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Shirley Link & The Ghost of Christmas Presents

Shirley Link & The Ghost of Christmas Presents

518wVjyq4TLI miss Shirley! I’ve been working so hard on The Camelot Kids that she’s had to have some adventure all on her own. I’ll get back to her soon in a book titled Shirley Link & The Party Poopers, but until then you can snag a short story! Shirley Link & The Ghost of Christmas Presents is in the Book Elves Anthology: Volume 1 along with some of my favorite Middle Grade authors.

Here’s an excerpt. Then head to Amazon and order the Kindle version or the softcover!

Shirley Link & The Ghost of Christmas Presents

It’s not easy for me to enjoy the holidays.

Halloween was fun for awhile. Until I got my first stomach ache from one too many Resses Peanut Butter Cups.

I guess Thanksgiving has its moments. But you know what? I just don’t like the taste of turkey.

I especially have a hard time with my birthday. Yes, I know it’s not a holiday, exactly, but you wouldn’t know that from the way my parents act. When I’m 21 they’ll probably still look at me like I’m a four year old, with their heads bent a little bit to one side and a proud grin on their faces.

But one holiday is okay. Somehow, it promises a hopeful morning, an afternoon packed with joy, and an evening of peace.


My family does volunteer work every Christmas day. We’ll help out the Northeast Food System Partnership or the Organic Trade Association in Greenfield. I think my soft spot for Christmas comes from the year my family volunteered at Trinity Church in Shelburne Falls. They give out toys and a fantastic Christmas lunch to families less fortunate than mine.

So that morning a couple of years ago, the whole Link family piled into the car after a humongous breakfast. We slid our way through the icy town until we got to the church. The parking lot was pretty full.

I arrived a little sleepy. Seven pounds of pancakes will do that to a person. Also, I hadn’t enjoyed a good nights sleep. My good friend Wylie had called me up on Christmas Eve and talked non-stop about the new Marvel Avengers video game he was hoping to get for Christmas. Somewhere around his description of Starlord’s powers I fell asleep. When I woke up who-knows-how-much-later he was still talking.

So as Mom, Dad and I got out of the car I wasn’t at the top of my game. It was Christmas! Who knew I’d have to take on my newest case as an amateur detective?

Shirley Link & The Treasure Chest is #1 on Amazon! Thank you!

Shirley Link & The Treasure Chest is #1 on Amazon! Thank you!

Shirley Link & The Treasure Chest by Ben Zackheim

I wanted to post a quick thank you for your support in making Shirley Link & The Treasure Chest the #1 free Kids Mystery book on Amazon! The book is highly rated with 13 reviews and 4.8 stars, so I’m sure that helped my current promotion go well. But I also have you to thank for spreading the word about my favorite detective!

If you haven’t tried Shirley yet, give her a read. The Treasure Chest is free for the rest of the day, and The Safe Case is free forever.

My favorite image of the day ;-)

Shirley Link is #1


Though I like this one too…

Shirley Link is #26

#26 overall in Kids ebooks! Nice.

Thanks again, folks.


Shirley Link & The Black Cat is a buck for 24 hours

Shirley Link & The Black Cat is a buck for 24 hours

Shirley Link & The Black Cat

If you haven’t picked up the latest Shirley Link book, Shirley Link & The Black Cat, then now’s a good time. The Kindle ebook is a buck, today only.

I’m trying out the new Amazon Countdown Deal thingy. It lets me put a book on sale for a limited amount of time. I’ll be sure to post about my experience when all’s said and done.


buy now

Want to know more about the fourth volume of the Shirley Link series (for middle school readers)?

Shirley Link, girl detective, is back in the critically-acclaimed Middle Grade mystery series! And this time, there’s a black cat involved…uh-oh…

In her fourth adventure, Shirley Link takes a walk on the dark side of her hometown. When a young man, known for making trouble, is targeted as suspect #1 in a string of robberies, Shirley works hard to find the truth.

But even if the young detective proves his innocence, can she save him from himself?

Join Shirley on her most daring case yet!

Emily Neuburger, Everyday Fun blog,

“Shirley Link is a new girl detective series that my daughter is crazy about. This is an amazing series, my friends! Your kids will be hooked and you’ll feel really good about it.”

Edward Hemingway, Author/Illustrator, Bad Apple

“This Veronica Mars for the tween-set is funny, smart, and full of preternatural wisdom.”

PopBop (Top 1000 Amazon reviewer)

“There are early middle grade mysteries out there, but most of them have sketchy characters, and a lot of them plod along fairly predictable arcs. This series has an engaging heroine, a lot of attitude, and a much snappier overall feel.”

A great middle school read for girls and boys from 8-12 years of age (and their parents, of course)!

Creating a book cover: Shirley Link & The Black Cat sketches by Robin Hoffman

Creating a book cover: Shirley Link & The Black Cat sketches by Robin Hoffman

Shirley Link The Black Cat




Creating a book cover is a bit like mixing potions. There are definitely tried-and-true characteristics of a good cover, but there are also a thousand different types of covers that look great.

And, of course, a million ways to create a book cover that looks awful.

How does Robin Hoffman manage to make such great covers for the Shirley link series? It starts with her love of the character, which has been clear since she read the first draft of the first book in the middle school reading series, Shirley Link & The Safe Case. But, really, it all comes from her working her butt off!

Here’s a peek into the process she goes through every single time a new Shirley cover is needed. Creating a book cover ain’t easy. But it sure is fun to watch happen. Step-by-step.

Click on the images to see ’em get blown up!




Shirley Link & The Black Cat: A growing up story

Shirley Link & The Black Cat: A growing up story

(4) Shirley Link The Black CatOur hometowns leave an impression. They help us define ourselves, for good or ill. My hometown of Santa Fe, NM was like a faceless fifth member of the family. I alternated between hating it and loving it, like a sibling who read my diary and then gave me a thoughtful birthday present. Its alternate routes, and hidden alleys and beautiful views and eccentric homeless citizens made for an adventurous childhood.

It was a good place to grow up and a horrible place to grow up. It had awful schools, which I miraculously avoided one way or another, and an intense friction between the Latino, White and Native American populations. It also had the richest cultural life in America, with a fascinating history and artists in every other house. Its winters were cold and snowy. Its summers were hot and dry. Its springs were rainy, the air filled with the smell of oncoming storms. There was a silence that spoke to you. There was poverty that could take your breath away.

It’s incredible that we all see these elements in our hometown. Maybe you grew up somewhere that was the exact opposite from where I did. A rural town maybe. Or a big city. But I bet you had the same extremes, and I bet they helped define you and how you see the world around you.

I was lucky. I ended up loving my hometown. I still yearn for it and all it promises. I see where it falls short, and I still love it. But so many people I know can’t stand where they came from. They’re out and they’re never going back. I wanted to explore that dynamic in a Shirley Link book to better understand it. I also wanted to tell a story, a hopeful one, to kids who are struggling with where they are.

In Shirley Link & The Black Cat, a young man, 17, and his girlfriend, also 17, are the prime suspects in a string of robberies. There’s very little evidence, if any, that they did anything wrong. But that doesn’t stop everyone, even Shirley for awhile, from jumping to conclusions. I tapped into a deep sadness as I wrote about them. They were flawed — mean, odd, petty. But they were that way for a reason. They’d constructed incredibly complex and effective weapons against their community, which, for whatever reason, decided they were outcasts. And they found each other so they could have something in their lives that wasn’t mean, odd or petty.

As I wrote this growing up story I rooted like hell for them. I didn’t know what would happen. It wasn’t mapped out. In the end, I depended less on my need for a happy ending than I did on my ever-developing sense of what we need from our youth. We need support and understanding. We need company. We need community. Either our family, school and hometown provides these things or they don’t. And if they don’t? My conclusion is that we still gravitate toward what will make us feel kind, loved and understood.

It made for the most realistic adventure in my middle school reader series. There are no pirates, or magic safes, or valuable comic books. Just two teens caught in a mess. And a fourteen year old amateur sleuth who wants to help, and who grows up a little bit in front of our eyes.

by Ben Zackheim