography

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating a scene? Dialog?
Tension, etc?

A. I think the hardest part of writing a novel is determining how it will end. As author Ayn Rand teaches, you must determine your story’s climax and write toward it so that every scene has purpose. Once you have established the ending to your plot, you can come up with a rough outline of how the characters will progress toward that finale. It’s a real challenge to determine a story’s climax before you’ve written the book, but it’s imperative that you know where the plot is leading.

Q. You indie-publish, correct? What made you choose the indie route? What was the most
challenging part about putting together the book?

A. I do self-publish, through Amazon’s Createspace. After spending years trying to get an agent and more time trying to land a traditional publishing contract, I figured I’d take the plunge and do it myself. My husband and I created our own publishing company, Teen Mystery Press, hoping that having a legitimate publishing company logo on my novels would help me get into bookstores. Bookstores and libraries shy away from self-published books as so many are poorly-written and error-filled. The Skylar Robbins series is in several stores and a handful of libraries, but the bulk of my sales comes from Amazon. The most challenging part of putting together the book was revising over and over until I was satisfied with it. My husband, Ed Ward, is a graphic designer, so he does my cover art and interior design. Shameless plug:

Q. You’ve got a great looking website. Who put it together for you? What are some of
your marketing tips that you would like to pass along?

A. Thank you! Ed designed my website, too. I have a section on my site,, called Advice for Aspiring Writers, where I share writing advice. My number one marketing tip is: advertise. Every month I reinvest whatever I’ve earned from my book sales into ads on Goodreads, Facebook, Bookbub, and other sites. No one is going to look for a self-published book by an unknown author. You need to use every possible social media platform to get your name and your work out there. I’ve run contests on Facebook, giving away toy binoculars for the most shares on my book posts. I’m currently writing a mini-sequel to Shadow Hills called Gwendolyn’s Revenge, and inviting Skylar fans to help co-write it with me. I have a Secret Agent Application form on my website, and recently had my 50th Secret Agent sign up. These kids are encouraged to help Skylar figure out clues in future novels and post their guesses on my site. Several of Skylar’s Secret Agents are mentioned (using their code names) in book 2: Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels.

Q. What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?

A. I would say that I wished I had self-published sooner, but then I never would have gotten the feedback I needed to hear from the agents and publishers who rejected my work. Authors should look at rejections as learning experiences and as opportunities for growth and improvement.

Q. What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?
Are there any other points about writing that you would like to add?

A. The best advice I could give fellow authors is, “Revise, revise, revise!” Don’t submit your work until it is as perfect as can be. You only get one chance to impress a prospective agent, publisher, or reader. Make sure your work is error-free and polished. And never give up. If you can’t get a traditional publishing contract, do it yourself. As Calvin Coolidge said, “Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Q. What is the next book that will be coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?

A. In my third Skylar Robbins mystery, The Mystery of the Missing Heiress, Skylar teams up with a brilliant would-be spy, Daniel Gannon, to solve the mystery. He is pictured on the cover, swimming under the Santa Monica pier, searching underwater for a locked box containing a clue.

By the end of book 3, Skylar and Daniel decide to partner up again and plan to take a field trip to a mysterious island called Koma. In my next book, Skylar Robbins: The Curse of Koma Island, Skylar and Daniel must determine the meaning of a strange Koman idol. The locals are desperate to frighten the kids off the island before they discover the truth. I hope to publish Koma Island by the end of 2018.

Q. Lastly, what links would you like to be added at the end?

A. Thanks so much,, for the interview!
Skylar Robbins mysteries are available on Amazon:
Check out Carrie Cross’s website:
Join Carrie on Facebook:
Follow Carrie on Twitter @Carrie_Skylar

Enter to Win a FREE autographed copy!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Mystery of Shadow Hills by Carrie Cross

The Mystery of Shadow Hills

by Carrie Cross

Giveaway ends July 07, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Mystery of the Missing Heiress by Carrie Cross

The Mystery of the Missing Heiress

by Carrie Cross

Giveaway ends July 14, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Missing Heiress chapter 1


  1. Nerves
  2. Confrontation
  3. The Diamond
  4. A Test
  5. Daniel Gannon
  6. Secret Code
  8. The Principal’s Office
  9. ACE
  10. Decoding the Secret Message
  11. “You’re ditching?”
  12. Totally Annoyed and Completely Attracted
  13. A Trap Door in the Library
  14. Secret Passageway
  15. Horrible Mural
  16. In the Black Light’s Glow
  17. A Clue in an Article
  18. 3 Palms at 10
  19. Threatened
  20. A Map in the Door Handle
  21. Secret Weapon
  22. PMS
  23. Partners
  24. Jealousy
  25. A Fake, Pretend Member
  26. Daniel’s Challenge
  27. 7 x 17 x 37
  28. No Time to Run
  29. Inside Daniel Gannon’s House
  30. Xandra’s Diary
  31. Broken
  32. Coded Clues
  33. The Hidden Message
  34. A Mysterious Key
  35. AFX
  36. Clues in the Diary
  37. Rage
  38. Honesty
  39. The Pier
  40. Seven Rocks by Seven Rocks
  41. The Locked Box
  42. A Shocking Call
  43. The Kiss
  44. Registered Letter
  45. A Limousine Ride to a Secret Location
  46. Solving the Case
  47. Broadcast
  48. The Curse of Koma Island

7:05 a.m. Ruthcat:

Welcome back Pacific middle school Tigers!

7:06 a.m. Double D:

Tigers rule! Undefeated in hoops—Yeah Baby 😉

7:08 a.m. Madpat:

Check yourself. Did U get the diamond? Don’t be a left-out.

7:10 a.m. Trishbliss:

What Diamond?

7:11 a.m. Anonymous:

What dinomd? Duh—THE dinomd.

7:15 a.m. Ruthcat:

TB, ignore Anonymous. Hey Dummy—we all know who can’t spell.

7:16 a.m. Double D:

True dat.

7:22 a.m. Madpat:

Anonymous: Watch ur back.

7:24 a.m. Anonymous:

O now Im scraed.

7:25 a.m. Madpat:

U shd b. It’s on.

7:35 a.m.  Anonymous:

Yeah, right. LOL. Bring it.


Chapter 1: Nerves

The first day of school always makes me nervous. I worry that I won’t find my classrooms on time and I’ll walk in late while everyone laughs. To make things worse, on the first day of the Spring semester of seventh grade, it was pouring. I mean really pouring. I’d looked forward to going back to school all through Christmas vacation, hoping I would have some cute boys in my classes. Specifically, the one I’d been crushing on for three years: Dustin Coles. Plus, nice teachers and as few mean girls as possible. But a horrid thought was rattling around in my brain. Would I be stuck with the bully crew in my core subjects—or worse, gym class? Seeing them online on our school’s underground website was bad enough. Sharing classrooms with those girls would be my worst nightmare. I couldn’t wait to get back to Pacific to see who I’d be spending the semester with: friends, or enemies?

Outside, the rain pounded down, bouncing up off of puddles in the yard and sheeting down our kitchen windows. While I ate a bowl of cereal, I worried about what would happen when I walked onto campus. Ever since I solved my last case, my mom, dad, students at my school—basically everybody has given me a bit of a hard time. Reporters call me everything from “the teen sleuth” to “the 13-year-old genius.” How embarrassing.

Truthfully, I think they’re all a little jealous. The adults: because I decoded a bunch of clues and dug up a hidden jewelry box that they should have been able to find, but couldn’t. Everyone else: because I got attention, was interviewed on TV, and got to keep the jewels. Not that I could sell them or anything until I turned eighteen. They were locked up in a safe, and I was still just regular Skylar Robbins, teen detective. To be honest, I wished everyone would just forget about it. Unlike some of the girls at Pacific, I didn’t enjoy all the attention. Except maybe from one particular extremely cute boy.

“Ready?” My mom trotted down the last few stairs. Her briefcase was in one hand and she smoothed down her shoulder-length, brown hair with the other. Mine was darker and much longer, and I twisted it around one hand impatiently while I waited for her. “Have everything you need, like an umbrella?” she asked me.

“Yes. Umbrella, laptop for lessons, spiral notebooks for taking notes, pens, bus money for the ride home.” My Porta-detective kit was shoved in the bottom of my backpack in case I discovered clues to a new mystery, but she didn’t need to know that.

Made of metal and covered in pink leopard spots, my Porta-detective kit contained smaller versions of my most important spy tools. Mini-mag glass, and tiny binoculars. A round mirror disguised as a compact was perfect for spying on people behind me. And my Uniprinter. This was a one-inch square stamp pad with black ink and a tiny tablet of paper attached to the back, useful for taking a single fingerprint.

Porta-Detective Kit

I glanced at my watch. “Mom. We need to leave, like right now.”

While we headed for the garage, I thought about my detective agency. I’d always figured my first big case as a professional sleuth would be an easy one. Finding a missing pet, solving a petty theft, or spying on someone’s boyfriend to see if he were cheating. Nothing that would get me in trouble, put me in danger, or change my life forever. Well, I was wrong. Way wrong. And as soon as I’d located the hidden jewels, a much more challenging mystery fell into my hands.

Three years ago, the famous heiress who’d owned and hidden the jewelry box mysteriously disappeared. The only child of an oil tycoon, Xandra—pronounced Zandra—had inherited millions. She donated huge amounts of money to charity, and she had dated more than one celebrity bad boy. Then suddenly, she went missing. The media loved her, and they reported that she hadn’t left a single clue behind. The police reports agreed that Xandra Collins had disappeared without a trace. Her hundred-year-old mansion was abandoned. Three years later, my parents bought it.

Well, I know one thing from the detective skills my Grandfather taught me: It is almost impossible to disappear without leaving a trace. And if anyone could find a shred of evidence, it was going to be me.

I would end up risking my life trying to solve the mystery of the missing heiress. And worse than that, without meaning to, I’d put my friends in mortal danger too.

Keep on the lookout for this new Skylar Robbins mystery, coming soon in paperback on Amazon.