I have a new book out! Tomorrow Always Lies is the second book in the Gems young adult spy thriller series that features strong characters, girl-power bonding, riveting action, and lots of fun. Here’s a little bit about what the book is about plus I’ll give you a peek at the first chapter too!
What if you met the perfect boy, but discovered he was an android? Sixteen-year-old Nadia has an MIT scholarship waiting for her after high school. That’s why a mysterious organization know as The Authority recruited her to become a spy. The girl from Saudi Arabia now lives with three other talented girls known as the Gems. They go on dangerous missions all over the world. But first, they must do their homework.
When Nadia first met him, Robert was an awkward boy with striking green eyes, hardly someone on the FBI’s most wanted list. But when Robert reveals his secret, Nadia and the Gems are thrown into a cross-country chase dodging FBI agents, Russian mercenaries, and a Polynesian giant named Kawiki.
As the world’s intelligence agencies close in on the Gems, Nadia is forced to choose between her warming feelings for Robert and the oath she swore to her friends and the Authority.
Can Nadia and the Gems find sanctuary for Robert or will his self-aware mind be deleted forever?
Here’s a sample of the first chapter:
Across the frozen lake, an eight-dog sled team pushed ahead at a relentless pace, their soft fur wet from the blowing snow, which pricked Nadia’s exposed skin and blinded her view ahead. Her hands tightened on the reins. The arm clinging around her torso also tightened, a reminder that she wasn’t alone. Emma clung to her because it was ten degrees below zero and because her friend was scared, just like she was.
Nadia glanced over her shoulder. The icy wind had freed Emma’s long hair from under the hood of her parka. It flew around like a giant blond flag.
Nadia craned her neck. The snowmobile was still chasing them. The driver revved his engine, desperate to overtake the sled. The second man behind the driver held something in his left hand. As he aimed it, the pistol gleamed in the Alaskan sunlight.
Nadia and Emma ducked as a bullet pinged against the side of the sled. She pulled the reins and made the dogs veer to the right. That way the left-handed shooter would have a more difficult time trying to aim while still behind his friend.
“How far out is Olivia?” Nadia asked.
Emma squeezed closer while taking a deep breath to calm herself. She took out the portable radio and squeezed the button.
“Hello? Olivia? This is Emma. Where are you? We need—”
Another gunshot bounced off the sled, causing both girls to jump.
“We need help! How far out are you?” Emma asked.
The radio crackled to life. “During a mission, we use our code names, you twit!” the girl’s voice said in a sharp British accent. “Emerald is ten minutes inbound. What’s your situation, Black Opal?”
“Our situation? Um—not good. Super-stressed right now. Being chased and shot at.” Emma peeked over Nadia’s shoulder. “And our poor dogs are getting tired.”
“Roger. Any contact with Ruby? Over.” Olivia asked.
“Nope. We haven’t seen her for, like, an hour. I hope she’s okay.”
“Roger. Keep your heads down. I’m coming as soon as I can. Emerald out.”
Emma touched Nadia’s shoulder. “What do you think?”
“We can’t keep up this pace for ten minutes,” Nadia said.
Emma pointed at the dogs. “They look so tired. I wish we could stop and let them rest.”
“I know. But if we stop, I’m afraid we’ll die.”
“Please don’t say die.”
“Do you have any cosmetics left?” Nadia had left her purse behind.
“Why, do you need some lip balm? My lips are cracking too.”
Nadia forgot that Emma was still new to this. She waited for her friend to catch up.
“Oh. You mean those cosmetics. Yes, I have some Red-hot lipstick. Raise the Roof rouge. Forest Fire mascara.”
“That’s good. If they catch up, we might have to use them.”
“What’s that over there?” Emma pointed to where the frozen lake met the shore. Two big snow tractors plowed through the snow at full speed. Each tractor was filled with more men, who didn’t look too friendly. The tractors drove onto the ice.
“Those snowmobile goons have friends,” Emma said.
Nadia pulled at the reins and guided the tired dogs away from the tractors.
Now the snowmobile and the tractors were closing in.
Nadia whistled and snapped the reins to encourage the dogs to go faster.
“Don’t push them so hard,” Emma said.
“I’m sorry, but do we have a choice?”
The dogs ran hard, their tongues hanging out as they huffed and puffed. There wasn’t much more they could do.
Until they came across a giant hole in the ice.
Nadia pulled back on the reins. “Whoa! Whoa!”
Luckily for Nadia, the dogs saw it first, kicking their legs as they tried to stop themselves on the ice. But the sled’s momentum still pushed them all forward towards the giant hole.
Nadia grabbed the handle and pulled the sled’s brakes, which dug into the ice. Metal scraped against ice, creating a spine-tingling squeal before the sled came to a stop.
“Great. What do we do now?” Emma asked.
The opening was at least one hundred meters across. Nadia reasoned that running around the edge of the hole would give the tractors enough time to catch them.
“Should we try to swim across?” Nadia asked.
“No way. We’d freeze to death.”
Emma was right. There was no choice.
“Do we surrender?” Nadia asked.
Judging by her face, Emma didn’t like that idea either.
The girls turned to watch the two tractors closing in on them. When they reached within forty meters of the girls, the tractors stopped, allowing four goons from each tractor to climb out. The hard-looking men smiled at each other with a strange, wicked glee. They knew they had these girls trapped. The two on the snowmobile also arrived on the scene.
All ten men closed on the two girls.
“I don’t like this at all,” Emma said. “Will they let us surrender?”
“Maybe we should hope they kill us,” Nadia said.
Emma gave Nadia a haunted look, realizing her point. Ten grown men. Two young girls. A remote part of Alaska.
No one would hear them scream.
Nadia’s thoughts were interrupted by a snowmobile revving its engine as it burst from the trees at full speed. A girl with long black hair was at the controls. She streaked across the ice and cut in front of the men. The girl dropped a small object on the ground.
As the snowmobile cleared the men, the object flashed and went off with a loud bang. The sound punched the ice, causing it to shatter under the men’s feet, dropping them all into the icy water.
The snowmobile headed for the dogsled and slid to a stop.
“Who wants a ride?” the girl with long black hair asked. Her light skin with cool pink undertones appeared much paler thanks to the weather. But Miyuki’s shiny personality still shone through.
“So happy to see you.” Nadia hopped out of the sled and climbed on the back of the snowmobile.
But Emma didn’t move. “We can’t leave these dogs behind.”
The tired animals waited for the girls to tell them what to do next.
“There’s no room,” Nadia said.
“We admire your compassion,” Miyuki added. “But that may be difficult.”
The men were dragging themselves out of the water. The shock of the cold still made their bodies sluggish. But they were recovering.
Emma didn’t move.
“The dogs should be fine,” Nadia said. “They’re used to this type of weather.”
“Time is short,” Miyuki said. “We should get the hell out of Dodge City before those bad hombres come back.”
Emma glanced at the men as they shook off the chill and attempted to stand back up. Then she looked at the dogs, who waited obediently for the girls. Eight clouds of breath coming from eight snouts. Emma lowered her head and pushed herself to the snowmobile. She sat behind Nadia and Miyuki.
The men were picking up their guns. Would they work after being underwater?
Miyuki didn’t wait to find out. She pulled out another piece of “special” cosmetics, popped the bottle top, and tossed it to the side. The bottle hissed as thick smoke poured out. The wind carried the smoke across the frozen lake, obscuring the men’s vision. Miyuki gunned the engine and raced the snowmobile around the edge of the one-hundred-meter hole.
Nadia looked over her shoulder as the smoke now surrounded the men, causing confusion as to where they could safely go without falling back into the lake. Miyuki kept the snowmobile at full throttle, allowing the three girls to leave the men far behind.
Soon a helicopter appeared overhead. Emma’s radio came to life.
“Black Opal, this is Emerald. Is that Ruby driving the snowmobile? Over.” the girl with the British accent asked.
“Yes,” Emma replied. “She saved our bacon back there.”
“Roger. Stand by. I’m coming into land.”
The helicopter found a nice patch of flat snow and settled down. The girl at the controls had curly ribbons of golden-brown hair squashed by a radio headset. Her brown face was accented with bronze undertones.
The three girls abandoned their snowmobile and climbed aboard the aircraft. When everyone was safely inside, the girl pilot, Olivia, pushed the throttle up, and the helicopter rose from the ground as it once again became airborne.
Emma tried to say something, but the girls couldn’t hear over the helicopter’s engine noise. Olivia pointed at the headphones hanging near her seat. All three girls put on a pair.
“I’m so glad I found you,” Olivia said over the headset.
“We’re glad both of you found us,” Nadia added.
“No problem. We buddies.” Miyuki put her arms around Nadia and Emma.
But Emma didn’t look happy. “We have to go back.”
“Go back? Why?” Olivia asked.
“Those dogs. We can’t leave them out there in the cold.”
“I told you. They’ll survive,” Nadia said. “Those dogs are bred for the cold. Most likely they’ll stick together and hunt to survive.”
“They have a sled chained to them, remember? They’ll die out there,” Emma said. “We have an obligation to save them.”
Nadia had forgotten about that. The dogs couldn’t go anywhere. They were stuck. Perhaps those men who chased them would do the humane thing and shoot the poor animals rather than leave them out in the cold to die. Or maybe they would take the dogs with them. But those were evil men. Men who would leave poor animals outside to freeze to death.
“You two almost got shot back there,” Olivia said as she pulled back on her stick, commanding the helicopter to clear the top of a ridge. “I’m not going back there to give those blokes another chance for target practice.”
Emma was right and Nadia knew it. They were acting selfish.
Miyuki read the faces of her friends. She nodded. “Emma’s right, we should go back.”
“Those dogs did save our lives,” Nadia added.
“You never leave a furry comrade behind,” Emma said proudly.
Olivia peeked over her shoulder. All three girls now smiled at her. Olivia pressed her foot on the left rudder and brought the helicopter around to a new course. “Stupid flipping dogs.”
You can get the eBook at these booksellers.
The paperback will be out next week!
My wonderful artist Travis Miles has created another great cover for the second Gems young adult spy novel. What do you think?
Before I wrote young adult novels, I was a screenwriter trying to break into one of the toughest industries out there, Hollywood. Since I live in Oklahoma and not Los Angeles, this was a huge challenge. One thing that helped me bridge that gap was attending the Austin Screenwriting Conference which is held during the annual Austin Film Festival. This is one of the few venues where actual Hollywood agents/producers/writers/directors/actors show up and give screenwriters precious information about the entertainment industry. I learned so much about my craft and made a lot of connections and friends the numerous times I went to Austin.
I recognized early in my writing career how important establishing these connections were. Not only in Hollywood, but in publishing as well as I continued to go to local writing conferences in my area. One of which is the Oklahoma SCBWI Spring Conference which begins Friday April 6th and continues on Saturday April 7th.
Many other blogs on this tour will give you plenty of great reasons why it’s beneficial and important for writers to attend these conferences. But what I would like to do today is give you some successful strategies that I’ve learned to help anyone navigate a writing conference.
Successful Strategy #1 – Be Relaxed
Why is this the first one? Because it’s one of the most important. You are at this conference to make new friends, to learn new things, and to re-invigorate your commitment to writing. Do not treat this conference as a pressure-cooker situation where you must shake the hands of every single person in the room and sell your book idea while trying not to sweat, fart, or cough up hairballs.
Nope. The best thing to do is to listen, take everything in with a deep breath, and relax. Remember this: If you look friendly and relaxed, people will want to talk to you. If you appear stressed out and desperate, people will avoid talking to you because those writers came here to do what?
Successful Strategy #2 – Treat Everyone With Respect
We all start from the bottom. That unrepresented writer you met at last year’s conference could become the next J.K. Rowling. That next junior agent you meet could be promoted to a full agent next month. That editor you met could open their own publishing imprint and now need new books.
Wouldn’t it be cool if you already had a good relationship with these people? They might even help you because you were nice to them before it was cool to be nice to them.
But they won’t help you now because you blew off that “nobody” writer last year when she wanted to ask you something. And when that junior agent asked about your manuscript? You blew her off too because she wasn’t a “real” agent. And you thought you were being clever when you slipped that editor a manuscript in the ladies room. But the editor thought that was inconsiderate and at worse, kinda weird.
Treat everyone you meet with respect. It reflects good on you and shows others that you have a professional attitude when it comes to your work.
On a related note, if you approach a conference speaker, be patient and wait for a good time to introduce yourself. Perhaps you can ask them to elaborate more on a portion of their presentation that you found interesting or if they wrote or represented a book that you particularly loved, tell them about it. Once you are done talking, let another writer have a chance. Better yet, introduce the speaker to another writer who writes the same kind of books the speaker likes reading or writing. Maybe that “nobody” writer who has this great Middle Grade Fantasy idea no one saw coming.
Successful Strategy #3 – Stay Away from Your Hotel Room
The most important thing you do at a writer’s conference is network. I repeat. You’re here to network. Don’t just write down notes from the workshops and then go upstairs to hide in your room. I did this at my very first screenwriting conference in Austin and made zero contacts. The next year I forced myself to sit at the conference hotel bar and drink sodas. Pretty soon I was talking to people I had friended on social media who recognized me. Soon those people introduced me to their friends. From there, things became much easier.
Please don’t freak out about this networking thing. You’re a writer. I get that. I’m only saying it’s not THAT bad. Wanna know an easy way to do it? Take a variation of my example and go hang out in the lobby of the conference hotel. Try to find a place to sit where you’re out in the open and bring a book to read. Chances are others will see you there with your conference badge and might invite you to go out to eat for dinner or lunch. Or they might ask you about the book you’re reading. You might see someone you know and you can ask them about the conference or if they have dinner plans. See how this works?
One of the best places to relax and mingle is in the evening at the conference hotel bar. Many times you can find the conference speakers there having a drink and just shooting the bull with people just like you! This is a golden opportunity to get to know lots of your fellow writers and conference speakers.
Now don’t get cute and try pitching your book now. Always wait until someone asks you. And then just give them an elevator pitch. Basically a couple of sentences that gives the other person a feeling about what your book is about, but not enough to give them the whole picture. You want it to be short because you want them to ask you more questions about it!
If you’re not a drinker, just order a soft drink. Nobody cares. Most of the people will be happy that you’re hanging out with them. If you love to drink, know your limits. Loosening it up with one or two drinks is perfectly fine after a long conference day. However, please don’t get drunk and argue over the use of first and third tense in young adult literature. I know you think you make sense. But trust me, you don’t.
Successful Strategy #4 – Follow Up With A Thank You
It there was a particular speaker or another writer whom you had a good discussion with or someone who helped you during the conference. Write down their name somewhere and when the conference is over with (say a week after) follow-up with that person. Find an official email or social media account and remind them who you are, where you met them, and most important, thank them for any information or help they gave you during the conference. This small act goes a long way in cementing that new contact.
Successful Strategy #5 – Always Give. Do Not Take
Last but not least, help your new contacts during the conference and beyond. Does your new contact have a new book out? Tweet it. Post it on your social media. If it’s a book you enjoyed reading, consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Does that new writer you met need a critique of the first ten pages of the manuscript? Offer to do that for them. They will either offer to reciprocate or in the future will help you out with something else. If you give things without being asked, most people will want to reciprocate. This is how contacts can grow into friends and allies.
(You should be patient with this. It might take more gives before you can make a big ask. Especially from someone in a higher position.)
What if I keep giving and they don’t reciprocate? Some people are takers. They just are. If you do a few nice things and receive silence back. Move on. Don’t complain. Don’t call them out like they “owe you.” You can make the choice to either associate yourself with positive people who embrace this concept of networking or the negative ones who only use others to get where they want to be.
Always remember that you’re in this for the long game. You’re building a house. Not an IKEA end table.
If you want to put these ideas into practice, come join me at this year’s Oklahoma SCBWI Spring Writer’s Conference in Oklahoma City which begins Friday April 6th and continues on Saturday April 7th. See you there!
I’m so excited to announce that Champions is finally out! This is the final book of the Skid series and I’m so happy its long journey has finally come to an end. I’ve enjoyed writing this series and have learned many things along the way that have made me a better writer. But I’m now going to focus on other book projects that I’ll hope you’ll like.
By the way…the eBook is now 40% off list price during launch week. After that it goes back up to its normal price so now is the perfect time to buy yours.
For all eBook versions click here.
Have a wonderful weekend,
So happy to announce on the blog that Champions, the final book in the Skid young adult racing romance series, will be coming out soon! Below is a quick synopsis of the new book and a sneak peak of the first chapter!
Is her spirit finally broken?
Nineteen-year-old Samantha Sutton has risen to become one of the top drivers in Formula One, but that was before a horrible accident burned her face and broke her spirit. Now she questions herself, questions her future, and wonders if what she did to her father has cursed her for life.
Manny’s love for Samantha is unbreakable. He promises to support her, but his attention is diverted when a new threat promises to destroy the Wolert racing team forever.
Can Samantha gain her confidence back and win the world championship?
Will she even have a team to race for next season?
Now a sneak peek of chapter one…
Drawn metal shades extinguish most of the afternoon sun reaching Samantha’s lifeless body, half her face covered with bandages, a tube down her throat, her hair singed by fire. The ventilator uses the tube to blow air into her lungs, giving the girl life as her body struggles to survive. The heart machine beeps at a rhythm that I’m already quite familiar with. Some may think it’s an annoying sound. But to me, it means Samantha is still alive. I pretend that she’s talking to me. That her beating heart is a constant plea for me to stay.
To keep her company.
To not give up on her.
Samantha appears so delicate, her small body swallowed up by the French hospital bed. I guess she’s shorter than I imagine because the girl’s personality is so much bigger than the body she inhabits. She’s like a tiger inside a lamb’s body. The type of girl that makes things happen. The type of girl who doesn’t know how to give up on what she wants. The type of girl that lifts up others around her. I’m lucky she picked me.
Now I’ll be lucky if she survives.
I can’t keep having thoughts like that. She’s tough. Tougher than I am. Yet I’m scared. I don’t know what I would do if I lost her. Would I go insane like my friend Hanna? There’s a chance I may. When you love someone with this intensity, the fire in your heart is so hard to extinguish.
“She’ll pull through. Samantha is young. Vibrant. Lovely.” My uncle Ralf pauses. His familiar salt-and-pepper beard hugs his face. Even through the man’s glasses I can tell he’s holding back tears. “She’s a lovely young woman. She’ll be fine.”
My uncle has more hope than all the world put together. I know he’s in as much pain as I am. And he’s in his seventies. I worry about him a lot. My uncle doesn’t need this strain on his conscious.
“Yes, she’ll be fine.” I’m lying of course. The doctors had to put Samantha into a medically induced coma to prevent her brain from swelling. They don’t know how this will play out. They act optimistic. But when you push them for true specifics, they give her fifty-fifty. They say the shock to her body cannot be overestimated.
The door opens and Graham, Samantha’s sports agent, slips in with some flowers. He’s always so well dressed, not even a thread out of place. But his eyes are red. He’s been crying too.
“Still the same?” he asks.
My uncle nods.
“Poor girl. Our poor, brave little girl.” Graham approaches Samantha, leans down and kisses her on the forehead. He whispers something to her before placing the flowers on a table. He wipes his eyes. It’s hard not to become emotional in this place. Hospitals seem to breed sadness.
“I have to be getting back to London,” Graham says. “You’ll contact me when she awakes?”
“Of course. Let me walk you out.” My uncle pats my shoulder. “Can I bring you anything, Manfred? A sandwich, something to drink?”
“No, thank you. I don’t feel like having anything.”
Uncle Ralf squeezes my shoulder. His kind eyes acknowledge my feelings as he escorts Graham out of the room.
We’re now alone.
I move my chair up to her bed, where I can be close to Samantha. I lean over and brush a few strands of hair out of her eyes. My fingers linger on her forehead. Her skin is soft and warm to the touch. A sign she’s alive and simmering with life. Her fantastic personality just waiting to burst out again and flood my life with her awesomeness.
I wonder if she heard Graham. I wonder if she can hear me now.
“Samantha?” I whisper. “I’m going to pretend that you can hear me so you know I’m still here. I don’t want you to wake up from this and be alone.”
Her eyelids are frozen shut. No sign of any reaction from her.
“You will wake up, alright? Do you know why? It’s because having you ripped out of my life would destroy me. You can’t do that to me, Samantha. Please don’t do that to me.”
Her chest rises as air inflates her lungs and then relaxes.
I rest my cheek on her shoulder and fight back the darkness threatening to strangle all my hope.
Champions will be available on September 9th.
Why do I love to read?
When I was young I was a history nerd. Reading about the past allowed me to experience it in a vivid way that captivated my young mind. The different people. The different cultures. The different ideas that shaped their world and ours. I loved how these mere history books could take me to past civilizations which could only be experienced through the pages of a book. It was my time traveling device in a way. Open a book. Turn the page. Explore a new ancient world. And when dinner was ready, I could close the book and come back to my own time.
Although doing all this with a DeLorean would have been much cooler, but I digress.
When I was an adult, reading young adult fiction allowed me to understand a perspective I still couldn’t get my head around, even at the age of 40. That baffling question? Women.
By reading about the young female heroines in those books, I began to understand a different viewpoint. One which gave me a new insight on concerns and worries that women had which I had no clue about until I read about them. I can also understand the anxieties and fears we both share and see the similarities between us. The similarities that make both men and woman human beings.
To me, reading is a meaningful leap forward towards empathy, something I never want to lose and I hope most human beings on this earth will try to strive for.
This is why I love to read.