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Category: Teachers & Parents

Why Alabaster Caverns?

Did you know the Alabaster Caverns are a real place that you can visit today? The Caverns are part of a 200 acre State Park near Freedom, Oklahoma in the northwest part of the state. Below is a picture of the state park near Freedom, Oklahoma. You’d never know there were caves beneath! Part of the  Alabaster Caverns collapsed to

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What Do You Know About the Santa Fe Trail?

This is the 200th Anniversary of The Santa Fe Trail. The Black Alabaster Box, Book 1 of The Last Crystal Trilogy begins as Grace Willis and her family are about to leave for California on the Santa Fe Trail. Dr. Willis and his wife want to start a medical school. The Willis family leaves in about 1856, after

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Black History Month and Trails West

One of the things I found most fun and interesting in my research for The Last Crystal Trilogy is the incredible diversity of US History. I knew that. But I didn’t really know it.  In Book 1, The Black Alabaster Box, Grace Willis and her family set out for California on the Santa Fe Trail. As I began digging into first-hand accounts

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When Favorite Characters Die

After one of my friends finished reading The Black Alabaster Box, she e-mailed me.“I loved it. . . I must say that you are very brave, because I couldn’t kill off some of my favorite characters.” It’s true. Some of my favorite characters experience the harsh reality of life on the Santa Fe Trail. Two die

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A Purple Iris for Teachers

When I finished my Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education at George Peabody College for Teachers, now part of Vanderbilt University, I was given an iris along with my diploma. Campus had been a riot of iris blooms the weeks before graduation. As we gathered on campus in our caps and gowns, we stood

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Edible Plants and the Character Mr. Payne

Esther Suh’s guest blog reminds us that there are edible flowers that we can enjoy, provided that we learn about them and make knowledgeable choices.  She points out that as Mr. Payne mentors protagonist, Grace Willis, in The Black Alabaster Box he teaches her to identify edible wild plants.  I like Mr. Payne a lot. When he

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Going Batty: On Illustrating

Mexican Free-Tailed Bats By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters (Mexican free-tailed batsUploaded by Dolovis) [CC BY 2.0  ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons I made the decision to illustrate my trilogy for very selfish reasons. As a child, I hated it when there were pictures of the people in fiction. The illustrator almost always

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Chapter Discussion Questions for THE BLACK ALABASTER BOX

Teachers who are using The Black Alabaster Box with reading groups, book clubs, or as part of a study of the Great Westward Migration may find these questions useful. You could have students write their take on a question in a journal after reading the chapter, too. I don’t think it would be appropriate to have students

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