The First Four Chapters of Blue John’s Cavern are a Free Download

I hope you guys are ready for a fun read this week. If you haven’t yet read Blue John’s Cavern, now is your chance. The first four chapters are available for free! Simply sign up for my newsletter by clicking the button below and you will receive an email within 24 hours with the link for the download.

This is a great way to check out the book and see if you like it (and I hope you really do). After you read the chapters, I’d love to hear from you and your thoughts on what you think will happen next so come back to the blog and leave your comments.

Read 4 Chapters Free!

What do you think is happening to Emma and Brody? What do you believe Aspen is thinking about now?

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Join Me for Rock Camp 2017!

Volcanoes from campMarch has arrived and it is time to register your kids for Rock Detectives Summer Camp. If you live in the Mount Pleasant / Charleston, South Carolina, area or plan to visit this June, I would love to have you join me for camp for a ton of fun while we learn (don’t worry, the kids won’t realize). I am holding the camp at the Park West Recreation Building in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on the afternoons of June 19 through 23, 2017 from 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm.

Each day of the camp has a different theme including:

  • Day 1 = Minerals
  • Day 2 = Igneous Rocks
  • Day 3 = Sedimentary Rocks
  • Day 4 = Metamorphic Rocks
  • Day 5 = The Rock Cycle

On the first day of camp, the kids decorate a box to hold all of the rock and mineral samples that they gather during the week. Each day starts with a word find puzzle related to the day’s theme then we have a short lesson about minerals, rocks or the rock cycle while we identify different samples. Each day, the kids receive two mineral or rock samples to identify and keep for their own collection. Those samples follow the theme of the day. On Friday, Rock Cycle Day, the campers receive two “mystery” samples that may be either minerals or rocks.

After we identify samples, it is time for experiments like growing salt crystals, making (and exploding) a volcano, creating edible metamorphic rocks, panning for crystals, making pet rocks and much more.

During the week of camp, kids will participate in a Rock Bingo tournament and play Rock Jeopardy. Don’t bother trying to pick your kids up early, Rock Bingo gets very competitive and they won’t want to leave! The camp is great for kids between the ages of 6 and 12. You can register for camp by clicking here.

If you have questions about my camp in June 2017, please email me at tracy@tracybarnhart.com and I’ll be happy to help!

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My latest book: Rock & Mineral Coloring & Activity Book is now in print

Coloring Book Cover Only_SMALLI am so excited to announce that I finished my first print coloring book. This fun book is great for kids who love rocks and minerals, games and puzzles, and coloring and dot to dots. With  78 pages of things to do, your kids will be busy for hours.

I designed this book for fans of my Crystal Cave Adventure books and Mini Me Geology to capture each child’s imagination and foster their love of science, learning, and excitement. Activities include:

  • Drawing Pages
  • Coloring Pages
  • Roc-Tac-Toe
  • Foursquare
  • Word Scrambles
  • Crossword Puzzles
  • Word Finds
  • Mazes
  • Creative Writing Stories
  • Make-a-Word

You can buy your coloring book directly from the Mini Me Geology website or, if you prefer, from Amazon. Either way, you will enjoy hours of pure fun!

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So excited today! I was a guest on the Writing for Kids podcast!

BJC_Cover_imageThis week, I was a guest on the Writing for Kids podcast with Alexandra Amor. She is a Canada-based children’s author. I really like her podcast because she talks with some great writers who give fascinating tips and insights into the world of writing and publishing. If you are interested in how writers craft their stories for children, this is a great podcast for you.

Alexandra and I had a great time talking about writing and books. I truly thank her for allowing me to be on her show and I hope you all go listen to the podcast interview here. You can find all of her episodes here.

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As You Are Reading Blue John’s Cavern This Map Will Help

Image via Google Earth

Image via Google Earth

One of the reasons that I like to write fiction books that are set in a real place is the research that  you can do for the book. Blue John’s Cavern is set in a real town in England. The landmarks that I talk about like Peveril Castle, the town of Castleton, Blue John Cavern, Winnats Pass and Mam Tor all really exist.

Using a real location does present some challenges though. You want to make sure that when you have your characters moving from place to place that they are moving in the correct direction and that you use as much information about the actual landscape that you can find. Now, in my book, Blue John’s Cavern, Emma and Brody ended up in Castleton in the past, 1775 to be exact. Since I didn’t live back then I had to research what the area is like today and make some educated guesses about how the area may have been slightly different over 200 years ago.

To do this type of research, I used Google Earth. It is an amazing tool that you can use to “visit” all over the world. If you use Google Earth, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t yet tried the software, I suggest you run over to Google (after you finish reading this post and grabbing the first four chapters of my book for free) and download the software. It won’t cost you anything, except hours of fun. The picture above is from Google Earth. I added arrows to some of the locations that I talk about in the book so that you can use the map as you read along to give you a sense of the distances that Brody, Emma and Max travel during the story. If you want to grab a full copy of the book you can find Blue John’s Cavern on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

I’d love to hear what you think about the book and the map in the comments below. And, if you know an awesome place that we should all visit using Google Earth, add that to the comments too!

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We are NOT the Kardashian’s of Science!!

Mini_Me_Logo_hiresMy sister sent me a text last Friday asking if I had watched the new Big Bang Theory episode from the night before. No, I hadn’t but when she replied that I was going to laugh and she couldn’t tell me anything more I went straight to the DVR.

Did I laugh? No! This was the THIRD episode where they made fun of geologists! I love this show, but really? Geology is super cool and we do not look like the totally nerdy guys they cast either. So here is my offer to the producers of the Big Bang Theory…when you are ready, I want to be on your show and take on Sheldon! Someday he’s going to need to meet his geological match and I want it to be me.

A geology vs physics showdown! So, tweet the producers (@BigBang_CBS) and let them know that we want Sheldon to learn a little love for geology!

…the Kardashian’s of science….ha!

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There are No Porcupines in England

PORCUPINE – ”’North American Porcupine”’ (”Erethizon dorsatum”) ”’Photographer:”’ unknown, 1987 ”’Source:”’ Yellowstone Digital Slide File, http://www.nps.gov/yell/slidefile/index.htm ”’Permission:”’ ”These images are in the public domain and may be reproduced, free of charge.

When I was writing Blue John’s Cavern I did a lot of research about the area of Castleton, Derbyshire, England. I tend to write on the fly without much pre-planning so as new ideas and scenes popped into my head I found myself performing some follow-up research. There is a scene in the book where Emma has an unfortunate encounter with a hedgehog. Hedgehog? Really? Yup.

Originally, I wrote that she found herself

facing a porcupine, but when I did a little research I found that…THERE ARE NO PORCUPINES IN ENGLAND!

That’s right. I had no idea that England

HEDGEHOG – Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.

has hedgehogs rather than porcupines. They are fairly similar so the scene in the book work just fine with Mr. Hedgehog. But, I was surprised at what a little research can tell you and how it can make your books more authentic.

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Book #2 Facts: Rusher’s Gold

Personal Website Image HeaderThe Crystal Cave Adventures series is really taking shape with this second book that I’m working on now. The research into the settings and history of the books takes a considerable amount of time, in addition to writing the actual book itself.  This new book, tentatively titled Rusher’s Gold, is set in the California Gold Rush era. Mr. M sends Brody and Emma back to the Gold Rush to find a large, pure chunk of gold to replace the piece that was stolen from his original collection when his home was ransacked in the first book.

Brody and Emma start out alone, with the help of Aspen, of course, but it doesn’t take long before they get themselves into trouble and meet some friendly and not-so-friendly faces. I’m excited about this book and the tidbits of goodies you’ll learn about the California Gold Rush. Here are just a few to get you going:

  • The Gold Rush began in 1848 but many people equate the Gold Rush to 1849, which is when the bulk of the people arrived in California,
  • The first discovery of gold was at Sutter’s Mill near Coloma, California,
  • James Wilson Marshall, found gold flakes in the American River as he worked to build a water-powered saw mill,
  • John Sutter owned the saw mill where Marshall worked,
  • Approximately 2 billion (yes, billion) dollar’s worth of precious metal was recovered during the Gold Rush, and
  • The Gold Rush peaked in 1852.
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The Rockin’ Town of Diamond Falls, West Virginia

Diamond Falls ImageDiamond Falls is a beautiful town in southeastern West Virginia nestled in the Allegheny Mountains. This cute town of 65,000 people is home to Brody and Emma. Brody grew up in Diamond Falls, but Emma is new to town. When they are not traveling through time in the Crystal Cave, these two kids love to visit one of the many hot chocolate shops or doughnut shops in town. On hot days, the ice cream and frozen yogurts trucks troll the neighborhoods hoping to find kids willing to spend their dollar bills.

Diamond Falls has no shortage of fun with a water park on one end of town and movie theatre on the other. The town planners took the name seriously and patterned all of the roads in a diamond shape because they thought it was funny.

The Crystal Cave is tucked into the forest, past the playground near Mr. M’s house on the eastern side of town. You will learn more about the pretty town of Diamond Falls as you read more in the series. Have questions? Post them below!

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The Geology of the Blue John Cavern

BJC Geology Image finalThousands of years ago, the Blue John Cavern was carved by ancient glacial melt waters that flowed through the Castleton, Derbyshire, England area forming the underground cave system. The geology of the area, while somewhat simple, is very interesting.

I posted a blog on the Mini Me Geology website with details on the stratigraphy and formation of the cavern itself.  You can read about the geology of the Blue John Cavern here.

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