All posts by Doug

Growing up in Oklahoma, I began writing screenplays in 1998 and became a 2001 semi-finalist in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. My script Father Figure was one of 129 scripts left from 5,489 entries. I made the switch to writing young adult novels in 2008. My first novel Skid was honored as a young adult semi-finalist in the 2013 Best Kindle Book Awards. In 2014 My Girlfriend Bites was honored in the same category. I'm also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I respect cats, love the mountains, and one time walked the streets of Barcelona with a smile on my face.

Man with the Golden Falcons

The next Gems young adult spy novel is coming out tomorrow and I’m so excited! This will be number four in the series and here’s a sneak peak at the first chapter…

Chapter 1

Emma Rothchild peered through the high-powered binoculars at four armed terrorists guarding the entrance to a small Namibian village with circular huts and thatched roofs. Three out of the four wore some sort of headscarf while the fourth terrorist wore a Yankees baseball cap. Emma didn’t care much for the hat. Not that she didn’t love the Yankees, because she was still a New York City girl at heart. However, that Yankees cap didn’t belong on the head of some dirt-bag who kidnapped young women and assaulted them because they had the nerve to want an education.

“May I see?” Miyuki’s sweet voice asked.

Miyuki Kaiko wore sunglasses as her straight dark hair flapped in the desert wind. Her normally pink-tinted skin had a slight orange burn. The rubber wheels of the Yamaha motorcycle she sat on were half buried in the hot sand.

Emma gave her friend the binoculars, then checked her own face in the dune buggy’s side mirror. Her creamy white skin was baked orange as well. Even with a gallon of sunblock, the desert sun was still brutal on a girl’s skin. At least her blond hair didn’t look too bad, although it was probably dry as heck now.

“If you can distract them, I should be able to race inside for a little mischief,” Miyuki said with a hopeful grin.

Emma shook off her personal appearance and studied her target instead. The terrorist-held village was tucked under a high cliff that overlooked the South Atlantic Ocean. Any ships passing by would easily miss the village. Something the terrorists had obviously thought of when they took over the village and ran off all the people. Emma noted a barbed-wire fence that protected the perimeter of the village.

“I wish there were a ramp on the outside so I could jump the fence like Evel Knievel!” Miyuki said.

“Who?”

“Evel Knievel! He jumped all kinds of things with his motorbike. One time, he jumped over a row of thirty school busses.”

“Why did he do that?”

“Because it’s fun!”

Emma ignored her friend’s enthusiasm and listened to the nerves poking at her stomach. Personally, she wasn’t looking forward to this part of the operation. Driving a dune buggy in the desert wasn’t a problem—there were fewer things to hit out here as opposed to a city street—no, the problem was the creating-a-diversion part. If Emma didn’t get close enough to the terrorists, then her diversion wouldn’t work, and her friends would be trapped inside that village forever. And getting close meant Emma would be close enough to get shot.

But those men wouldn’t shoot a pretty blonde girl in a dune buggy, would they? Not if she acted friendly. Emma found that most guys would loosen up when she smiled at them.

“Are you ready?” Miyuki asked.

Emma took in a deep breath. She reached for the sand goggles hanging around her neck and placed them over her eyes. “No, but let’s do it anyway.”

“Okey dokey. I’ll wait for you.” Miyuki jumped on the starter and the Yamaha roared to life. She put on her helmet and slipped on a face mask with a pipe attached to a slim oxygen tank on the bike.

Emma started the dune buggy and put it in gear. Lately, Nadia had been teaching Emma how to drive a stick, and so far Emma had the basics down. Well, kinda. At least she didn’t stall the car most of the time by letting the clutch out too early. Emma concentrated as she eased her foot off the clutch and squeezed the gas pedal. The engine revved and the transmission engaged…throwing the buggy backward.

“Damn it.”

Emma hit the brakes. Wrong gear.

Miyuki watched her through those scary-looking black goggles, probably wondering why Emma couldn’t get her crap together.

“I got it. Don’t worry,” Emma said as she found first gear and the dune buggy went forward through the sand.

As she cleared the second dune, Emma knew the terrorists at the front gate had now spotted her. She was committed. Emma put her foot to the floor and let the buggy bounce along the sand like a happy dog playing in the snow. When Emma was about five hundred feet away, she turned the wheel and did a few donuts, kicking up sand and letting the wind carry it into the air. She then eased her dune buggy back on course towards the checkpoint.

Emma noticed the men gripping their weapons as they spread out into defensive positions.

At two hundred yards, she waved at them and smiled.

They aimed their weapons at her.

Her heart beat faster than the dune buggy’s pistons. This was a terrible idea. Olivia’s grand plan was about to get her shot. But the actress inside Emma was still in character. She was portraying a fun-loving girl out for a joyride, and that girl wanted the whole world to have fun too. Her character would say, What terrorist camp? That girl only saw some local people standing around a fence, and she wanted to brighten their day.

Emma yanked the wheel hard to the left and did a few more donuts, causing the sand to kick up and surround her dune buggy before she braked to a stop. She allowed the sand in the air to clear before she climbed out of her buggy.

The men had their weapons drawn, but Emma could read their faces from here. They weren’t sure what they were looking at.

Emma slipped off her goggles and waved at them again. “Hi! I didn’t mean to disrupt your large family get-together. I’m only passing through. I’m sure having fun in your desert. My family and I are from Texas—the Lone Star State. Y’all have a lovely country. It’s so sandy.”

Emma felt her character would be from Texas. Maybe her daddy had hit it big in oil and gas a long time ago and invested it in real estate. Anyway, Emma went with that and her thick Texas accent.

The three men with head scarfs all checked with the man in the Yankees hat. That man lowered his rifle.

“You’re American?” he asked in decent English.

“Well, I’m a Texan. But basically, yeah.” Emma rubbed the sand off her legs and readjusted her tank top. The other men were shouldering their weapons. A few cracked some grins. Yes, they were all getting a better look at her. So far they didn’t look too alarmed. “Do you mind if I play around in your large sandbox out here? If I’m disrupting anything, you just let me know, and I’ll go elsewhere.”

The man with the Yankees cap walked toward the buggy. “Come here.”

Emma played stupid. “What’s that, sugar?”

“Come. Let us speak with you.” The man with the Yankees hat was getting closer. His eyes wandered down her legs and stayed a little too long on her tank top.

A shiver went down Emma’s spine. Her body was telling her to run. Her eyes were noticing a pistol strapped to the man’s side as well as the rifle hung over his shoulder. If she let him, he would grab her and drag her into the compound to do God knows what

Emma swallowed her fear. She needed to act. “My daddy warned me about talking to strange men in the middle of the desert.”

The man in the hat gestured for her to approach him.

Emma backed away. “It’s nice for y’all to invite me to lunch, but I have other places to visit, so I’ll just be on my way.” Emma hopped back into the dune buggy. As her hands touched the steering wheel—the muzzle of a pistol pressed against her cheek.

The man with Yankees cap was not smiling now. “You…come with us.”

Emma knew she would mess this all up. Now these men would kidnap her too.

Olivia would be pissed.

A motor revved in the distance.

The man took his attention off Emma as he glanced over at the dunes.

Emma seized the opportunity. She slapped his arm to the side and fell back on the passenger seat while twisting her body towards the threat. Then she used both legs to drill the man in the face with her sneakers.

Emma jumped on the clutch, shoved the stick into first, and feathered the gas pedal, coaxing the dune buggy forward. As the men were breaking out their rifles again, Emma spun the dune buggy in circles, kicking up the sand around her to obscure their vision. She then pointed the dune buggy away from them as she felt around in the back seat and took out a gas mask.

She slipped it over her mouth, turned on the oxygen, then pointed the dune buggy towards the checkpoint. The men were struggling to see through the sand, but they fired anyway. Emma’s windshield exploded.

Emma ducked down and turned the wheel hard to the right, making more circles in the sand. But this time she clicked a switch on the buggy’s dashboard, which unleashed a plume of gas that blew out of a third tailpipe. The wind carried this gas toward the checkpoint, making the men cough and cover their mouths.

Wearing a gas mask over her face, Miyuki raced her motorcycle towards the checkpoint. All four guards were passed out. Miyuki stopped her bike to pull open the large wooden gate.

Emma put the dune buggy in gear and gunned it through the front gate while Miyuki followed her inside the camp.

Buy it now on Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Brainstorming A Gems Novel

Hello from Oklahoma.

I hope you and your family are doing well. Here in my state, some places are beginning to open up from the virus lock down. Normally I’m an optimist but I’ve decided to keep my own self-distancing habits up for a while as well as wearing a mask in public settings. Let’s hope things get back to a “new normal” later this year. Now, let’s switch gears and talk about something fun!

At the beginning of this month, I began brainstorming a new Gems novel. The way I start that process is by asking myself some questions. Which Gems character will this book focus on? What will the book reveal about them that a reader doesn’t already know? I might ask myself where will this new adventure take place? I like picking locations that I’d love to visit one day. This makes researching fun. How about a foot chase along the great wall of China? Or a motorcycle pursuit through the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii?

Hey, that sounds awesome! *writes down idea feverishly in a notebook*

Where was I? Oh yes…

Next, I decide what kind of novel it will be. It could be a standalone adventure with some character development thrown in. Or maybe another Venomous vs. The Authority confrontation. There could also be an interesting story element or subplot that started in another book that I could expand and explore in a new book.

After that, the real brainstorming begins. What’s the Gems mission? What do they have to do? What horrible tasks can I create that will force the main character to do things they don’t want to do? Soon I place these tasks into a three-act structure like you see in the movies. In the first act we find out what the Gems have to do. In the second act they begin their adventure and encounter tasks and obstacles that are in their way. The third act is the fun act. That act will always have some huge mountain to climb in terms of a character’s task. It will be the most dangerous. Most dramatic. And hopefully the most exciting part of the book in terms of bringing all the story and character elements together to make a great ending.

When I’ve brainstormed all those various elements, I now have a road map for the next part of my process–which is the actual chapter-by-chapter outline of the novel itself. But I’ll tell you more about that in another email.

What would you like to see in the next Gems novel? More spy gizmos? More action? More kissing with car chases and explosions? Reply and let me know in the comments below.

Stay safe and all the best,

Doug

Special Shout Out

Winter by Marissa Meyer

I recently finished Winter by Marissa Meyer. What an excellent closing novel to the Lunar chronicles series. This is one of the best young adult science fiction series I’ve ever read. Marissa Meyer does a fantastic job re-imaging bits and pieces of the old fables such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and turning them into an original and exciting space adventure. I highly recommended the entire Lunar Chronicles series.

Thunderdog is Out!

tdThe Gems are back with a new adventure. Here’s the blurb…

Can they save thousands of teens from becoming weapons of mass destruction?

In Japan, sixteen-year-old Miyuki always felt like a square being pounded into a round hole. She turned her back on tradition and earned the fury of her father. The father who burned her with a cigarette and sent her off to live with strangers in a strange land. Now Miyuki is one of the Gems, a group of four talented young ladies who spy for a mysterious world-wide organization known simply as The Authority.

When a new energy drink called Thunderdog causes a rash of violence at their high school, Miyuki and the Gems are sent to Japan to find out why. The visit forces Miyuki to see her father, now a senior executive of the beverage company that produces Thunderdog.

As Miyuki struggles with family, the Gems uncover a dark trail of conspiracy, bigotry, and a diabolical plan that would see most of the great cities of the world burn.

Can Miyuki convince her father to help? Can the Gems stop thousands of teens from becoming weapons of mass destruction?

Thunderdog is the third book in The Gems Young Adult spy thriller series that features genuine characters, heart-racing action, and lots of international intrigue. Think Gallagher Girls meets Totally Spies.

The eBook is at a special price of $2.99 (£1.99) for only the first 7 days of its release. Here’s where you can download your copy…

(Please note: This post contains affiliate links)

Amazon
Amazon UK
Apple
Google Play
Nook
Kobo

Or you can order the paperback at these fine booksellers online…

Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Amazon UK

Have a great August!

All the best,
Doug

Thunderdog Preview

THUNDERDOG_small

The new Gems novel Thunderdog will be out next Tuesday on July 30th! Here’s the complete first chapter…


Miyuki looked too cute to die. Her long black hair was dyed cotton-candy pink, and her face was powdered white with pink lipstick and pink hearts added to her cheeks. She wore pink pants with white polka dots and pink high-top sneakers. Her white T-shirt had the cutest puppy dog with the words LOVE ME printed above.

She stood in a narrow street filled with pedestrians as far as the eye could see. Covered with reds and pinks, each store along this street advertised cakes, candies, and sweets of all types. It projected cuteness to the tenth power.

Miyuki adjusted her pink-rimmed glasses and observed. Some of the pedestrians were “normal” while others wore similar clothing to hers. The Harajuku Province was the absolute center of Japan’s youth and fashion culture, inspiring fashion designers from around the world with its eclectic style. A cute and childish style called Kawaii in Japanese. And here on Takeshita Street was the center of it all.

Miyuki finally spotted her target, a young woman with a Sailor Moon canvas handbag. The woman dressed normal and plain, fitting in with all the other normal and plain people. When the young woman walked by, Miyuki waited until she was farther down the street before tailing her.

Takeshita Street was crowded, but manageable. As Miyuki weaved back and forth among the people, she always presented a pleasant Kawaii smile on her face. When people held up their phones to snap a pic of her outfit, Miyuki waved and blew them each a kiss. But she didn’t stop walking.

When the young woman with the Sailor Moon bag ducked inside a nearby business, Miyuki followed her inside.

It was a small local boutique which had a section of bright Kawaii-style clothes on a row of metal racks, but there was another section full of Western-inspired fashion as well. Glancing at the tags on the clothes, Miyuki could tell they were all done by local Japanese designers. She liked this boutique and would love to hang out and shop, but she was here on business.

Sailor Moon acted nervous. She pretended to shop, but wasn’t doing a good job of selling it. Fidgeting, looking around the store, barely glancing at the clothes her hands were separating. Miyuki could tell she wasn’t a professional.

Sailor Moon then slipped something in the back pocket of a pair of white jeans before hanging up the garment on a different rack to make it stand out. Sailor Moon didn’t linger. She raced out of the business like a scared rabbit.

Miyuki resisted the urge to shake her head in dismay. She stayed in the Kawaii section of the store for a couple of minutes, just to make sure Sailor Moon wasn’t coming back. Then she moved over to the other section. Miyuki picked through some of the jeans, making a face as if they were too boring for a fun Kawaii girl like herself. Then she clapped her hands together as if she “discovered” the white jeans. Miyuki took them off the rack and put them over her own waist, pretending to see how they looked. When she did this, Miyuki slipped her fingers inside the pocket and felt the thumb drive inside. She palmed the drive before making another face, as if she didn’t like the jeans after all. She placed the white jeans back on the rack.

It was all a big production in case anyone was watching.

As Miyuki searched through another rack of clothes, her eyes scanned the business. Since she saw no one paying attention to her, Miyuki took her time moving towards the exit. She was almost through it when a Chinese woman blocked the doorway. On instinct, Miyuki backed away and bowed, letting the older woman come inside.

The Chinese woman sighed like a disgusted horse before moving around Miyuki to enter the boutique.

And that was when it hit her. Miyuki knew that woman.
Her heart pounded. Miyuki knew she should head down the street immediately and not look back. But she couldn’t help herself.

Miyuki turned.

The Chinese woman had reached the white jeans and checked the back pocket. Confused, she checked all the pockets.

Now she was certain. The woman was one of the three Chinese intelligence agents who kidnapped Robert and Nadia on that train in Utah. The woman was always angry and serial-killer crazy.

After she finished searching the white jeans, her eyes went straight to Miyuki, as if the woman could smell another operative in the room. The always angry woman tilted her head, and her stoic facade switched to pure hatred.

Her cover now blown, Miyuki sprinted out of the boutique and weaved through the thick crowd on Takeshita Street. Not hiding the fact that she was running for her life.

Miyuki glanced over her shoulder.

The always angry woman was on her like a police dog, weaving just as fast through the crowd and keeping an excellent pace. The woman concealed something in her right hand.

Miyuki convinced herself it was a weapon.

She had to circle around a group of kids holding hands before Miyuki could look over her shoulder again. Now she could see the knife the woman was holding.

Miyuki gripped her woven handbag tight. It contained the only weapons she had on her. But the always angry woman was only keeping pace with her, not gaining. If Miyuki was lucky, she could lure the woman inside the Harajuku train station bathroom and knock her out. Then Miyuki could jump on the next train to escape.

But that plan fell through the moment a large Polynesian man in a blue suit impeded her path. His name was Kawiki.

He has also been on the train in Utah.

Miyuki swallowed. This made things complicated. Now two Chinese intelligence operatives were closing in on her from opposite ends of the street. Each operative quite capable of killing her. Ducking into one of the local shops could be an option. But Miyuki didn’t like the idea of getting trapped in a corner. She always preferred the freedom to maneuver.

Then what should she do?

Miyuki spotted the white rubber tire of a pink bicycle, its rear end poking out from behind one of the businesses. Most likely it was a little girl’s bike. Hope filled Miyuki’s chest. She headed straight to the business. It was an outdoor candy shop. There was a man behind the counter.

A little girl asked the man something in Japanese. It convinced Miyuki that the man was her father.

Miyuki went up to the counter and gave the man all the money she had.

“What’s this for?” the man asked in Japanese.

“For borrowing your daughter’s bicycle, Aragoto.”

Before the man comprehended what she meant by that, Miyuki grabbed the pink bicycle and hopped on.

When Miyuki looked back up…the always angry woman was ten feet away.

She raised her arm. The knife’s blade gleamed as it left her hand.

Miyuki ducked.

The knife sailed over her head and bit into the wood wall behind her.

The always angry woman lunged for her.

Miyuki stood on the right pedal, rolling the bicycle to her right as she brought up her left leg to kick the woman hard in the stomach. This pushed her out of the way, allowing Miyuki to pedal her way through the open end of the street.

After weaving through some pedestrians and making progress down the street, Miyuki glanced behind her. No one was in pursuit.

Miyuki’s heart slowed down and she allowed herself a grin. It was only a quick chase, but Miyuki quite enjoyed the rush of adrenaline it created. Being a Gem opened up many situations that required heavy amounts of adrenaline. She couldn’t wait to tell Emma and the other girls about her mission.

Miyuki reached the end of Takeshita Street and stopped. Here, there was a busy intersection of passing vehicle traffic. If she biked down this cross street, Miyuki was confident she could find the next train station that would take her back to downtown Tokyo. There, she could deliver the thumb drive.

Miyuki made the turn and merged into the public bike lane. These special lanes were a part of every Japanese road system since bicycles were a popular way to get around the city. Miyuki traveled a little more than two blocks before she heard an engine rev behind her.

She noted a driver was getting too close to the bike lane. At first, Miyuki thought the driver was only careless. But when she peered through the clear windshield, Miyuki noted Volleen Woo behind the right-side steering wheel. His dangerous eyes focused on her like a snake.

Miyuki’s heart raced again and she pedaled as hard as she could. Her bicycle flew down the bike lane as she passed other bikes like they were cardboard cutouts.

Miyuki took a hard left, leaning her body into the turn and allowing her sneaker to scrape across the pavement to create enough friction to turn her bike a little quicker.

As she completed the turn, the squeal of tires echoed behind her as the Mitsubishi SUV whipped around the corner and accelerated towards her.

Other bicyclists complained about the road hog by slapping his side windows as the vehicle moved up the bike lane, causing most of them to veer out of the way.

Miyuki pumped her legs as hard as she could, her butt rising from the seat as she used her leg muscles to squeeze every kilometer of speed out of the bicycle.

It wasn’t enough.

The engine raced behind her. So close that she didn’t dare peek.

Miyuki felt a hard bump that almost made her wipe out.

Another shove from the SUV and her bike wobbled.

The car horn blared. The shrill it made stabbed her eardrums.

Miyuki’s heart was pumping out so much adrenaline she knew she would be high for at least a week.

The excitement.

The fear.

She raced along the narrow ledge between them.

Loving it.

Wanting more and more of it.

But Miyuki knew she would die if she stayed in this bike lane. She veered right, sending her bike straight into oncoming traffic.

There were three lanes of cars going in this direction. Miyuki aimed for the space between the lanes and pumped the pedals as hard as she could. She weaved between the three lanes of traffic as best she could. Luckily, traffic in this part of the city was heavy, so it wasn’t moving fast. Still…one wrong move and Miyuki would crack her head through a windshield.

Left, right, left again. The traffic whipped by.

She was doing well. Defying the odds. Staying alive.

The Mitsubishi raced along the left side of the street. Trying to keep pace with her. Hoping Miyuki would either crash or come to her senses by veering back to the legal flow of traffic. But the Chinese didn’t know her very well.

Miyuki kept weaving through oncoming traffic. Determined to make this work. Getting addicted to the rush of danger. Getting used to the idea of not dying.

As she approached a side street, the Mitsubishi was to her left. A clear lane to her right.

Miyuki gambled. She made a hard right at the side street, leaning her body into the forty-five-degree turn and leaving the Mitsubishi behind as it sailed through the intersection going in the wrong direction. Volleen Woo would have to do a quick U-turn, move through traffic, then take a left at the intersection against traffic to resume the chase.

Miyuki had bought herself some—

The other car came out of nowhere. Miyuki barely had time to register its existence before the Toyota pulled out in front of her and she felt herself flying over the hood like a bird. Miyuki didn’t think about it, but her gymnastics training kicked in automatically as she tumbled forward into a roll, letting herself tumble over and over to dissipate the forward momentum before her body came to a complete stop.

Miyuki stared at the sky. Yes, she was still alive.

Her hands stung, most likely due to her palms rubbing against the pavement. But otherwise, she was good. Miyuki slowly got to her feet. The pink bike lay on the ground with its front end crushed. It had taken most of the impact while Miyuki sailed over the hood. The driver was out of his vehicle. He looked surprised, as if amazed that this teenage girl wasn’t dead.

Miyuki heard more squealing tires. It was the Mitsubishi clearing the intersection and racing towards the accident.

Miyuki needed to run. She took a step forward and almost fell on her face. Her knees ached. They weren’t broken, but hitting the pavement still made them stiff and sore.

The Mitsubishi slid to a stop. Volleen Woo, the always angry woman, and Kawiki got out of the car.

Miyuki hobbled away, getting about three steps before Kawiki restrained her. She was so exhausted after her bicycle-chase workout that there was no way Miyuki could fight back right now.

The always angry woman glared at her. “Bitch,” she said in Mandarin Chinese before slapping Miyuki across the face. All Miyuki could do was hold her chin up in defiance. The woman raised her hand again.

But Volleen Woo stopped her. “Focus on the task, shall we?” he said in Mandarin.

The always angry woman restrained herself.

“Hello there,” Volleen Woo said in English. “Ruby, isn’t it? You’re a long way from Utah, aren’t you?”

Miyuki didn’t answer.

“Do you remember us? Well, we certainly remember you.”

“You threw us off a train,” the giant Polynesian man said in English, as if the girl had hurt his feelings.

“Where are your friends? Should we be expecting them to come save you?”

Miyuki said nothing.

“Give us the thumb drive and we’ll be on our way.”

“What thumb drive?”

The always angry woman slapped Miyuki again.

Volleen Woo sighed. “I bore of such repetitive games. It’s a ridiculous waste of time. We know you have it, but fine. We’ll go through the motions if you wish.” He addressed Kawiki. “Give the young lady a full body search and don’t be a gentleman about it.”