When our sons were ages two and four, getting them to bed without an uproar was a miracle. That is until I thought to ask if they'd like to hear a story about two brothers who were naughty and got in trouble. Ears perked up. "Who?" they asked. My mind raced for random names, "Uh, Jeff and David," I answered then remembering my red-headed niece and that she and my boys yearned to have a pet, I added, "Guess what? They have cousin with red hair, named Claire Posey. They live in log cabins in the woods by a lake, they solve mysteries, and they each have their very own dog."
Aw, the mention of dogs hit a soft spot. My boys settled into my lap. From that night and thereafter, they listened and grew sleepy as I would make up stuff on the fly, often blending in their own mischief and troubles from the day. "Do you want to hear a Jeff and David story?" became a bedtime lure that worked every single time.
Fast forward. My boys as adults urged me to write the Jeff and David stories so other children could enjoy them, and learn the gently-taught morals I had woven into the plots (respect your elders, be kind and honest). So I did! I named the mountain town Cabin Creek, because those two words formed a pretty picture in my mind, and Scholastic published the first six. My youngest son, Cody Rutty, drew the map that appears in each front then he added chapter drawings for #7: The Phantom of Hidden Horse Ranch, which I published myself on Amazon (paperback and e-book).
The Cabin Creek Mysteries is the most requested of my four series, for follow-up stories. Kids will love #8! As with all the other adventures, chapters are short-ish with suspense and fun, full of my hopes for turning reluctant readers into real readers.
Cabin Creek #1: The Secret of Robber's Cave
Childhood excursions to Tom Sawyer's Island at Disneyland in Anaheim filled me with wonder. Creeping around inside the cave was spooky and fun for my siblings and me, and this memory followed me to the Cabin Creek Mysteries.
Summary: Lost Island was off limits--until now. Jeff and David are going to the desert island to search for clues. And hidden treasure! Town legend tells of a robber and a secret cave, but the brothers have to piece the truth together. With the help of their cousin, Claire, they'll get to the bottom of the mystery, no matter what they have to dig up.
[excerpt]: The brothers sat in the darkness. Though it was summer they grew cold leaning against the stone wall. The cave felt chilly and damp, as if it had never seen sunlight. There was now a dreadful sound nearby: the drip-drip-drip of water.
Cabin Creek #2: The Clue at the Bottom of the Lake
This mystery stems from a trip to Jackson Lake in the Tetons with the boys. In the middle of the night we heard the putt-putt-putt of a little motorboat. We could see someone with a flashlight, then we heard a splash as if something heavy had been thrown in. When the boat sped into the darkness, we imagined there'd been a murder and a body tossed overboard!
Summary: It's the middle of the night when Jeff spots someone dumping a large bundle into the lake. It's too dark to identify anyone--or anything. But the cousins immediately suspect foul play, and plunge right into the mystery. Before they know it, the kids of Cabin Creek are in too deep. Everyone is a suspect--and the cousins are all in danger.
[excerpt]: On the island the next morning, the cousins climbed their lookout tower. They could see that the object at the bottom of the lake had not been moved since yesterday.
"So how're we going to fish it out?" David asked.
"Guys, I've got an idea." Claire was already climbing down from the high platform.
Cabin Creek #3: The Legend of Skull Cliff
When camping as a child, my siblings and I wondered about scary noises coming from the woods and odd formations in rocky cliffs that resembled faces. I had fun imagining Jeff, David, and Claire doing the same thing, but in a real mystery.
Summary: When a camper disappears from the dangerous lookout at Skull Cliff, the cousins wonder if it is the old town curse at work. Then the police discover a ransom note, and everyone is in search of a kidnaper. But Jeff, David, and Claire can't make the clues fit. Was the bossy boy from the city kidnapped, or did something even spookier take place on Skull Cliff?
[excerpt]: Back at their campsite, the cousins helped Ariel hoist their groceries into the tree, to protect from bears. She said they could go off on their own, as long as they stayed nearby. So they hiked to the ledge, where they could see the stony profile of Skull Cliff. Just beyond was Table Rock, another popular tourist spot. With their binoculars they searched the trails and bluffs for the missing boy. Two jeeps from the forest service were there with flashing lights.
Cabin Creek #4: The Haunting of Hillside School
An old brown house just uphill from the ocean scared us kids whenever we walked by. The place felt creepy: weeds in the sidewalk, spider webs over the door, windows boarded up. We dared each other to peek through the cracks. Once we heard a frightful moan and saw a figure sneaking around inside, or at least we thought we did, so we raced away screaming bloody murder. The idea of an old mansion where strange things happen stayed with me through the years and sparked this Cabin Creek Mystery.
Summary: When a girl's face appears, then disappears, outside a window of their spooky old schoolhouse, the cousins think they've seen a ghost. More strange clues--piano music lilting through empty halls, a secret passageway, and an old portrait that looks like the girl from the window--make Jeff, David, and Claire begin to wonder: Is their school just spooky, or could it be ... haunted?
[excerpt]: The old schoolhouse creaked in the autumn wind. Nine-year-old Claire Posey was upstairs in her pottery class when suddenly she turned to look out the window. A girl's face, pale and round, was staring in. But how could that be? The art room was high up on the second floor.
Cabin Creek #5: The Blizzard on Blue Mountain
Skiing was a family passion during my childhood -- though I secretly wished I could stay in the lodge with a book -- then years later as a mom, my sons loved snowboarding. When I saw a PBS documentary about the crafty intelligence of some wild animals, I thought it would be fun to weave the two subjects into a mystery.
Summary: Jeff, David, and Claire love their winter break jobs at the ski chalet on Blue Mountain, where they get to snowboard and go sledding between shifts of cleaning and tending to the grounds. But when things start going missing from the chalet, the cousins find themselves prime suspects. Can they solve the mystery before they get ski-lifted out of their winter wonderland? Or will trying to solve the case make them the frosty culprit's next target?
[excerpt]: On the ski hill, their chair thumped over the wheels of a tower as it rolled upward. And as it did, Claire felt herself sliding. Quick as she could, she, too, twisted to grab behind her. Now both girls lay on their stomachs, heading up the mountain backward, their legs dangling in the air. Their snowboards felt heavier by the moment.
Cabin Creek #6: The Secret of the Junkyard Shadow
Just before Christmas when I was about eight, my siblings and I woke to a clunk. Our open window brought the familiar sounds of the surf and foghorn, but this noise was new. We tiptoed into the living room and discovered Santa had come early! But instead of toys, he left behind a bunch of black boxes in various shapes. We unsnapped the lids, surprised to find a shiny musical instrument in each, nestled in blue velvet: a trumpet, trombone, flute, clarinet, and a saxophone. Turns out, a musician from a beach jazz club had volunteered to deliver the equipment to a friend's home. It had been late and dark. He'd forgotten the address, but when he saw our cottage with the bright porch light and the front door unlocked, he figured he'd found the right place. I'm thankful for his mistake because it inspired a real mystery for Jeff, David, and Claire.
Summary: The cousins discover a mysterious stranger sneaking into the local dump. When bikes, toasters, and other items disappear all over town, they begin to suspect he might be up to no good. But when these items show up again, fixed and freshly painted, Jeff, David, and Claire are confused. What kind of thief repairs and returns his stolen goods?
[excerpt]: "This is a real puzzle," Mrs. O'Neal told the cousins. "See, when I went out to get the newspaper this morning, I was flabbergasted to find my broken toaster. Someone had returned it all spiffed up, with a ribbon and a bow."
Cabin Creek #7: The Phantom of Hidden Horse Ranch
I thought it would be fun for the cousins to visit their grandparents' horse ranch during summer vacation. The plot came alive while I waited in a Gem shop for my turquoise earrings to be repaired. I watched three resident dogs roam among the customers and the office. One of them, a giant Rottweiler, seemed to be in charge. He put his big head on the desk, removed some envelopes, then carried them to his lair underneath where he anchored them with his paw. The jeweler noticed my surprise and said, "Oh, don't worry about Buddy. He's just doing his paperwork." I laughed out loud. So that's how Buddy and another dog friend, Reesha, became characters in this mystery.
Summary: During summer vacation the cousins are excited to visit their grandparents on Hidden Horse Ranch. They get to sleep in a bunkhouse, swim in a pond with a rope swing, and ride horses any time they want. But they arrive to find that a mysterious fire has destroyed the stables, and the herd has escaped into the nearby canyons. Also troubling, valuable objects have been disappearing from the ranch house. As Jeff, David, and Claire follow clues and suspects, they keep running into dead-ends and wonder if the ranch has a phantom.
[excerpt]: In the bunkhouse, Jeff put his finger to his lips so no one would speak then motioned for David to help him. The brothers tiptoed to the card table. Carefully and quietly they carried one of the stiff chairs over to the doorknob and wedged it under the latch. Someone trying to break the lock would not have an easy time getting inside.
The cousins listened. They waited for the footsteps to go away, but instead there was a new sound: a swish against the door as if someone had leaned against it.
One afternoon when my husband and I were walking our dogs in the park, we heard a loud buzzing. It sounded like a nearby hive of bees, an angry noise that sort of scared me. Eventually we realized a drone was flying overhead, back and forth, and in circles. The idea that someone might be watching us became a story for Jeff, David, and Claire when they go camping. I hope you enjoy it!
During spring break, college student Ariel (from #3, The Legend of Skull Cliff), takes the cousins and family friend, Mr. Wellback, camping as her assistants: She has grant money to study wildlife with a drone. But when someone breaks into their tents and steals Claire's diary and David's sketchbook, the cousins feel they're being watched. And when a different drone hovers while they're fishing, the kids set out to investigate who is spying on them, and why?
[excerpt]: "Someone's been here!" Claire cried as she hurried from the trail.
Fresh footprints circled their tents where she and David had so carefully swept. Their pancake griddle had been taken from the table and set in the dirt.
Jeff kneeled to examine the ground. "These look like hiking boots, bigger than ours."
Then Claire remembered the strangers in the cafe, the men wearing yellow jackets. "Uh-oh," she said.