Tag Archives: The Gems

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

New Release: Tomorrow Always Lies

TOMORROW ALWAYS LIES_small

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!