My Joaquin Murrieta stories are now published in a Kindle e-book with a paperback coming shortly! Hidden gold, bloody bandits, vengeful miners, mad ghosts, shipwrecks, rattlesnakes— all these and more are to be found in these tales about Joaquin Murrieta. This book is set in Central Californian locations — what is now Pinnacles National Park, the Santa Lucia Mountains, Jolon, Old Mission San Antonio de Padua, San Francisco, among others — and blends 19th Century historical characters and events into the action as I’ve intentionally aligned its content with California Social Studies Standards. Its readability is above 90% on the Flesch scale and varies between a 2.3 and 2.9 in grade level, so most young people should be comfortable reading the stories on their own.
Central California historical anecdotes and local legends have inspired and informed many of my stories, especially those including Joaquin Murrieta. The Los Burros gold mining area has many ghostly tales and it is the setting for this story. Joaquin rides in to Manchester, a mining camp in the Santa Lucia, to search for a missing woman. He finds her and a treasure, as well.
Phoebe Cheney and I before the 4th graders arrived – Photo by Joan Ungs
San Lorenzo County Park near King City is an underappreciated (at least by many) treasure and the Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum is its crown jewel. The museum took a really big hit on May15th, literally so. A hundred year old, seven feet in diameter eucalyptus tree tried to take the roof off the barn at about six in the evening. It failed – by a little – and nobody was around to be hurt. The folks at MCARLM had scheduled a big, three-day historical event for local kids beginning on the 16th. Everyone pulled up their bootstraps and we went ahead with the presentations. Local 4th graders put their hands (tongues, ears, stomachs, feet and everything else!) on the history of our gold rush. I got to be a 49er and introduce them to Clementine’s boyfriend. You know the guy: “How I missed her! Until I kissed her little sister!”
The MCARLM campfire and story-telling event down at San Lorenzo Park on October 25th was great fun. Thanks to Raye Ann and Motoko for helping me present Amanda Miller’s spooky poem! I also got to share “Black Maggie’s Secret” around the campfire – the best home for any ghost story! Joaquin Murrieta rides again!
“Joaquin’s Gold” is a western adventure set in 19th Century California. Its main character is Joaquin Murrieta, the famous bandit. It’s based on Central California legends and is set in Pinnacles National Park. I wrote it for my 8th grade students thirty years ago and have rewritten it many times since. Beryl Belsky kindly published the story on her Writer’s Drawer website, but the link is no longer available
I’ve made both the story’s text and a common core short story unit for “Joaquin” available on the TPT site:
As you folks know by now, I have an abiding interest in historical fiction. One of my ongoing projects (just entering its fourth decade!) centers on Joaquin Murrieta. The legendary bandit is one of my favorite characters and I’ve put him back in the saddle three times this year. One of those stories, “The Wreck of the Annabelle Lee”, was awarded second place in Moonlight Mesa’s annual Cowboy Up western fiction contest. Becky Coffield is the editor and publisher of Moonlight Mesa and I very much appreciate her work in organizing this contest. It affords me a yearly opportunity to send Joaquin back into the California night. Of course, I’ve hoped for more than thirty years now that I can interest someone in publishing a collection of his adventures. I’ve written a quite respectable number of them and I even enjoy reading them myself! That’s not something a writer can always say.
WELCOME!I've dedicated my life to literacy and literature for young people. I'm sixty-three and don't intend to change my focus now. I hope that this site will contribute to both! I hope it will be of use to kids, parents and teachers who love to read.
For Kids: I want to know what you think of my story! Writing can be pretty lonely and authors like to hear from readers. Ask me questions about Chaos Gate and I'll do my best to answer them as quickly as I can.
For Parents: I want to know what you think of my story! I'd also like to know how this website can best help you, what activities here are most effective and what you would like to see me include in the future.
For Teachers: I know how hard you folks work. I'm offering you effective, interesting activities to accompany Chaos Gate, whether you're reading it aloud to your class, using it in small groups, or simply have one or two students reading it on their own. I have (or soon will!) comprehension questions, vocabulary activities and word find puzzles in pdf format for every chapter. Check them out and take what suits you best.
Robert's story "Joaquin's Gold" just won the
2010 Art Affair Western Short Story Contest. The story brings legendary bandit Joaquin Murrieta back to Central California during the 1880's in a search for hidden treasure. Robert hopes to produce a book including all of his Joaquin Murrieta stories. Stay tuned.