Dale has been writing mysteries and adventure stories since fifth grade. His teacher required students to write at least one page every day. He began to write serial adventures so that he didn't have to come up with a new idea each day. He was inspired to write The Camp Soaring Eagle Mysteries and The Camp Mountain Top Mysteries when his son, Shaun, and his daughter, Kaitlyn, first went to overnight summer camps. Since Katie and Shaun would not be home for their nightly bedtime stories, he wrote them each a daily episode and mailed it to them. The stories became so popular that Katie and Shaun’s cabin leaders read them out loud for story time each night.
Along with writing stories, Dale loves practical jokes (as you'll see in his stories), reading Clive Cussler, Sherlock Holmes, and Jane Austen, listening to early jazz and blues, and drinking coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. He holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and has been involved in children and youth ministries for over 20 years. Dale also enjoys speaking at children’s retreats and church ministry conferences. He and his wife Deborah have been married for over 30 years. They live in Abington, Pennsylvania with a very noisy parrot named Sunset and a four-pound red poodle named Zoey.
ABOUT THE SERIES
An Accidental Mystery at Camp Soaring Eagle is the first book in the Camp Soaring Eagle Mystery series. Join the campers in Seneca in the future for more mystery and adventure in The Mystery of the Secret Vault, The Mystery of the Renegade Rocket, A Baffling Case of Batteries, The Search for Missing Gold, and Terror on the River.
If you like The Camp Soaring Eagle Mysteries, join Shaun and Mack’s sisters, Katie and Molly, for more summer camp adventure in The Mystery of the Disappearing Moonlight, the first book in The Camp Mountain Top Mysteries coming Spring of 2017.
ABOUT THE CAMPERS
Shaun McWarren is a thirteen-year-old with laser- blue eyes and a ready smile. His chocolate bar brown hair generally looks similar to his unmade bed. Thoughtful, with an almost limitless knowledge of science, nature, and technology, Shaun’s quick sense of humor sometimes surprises people that think of him as just a brainiac. His passions are science and tinkering with things; he can assemble rockets, remote control cars, and robots while his friends are still reading the directions. Shaun loves pizza with bacon and extra cheese (frequently “borrowed” from Mack’s slice), chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, and exploring. Shaun likes clothing that has a gazillion small pockets for storing stuff he might need (like rubber bands for turning spoons into catapults or pens to make precision guided pea shooters). Though not an athlete, he loves outdoor activities like canoeing, rock climbing, and swimming. His flashlight collection is the stuff of legends. He loves reading science and mystery books but has never encountered a real life mystery until An Accidental Mystery at Camp Soaring Eagle.
Mack Daniello, Shaun’s thirteen-year-old best friend, has light gray eyes and dark hair brushed into a fauxhawk. He is normally carefully groomed and likes to wear a single, solid color for both shorts and shirt each day. His favorite color is dark green. He loves sports, especially soccer, basketball and football, and outdoor activities of all kinds. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports facts and trivia. He is one of Seneca’s greatest athletes and is crucial to their winning the weekly competition between the cabins. He also loves computer games and exotic cars. Mack plays drums and will play for worship times at camp, if needed, but he dislikes being the center of attention. He has a great sense of humor and enjoys a good laugh or practical joke. Mack values friendships and would do almost anything for his friends. He likes eating pizza, but only after pulling all the cheese off, and drinking warm soda (a habit he acquired as a missionary kid in the Philippines). He loves God, but has struggled with his faith, since his father was nearly killed in a savage attack by armed intruders while they were missionaries. He wants to trust God, and believe God really cares about him, but after what happened to his dad, can God be trusted?
Riley Muller, an easy-going, friendly thirteen-year-old, is always ready for a good laugh or practical joke. He is ready and willing to do almost anything to have a good time. His dark brown hair generally tumbles down his forehead in a random, haphazard manner that reflects his general attitude toward life. He often has to be reminded to clean his glasses so he can see better, and sometimes accidentally puts them on when he’s already wearing his contact lenses. Riley is always very social, but gullible, with a distinct flair for the overly dramatic. He’s quick to believe what he is told and then wildly exaggerates it when he tells someone else. Whatever real dangers his friends face, they can count on Riley to let his imagination blow them up util he scares himself, and occasionally them. He can usually be found chomping on power bars and downing bug juice like it was necessary for his very survival. The blue bug juice sometimes gets him into trouble. He is, however, a dependable friend who can always be counted on when the campers in a tight spot.
Trey Jackson, or T.J., as his friends know him, is an African-American, with a God-given ability to excel at any sport. He is taller than Shaun or Mack, with bright hazel eyes. TJ plays soccer, basketball, and baseball at school and would like to try out for track and field if he could fit it into his schedule. More disciplined than the other boys, he sometimes gets up before revelry to exercise or jog. While he likes junk food, he pays attention to what he puts in his body.T.J. has been known to scarf down a hot dog or two around the bonfire, “just to keep up my strength.” He likes to wear lightweight sports clothes that don’t interfere with his physical movement. T.J. has five separate types of shoes, boots and sneakers at camp just to be sure he has “the right footwear for every activity.” T.J. became a Christian at an early age and is as serious about his faith as he is about his sports. He loves having a good laugh and is looking forward to kicking back and having fun at camp.
Su Li Hardy
Su Li Hardy is the adopted Chinese daughter of the camp director. She loves drawing and soccer. Her snarky sense of humor often surprises the guys from Seneca. She reads lots of mysteries and is amused by the boys’ initial attempt to solve some of the mysteries at camp. When Su Li realizes that Camp Soaring Eagle is in real danger, however, she teams up with the boys, providing them with vital help. Her observations and technical assistance prove essential. They learn right away that they have to be nice to her and treat her as an equal, or she’ll keep her assistance to herself.
ABOUT THE CAMP
Camp Soaring Eagle sits on 200 acres in the beautiful foothills of the Pocono mountains almost halfway between Philadelphia and New York City. The cabin area, designed like a stockade, reflects the history of the property which was a military stockade 150 years ago. Much of the land around it is still undeveloped...until now. A natural gas pipeline runs across the northeast corner of the camp. Shaun, Mack, Riley and T.J. love coming to Camp Soaring Eagle each year. They can't imagine spending their summers anywhere else.
The names of five famous fictional detectives are embedded in An Accidental Mystery at Camp Soaring Eagle. Can you find all five? Any good detective needs clues. Here are some to help you discover the hidden detectives identities. You don't have to open them all at once. Pace yourself. Discuss the clues with friends and family if you wish, but I challenge you to solve this mystery without using the internet. Challenge accepted? Here are the clues. The answers are at the end.
Some of the detectives are from books, some from movies, some from TV, some from graphic novels, and some from all four.
One of the detectives has an unusual speciality.
Two of the detectives know each other quite well.
One of the detectives appears in two different TV shows at the same time.
How well do you know parts of speech? Do you know what a synonym is?
Some of the detectives have been in almost 500 books and graphic novels, and new ones are still being released every year.
You have to read carefully if you want to unmask this detective. You may have encountered the actor who portrayed him in a number of different roles.
If there was a Fraternal Order of Detectives only two of our hidden sleuths could join.
You might think one of our detectives was tracking an exotic, unusually colored, wild animal, but s/he is really tracking one of the hardest things on earth.
Many names have specific meanings. My name, Dale, means “lives in the valley”. What does your name mean? Hmm… I wonder if the meaning of any of the names in the story would be a clue?
Listen carefully. You probably need to read the book out loud to discover the identity of one of the detectives.
¿Do you know any foreign languages? It might help you find one of the detectives.
The author who wrote about some of the detectives would really scare Riley...because s/he doesn't exist.
Think you've found all five detectives? Give up? Ready for answers?
Are you sure you want to see the answers?
The answers to the Bonus Mystery are temporarily unavialble from May 1st through 31st for the Goodreads Mystery Challenge available here.
I hope you enjoy An Accidental Mystery at Camp Soaring Eagle. Have a fun time reading it and trying to solve the mystery embedded in the story. My hope is also to challenge you in your faith. Here are some questions from different situations Shaun and the campers in Seneca face in the book. They are intended to help you grow deeper in your understanding of, and your relationship with, God. Below are some Bible verses to check out but there are many others you should consider. So grab your spiritual scuba gear and Go Deep!
Mr. McWarren states that the love of money can lead to all kinds of trouble. What do you think he means by that? Does that mean it's bad to be rich? Have you ever wanted something so badly, like a game system, a pet, a bike, or something else really, really special that you did, or were tempted to do, something you shouldn’t just to get it? Check out Ecclesiastes 5:10 and I Timothy 6:10.
Jerry and the campers in Mohawk hassle Shaun and the guys in Seneca the very first night. Is it okay to trash talk someone “just for fun”? How do you tell the difference between a friendly verbal jab and being mean? Shaun responds by reminding them that it’s just the first day and there is still plenty of time left for Seneca to win. Do you think that was a good response? How would you have responded? Check out Proverbs 15:1-2, James 3:2, and Matthew 12:34b-36.
T.J. says he wants to ride the better horses, the “ones with attitude.” The other campers can ride the ordinary horses. Is that “attitude” okay? Is it wrong for him to want to ride the better horses? Is his attitude toward letting the other campers have the ordinary horses a problem? Check out Philippians 2:3-9.
Riley is reminded of a bad dream that he believes the other guys have dreamed as well. Shaun has to tell him that they don’t have that dream, they only told him they did to make him feel better. It’s good to try to help our friends feel better, but is it okay to tell them something that isn’t true? Does wanting to help someone make telling “a little white lie” okay? Why or why not? If you think that it is not okay, what could Shaun have done instead to help Riley feel better? Check out Ephesians 4:15.
How should being a Christian affect how you play sports? Does it make a difference? How should you respond when others cheat and get away with it? If they cheat, is it okay for you to cheat? If the coaches or referee’s say “it’s okay,” is it okay? José suggests the guys leave it to God to sort out. Is God interested in other kids cheating in our sporting events? Or is he tied up with bigger issues? Could you leave it to God to sort out? Would that be easy or hard? Why? Check out Ephesians 5:1-2 and Romans 12:21.
After Mohawk cheats and wins a soccer game, Mack is fuming mad. He’s still upset later that night at cabin time when he accuses Mohawk of stealing snappers. Should Mack have forgiven Mohawk for cheating even if they haven’t asked to be forgiven? Or should we only forgive if someones asks us? Does forgiveness happen immediately, or does it sometimes take time to really forgive someone, especially if they don’t ask to be forgiven? Are there things we can do to help us forgive someone. (Hint: Does José’s suggestion to leave it to God to sort out help us forgive someone?) Check out Ephesians 4:32 and 2 Corinthians 2:5-8.
When the diving board breaks away from its supports, Mack is able to use surfing skills he learned when his parents were missionaries in the Philippines. God sometimes prepares us for some future experience long before we know we will need it. Moses lived in the desert for 40 years before he had to lead the Israelites through the desert. David learned skills as a shepherd that he would need living as a fugitive when King Saul was pursuing him. Can you think of some way in which God used some experience in your life to get you ready for something later in your life? You might want to talk to your parents or grandparents to see if God has ever prepared them for some future event before they ever knew they would need it.
T.J. wonders how Mohawk can behave the way they do when they’re supposed to be Christians. Shaun reminds him that being a Christian is different from “supposed to be a Christian”. What’s the difference? Do you know anyone who is supposed to be a Christian, but doesn’t act like one? Does being a Christian mean you have to be perfect and do the right thing all the time? Check out Colossians 1:10 and Galatians 5:22-23, and 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
The campers in Seneca aren’t expecting to encounter anyone when they sit down to think in the middle of the woods. In the last chapter we looked at how God sometimes takes us through experiences to get us ready for something we are going to face later in our lives. God also sometimes puts people in our lives to help us when we don’t really expect it. Has God every put someone in your life who really helped you out or encouraged you in some way even when you weren’t expecting it? Check out 1 Kings 17:1-10, Esther 3-4, and Matthew 3:1-4.
When Mohawk cheats and lies and continues hold on to first place, Shaun wonders if it really matters to God if we do what’s right. Mack wonders if they really matter to God. Have you ever wondered if you should do the right thing when no one around you is? Is God even paying attention? Maybe you’ve been where Mack is and wondered if you really matter to God. Why would God let kids who are cheating and lying succeed? It doesn’t seem right does it? What should you do when that happens to you? Check out Ezekiel 13:8-9, Psalm 23, Psalm 91, and Ephesians 5:8-15.
Shaun doesn’t believe Mr. Sleezak is being truthful when he says the construction company was planning to throw the campers an ice cream party. What should you do if you think someone isn’t telling the truth? Should you call them out on it? Accuse them of lying? Pray for them? Wait and hope they tell the truth? What would you do? Check out Proverbs 12:22 and
At campfire devotions, Greg shares something from the Old Testament the campers can hardly believe. God tells Habakkuk that he is going to take the Babylonians, the evil empire of Habakkuk’s day, and use them to teach Israel a lesson they need to learn. Does God use evil people to bring about good today? Can you think of some evil group currently that, no matter how hard it is to believe, God may be using to bring about his good? Is it hard when you hear about them to see God at work? Why do you think God does that? How would you explain that to a friend who doesn’t necessarily believe in God? Check out Genesis 50:15-20.
Jerry and the crew from Mohawk claim it is only fair that they be given the points when the canoe race is sabotaged because they were in the lead when the race was called off. Jeff points out that they other campers didn’t do anything to sink their canoes, so staff will discuss what to do about awarding the points. What do you think? Should Mohawk get the points? Is that fair when some of the other campers couldn’t finish the race? Have you ever been in a situation when it was difficult to decide what was fair? What did you do? Is God concerned with fairness? Check out Habakkuk 1:3-4 and Micah 6:8.
Have you ever been confused by what God was doing in your life? How did you respond? Did you get frustrated? Mad? Upset? Did you wonder if God was really paying attention at all or if things were just random? Greg told the campers that sometimes you have to sit tight and see what God is going to do. How do you wait for God when you really want him to do something now? Check out Proverbs 19:11 and Psalm 73.
The campers from Seneca hide a walkie-talkie at the construction trailer. Should they have done that or should they have trusted God to expose whoever was responsible for the accidents? How do you know when to wait for God to do something and when God may be waiting for you to do something? Is it ever okay to do something that isn’t right to expose a greater evil? Check out Psalm 27 and Zephaniah 3: 8-9.
When the guys miss getting the evidence they need to prove who is behind the accidents at camp, Shaun wonders where God is when you really need him. And what good is God being all-powerful if he doesn’t use that power to help you when you need it? Have you ever wondered that? Have you ever been in a tight spot and wondered why God didn’t help you out? Does that make it difficult to feel like you can depend on God? Check out Daniel 3 and Daniel 6.
Clearly, the boys shouldn’t have been snooping around inside the construction trailer. Did they just get what they deserved when they got trapped inside? When you do something wrong, do you always get caught, or do you sometimes get away with it? If you do did get away with it sometimes, does that mean God doesn’t really care about you doing something wrong? Is he just giving you a break? Or does he sometimes give you time to realize that what you’ve done is wrong so you can change your behavior? When God is patient with you, does that mean your sin isn’t really that bad?
Check out Jonah 3:10-4:1-2, Psalm 51:1-12, Luke 15:17-21, and Romans 2:3-4.
Shaun doesn’t see the point in praying. He feels like God has been a no-show all week at camp so why “waste time” praying. He feels like they need to save the camp. Have you ever felt like you needed to solve a problem because God didn’t seem to be helping you out? Did that make things better or worse? How do you think God feels when we act like we can handle things better than he can? Check out 1 Samuel 13:8-14 and Matthew 26:47-54.
In the end, everything turned out just the way the campers in Seneca hoped they would. Do events always work out the way you hope? When they don’t, do you feel disappointed? Sad? Let down by God? What can you learn from these situations? Can you trust that God is still in your corner, even when things don’t work out? Genesis 37:1-28 and Habakkuk 3:17-19.
At the final devotions for the week, Shaun felt a nudge from the voice inside that he knew was God’s telling him to share what he had learned that week. Have you ever felt that God was nudging you to do or say something? Was it scary? Did you listen to that voice? If you did, what happened? If you didn’t, how did you feel afterwards? What did you learn from that experience? 1 Samuel 3:1-11,
1 Kings 19:9-13, and Acts 9:1-7.
There are a lot of other Bible verses that talk about these issues. You may want to go online and check some of them out yourself. Or you could hang out with an older sibling, your parents or a church leader and discuss these issues with them. God loves it when we seek to Go Deep into his word.
Is Camp Soaring Eagle a Real Camp?
The Camp Soaring Eagle in my books is not a real place. It is inspired by my son’s adventures at his summer camp, but I have made many changes for the sake of the stories. He always had an amazing time at his camp and some of his experiences provided the ideas for some of the weird adventures that happen to the crew at Camp Soaring Eagle.
Are the campers in An Accidental Mystery at Camp Soaring Eagle real people?
No. The characters in the book are not real people. I have borrowed character traits from my kids, their friends, and from the kids I have worked with in 20 years of children’s ministries at my church to put together the campers at Soaring Eagle. I have also included many quirky traits that make the story fun and the characters kids you would want to hang out with at camp.
Is it hard to write mystery stories?
I guess for some writers it might be. (Which is probably why they don’t write mysteries). I have read and loved mysteries since I was a kid. Today, in my non-writing life as a clinical psychologist, I help people figure out why life is not working for them in a healthy way. I have spent most of my adult life helping people unravel their own real life mysteries. It was my love of solving mysteries that led me to become a psychologist. And it is years of helping people solve their real life mysteries that has led to my becoming a mystery writer.
How do you write a great mystery?
Well, first, thanks for thinking I write great mysteries. Second, you need to have a basic idea of the story you want to tell and the moral point of the story. There has to be something important to your characters that is in danger or something very odd and unexpected happens that they cannot ignore. Next, you create your characters, some good guys, some bad guys and some where you aren’t sure if they are good or bad. Occasionally the good guys turn out to not be so good and the bad guys turn out not to be so bad. Then you put all kinds of obstacles in the hero’s way. (That’s the main person trying to solve the mystery, your English teacher calls this person the protagonist). These obstacles keep the hero from solving the mystery. Every time you think the hero is about to succeed, he or she encounters another obstacle and then another. Just when you think it’s totally hopeless and they’re a goner for sure, he or she comes across a vital clue or piece of evidence that enables them to solve the mystery.
Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
Great question. For the Camp Soaring Eagle Mysteries I started with thinking about things that were important to my son. Like going to summer camp, remote-controlled cars, building working model rockets, rock climbing and camping out. Some of the stories, like The Mystery of the Secret Vault, are loosely based on some real life experience that I have had or about which I have heard. Then I do something a lot of writers do, and ask myself a series of “What If” questions. What if something was different when my story’s hero went to camp this time? What if there were some unexpected accidents? What if the accidents threatened to close the camp? What if no one knows who is behind all the accidents? What if one of the core characters almost gets hurt? What if the accidents keep getting worse? What if camp is going to close in a few days if the core group of characters can’t solve the mystery. And what if, because they are at summer camp, they aren’t allowed to have any of the technology on which they usually depend. Get the idea? Then you just keep thinking of all kinds of accidents that could happen at a summer camp and all kinds of ways the hero’s efforts to solve the mystery get blocked. And roughly 40,000 words, lots of late nights, tons of time spent with critique groups, and endless numbers of rewrites later you have a book.