When your novel is scattered across the road

Literally. Because I just spent the last hour scouring the road for pages of my novel (they’d been scattered across the road after I set my manuscript on top of my car’s roof and drove away). What is more, this happened in Lynn Haven. I live on the beach–thirty minutes away. I drove all the way home, got the kids settled for bed, put on my pajamas, and was getting ready to watch basketball and play a game when I felt like something was off. Something was missing. I couldn’t figure out what. I began walking mindlessly around the house, until I remembered what it was–my manuscript, bound in a blue three-ring binder.

Crap!

“Kids!” I shouted to them upstairs. “We gotta go back into town. My novel is missing.”

How do you lose your novel? Well, in my case … spectacularly. We drove thirty minutes back into town only to find pages scattered all over the place, blowing in the wind, or stuck to the asphalt with tire marks marring the once crisp paper. My heart plummeted to my stomach when I saw the sight.

Now, I must say I didn’t lose my novel. The manuscript is backed up digitally across multiple storage systems. But I had printed the entire work to make edits and mark-ups. It’s one of my most critical editing stages. During the process, I make corrections, identify clunky sections, rephrase sentences, and add notes which help make the story more fun and suspenseful. Basically, if I couldn’t recover the novel I’d lose over a month’s worth of work–and all my creative input to boot.

While my children waited in the car, I turned on my bright headlights and waded into the street, ankle-deep grass, and a deep ten-foot ditch to recover my pages. I scraped my feet on thorns (I was still wearing my pajamas and flip flops), and I hiked the street searching for my missing binder. A couple of neighborhood folks saw me, and they came out with heavy duty flashlights to help me look. How awesome are people?! Talk about good Samaritans.

Sadly, we didn’t recover my binder. The stack of papers I recovered felt like about half of what the novel should’ve been. One of the good Samaritan’s mentioned he saw someone picking up papers about twenty minutes before I’d arrived. Bummer.

Yet there is good news. My children helped me sort through the “run over” paperwork when we got home. I determined I’d only edited 96 of the 220 pages. Of the 96 pages, I only lost 17. So not all of my work went down the road. My hope is that I’ll be able to recall my ideas and critiques when I look over those 17 pages. Things could’ve been worse. After all, I was chasing manuscript pages as wind blew them from my grasp. I nearly lost them. Which means my novel came very close to needing its title changed from Maddie Jones & the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors to Gone with the Wind.

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Big Accomplishment Today!

Wow, the Holidays got the best of me I’m afraid. I’ve been slacking on my blog posts. I blame video games. Yep, during my two-week break for Christmas vacation, I played games instead of devoting time to write. And you know what? I don’t even feel guilty about it. Writing is a huge part of my life. I’m not the type of writer who won’t return to my projects if I skip out on a few sessions here and there–or in my case, for a couple weeks. Nope–now that I’m getting back into the groove of school and work, writing has picked back up, too.

So what does that mean?

Well, it means I’m back to writing on a regular basis–writing every day, even if it’s only a sentence or two. That also means I’m back to keeping up with things here as well. But what’s the big accomplishment this blog post’s title alludes to?

I finished the first draft of Maddie Jones & the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors. The novel comes in at a smooth 50,000-words, and I’m excited to say the story is a fast-paced thriller. However, I have a lot of edits, rewrites, and plot holes to work on. Plus I’ll need to recruit test readers, and then rewrite some more. Although the first draft is finished, I still have a couple more months with the project before I’ll feel it’s ready to be seen by literary agents.

I’ll keep you posted along the way. In the meantime, I wanted to share another big accomplishment. A second agent has requested the manuscript for Medical MECH. This agent represents New York Times bestselling authors, too. She emailed me yesterday to let me know she’s received the manuscript, and is looking forward to reading my pages. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a YES for representation…and if not…I’ll keep trying.

Update on Literary Agent Challenge: 50 agents down, and one has requested the manuscript

Publishing Contract

Hey everyone! As many of you know I embarked on a 100 literary agent challenge back in September. The challenge–to send query letters and sample chapters to 100 agents over the course of 100 days. The goal–to secure an agent for my latest young adult novel, Medical Mech. So how has it gone? Well…

Good and bad.

The bad comes from the simple fact that I’ve received about 15 rejections. The agents who said No cited that the project doesn’t fit with what they are looking for. Or they liked the story’s premise, but didn’t feel enough of a connection with my writing to make them jump on board. Some rejections have been simple, most copy and pasted from author to author. Only one rejection was personal:

Dear Mark, 

Many thanks for giving me a chance to get to know your work. For a rocker chick like myself, there is so much to love about the premise of this story. But in the end, I did not come away with total conviction regarding my ability to successfully represent this work in its present form. Therefore, I must pass for now. 

If you decide to refine and refine the story, I would be honored to take a look at the best version you have to share. I would suggest you tighten up those important moments so they read effortlessly like the riffs we both know and love. Right now, they’re a little clunky, and too many of your passages will be lost in translation. However, something tells me you’ll be able to slide toward that sweet song you’re hearing in your head, 

Best wishes as you continue to travel the road to successful publication. I look forward to seeing more from you. Rock on! 

Always, 

Terrie 

Although Terrie rejected my novel, I was thrilled she responded in such a helpful way. I emailed her back to thank her for giving my work quality attention. I also asked if she could share what areas she found clunky. No reply yet. Fingers crossed she’ll respond. And if not, no biggie–I’m know she’s super busy.

There’s another bad, too.

I haven’t been successful in sending out query letters every day. I know–that’s part of the challenge. But the Holidays hit, and I found it hard to keep up with the demand of researching agents and sending out my work. So I’ve decided to modify the challenge, because failure isn’t an option. Now I’m sending queries every day, and if I miss a day, big deal, I’ll get the next agent tomorrow. For some people, “getting to it tomorrow” could destroy their progress. But not for me. I’ll reach my goal of 100 agents, one way or another.

At this point, you’re probably wondering: So what’s the good news? Let me stop grinning long enough to tell you…Yesterday an agent requested the manuscript! I know, right? Super exciting. Now, I know a request does not mean representation. But after receiving nothing but rejections, having one agent do the exact opposite made my day. Even if they say No in the end, I consider this a small victory. I made progress in the right direction! Fingers crossed the agent likes what he reads. And if not…

There’s always another agent tomorrow.

What does an author visit, boogers, and John Wick all have in common?

Read on to find out. About a month ago, I shared how my daughter captivated an audience with a tale about a star stealing ogre, a rap-battling prince, and a quest to save bedtime. The story is called Ferdinand & the Stars in a Jar, and we co-authored it together. Her experience, and my blogging about it, led to a guest author opportunity at her elementary school last Friday.

It was a lot of fun.

After introducing myself to the 4th graders, I shared a joke my 4th grade teacher told me. Let’s just say the joke involved a lady on a bus, a couple of wacky characters, and a booger. Enough to get the kids laughing and to make them receptive to what I had to say. From there, I talked about how writers are simply day-dreamers, and that if they can day-dream, they can write a story. I transitioned into the three main ingredients of story–character, setting, and plot–and called on kids to answer my questions. I concluded by inviting my daughter up on stage, and together we read our story Ferdinand & the Stars in a Jar. The kids laughed at all the right moments. The adults, too. And I left beaming with pride knowing my daughter will always remember the day her author daddy visited her school.

But the goodness didn’t end there. When I got home later that day, my daughter had a gift for me. Her class wrote thank you cards. We enjoyed reading everyone’s appreciation of my visit, chuckling when one kid called me Mike Douglas, another Mrs. Douglas–and a third said I was the Surfside Book Man. I’ll cherish their cards for years to come, even the one who called me a woman.

Finally, I’ll end with a funny moment that occurred as I was leaving the school. A kid asked me if I was an actor. I told him I wasn’t, and he narrowed his eyes and said, “Are you sure? Because I swear you’re the guy who played John Wick.” Hmmm…

Sorry, dude, I’m not Keanu Reeves. But I am a huge fan of his movies. And on second thought, what the heck is a 4th grader doing watching John Wick movies? Double hmmm… Ah well, that’s not for me to decide.  All in all, it was a great author visit, made even more memorable because I got to enjoy the experience with my wonderful daughter.

Douglas debuts latest novel, ‘Medical MECH’

I’m excited to finally announce that Medical MECH is now available to the general public! An article was written in our local paper, The News Herald. Check out the article HERE.

Medical MECH follows the story of 13-year-old Riley Davis as he attempts to stop a robot invasion from destroying his town. He discovers that the only way to defeat the machines is with music, and his bass guitar works best. But Riley will need the help of a punk rocker and her gang of misfit musicians if he is to succeed.

Medical MECH is great for all ages! Written for middle grades, the story has been field tested by kids…and, wow, do they approve. The eBook is available for only $1.99. The paperback is $9.99.

Buy your copy NOW by clicking on THIS LINK or the picture below!

Medical MECH - Kindle Cover

Every Shoe Tells a Story

Last Thursday night I had the privilege of speaking for the Bay County Public Library. November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NANOWRIMO, and I kick started day 2 of the Library’s events. My workshop, titled Every Shoe Tells a Story, was inspired by award-winning author Adrian Fogelin. She visited my middle school several years ago and conducted a similar workshop, in which attendees select a unique shoe and create a character from the ground up. It’s an excellent story starter. Participants leave with a new character, one they can potentially write a story with; making it perfect for NANOWRIMO (the goal of the contest is to write a 50,000-word novel in one month).

Anyway, check out the few photos I took from the event. It was a lot of fun!

Sold out at Creative Con!

Man, I had an awesome weekend at Creative Con. So much fun. I met insanely cool people, formed friendships with fellow creators, talked about writing on a panel…and sold out of Medical MECH. Oh, yeah! The new book was a huge success. It grabbed the attention of young readers, video gamers, anime and comic book fans–you name it. Needless to say, I was super stoked when I realized how well the book was selling. And what is more, my other titles did great, too.

You might think my favorite moment of the CON was selling out of my book, but you’d be wrong. Those of you who know me personally understand I have a passion for kids. I mean, heck, I’m a middle school teacher and I write young adult novels for crying out loud. During the first day of the event, when the place was filling up with Con-goers, a group of kids dressed in cosplay costumes mingled around upstairs. They went from vendor to vendor, stopping occasionally to sing, giggle or dance. The kids were having such a fun time, dressed up  and with like-minded people who “understood them.” Everybody needs a place to belong. And it touched my heart to see kids in a place where they could be themselves without fear or shame or judgement (something that goes on far too often among teenagers these days, enhanced by social media). I literally got goosebumps seeing kids having so much fun.

Among my other highlights, I enjoyed sharing a table next to Eitanya Designs–a husband and wife cosplay table where they sold props, armor, and geek-chic fashion accessories. You can see them in the above pictures, dressed as Lara Croft and Nathan Drake. A funny moment happened when an attendee asked him if he was dressed as Josh Gates from Expedition Unknown. Great stuff. I was dressed as Nathan Drake, too, but it’s not as obvious–which you can see in the pictures, too.

My favorite cosplayers were two women dressed as Noctis and Prompto from Final Fantasy XV; and another chick dressed as Cloud with his Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII. If you’ve followed my gaming blogs on this Site, then you know how big of a Final Fantasy fan I am. Pretty cool costumes.

Anyway, I’m exhausted from the Con. But it was worth it. New readers have access to my books. I met great people. Made friends. And I had the privilege to be part of the Creative Con experience. It doesn’t get any better than that.

New book hits tomorrow at the CON

New Book - Medical MECH

That’s right, folks. Medical MECH will be out in force at Creative Con all weekend long. If you’ve got nothing to do, head over to the Panama City Marina Civic Center and join the fun. There will be cosplay, celebrities, authors, filmmakers, artists, contests and gaming. And that’s just scratching the surface. Head over to Creative Con’s website to check it all out. Make sure you stop by my table if you visit. I’d love to see you there.

Creative Con

Twelve agents down. One has responded…

Publishing Contract

If you’ve followed my blog over the last couple weeks, you would have seen I’m currently undertaking a literary challenge. The challenge isn’t a competition, nor one I’ve joined with a group to achieve. It’s one I’ve given myself. Here’s the goal–to contact 100 literary agents in 100 days. I started twelve days ago. I’ve sent twelve queries. And guess what? One has responded.

Believe it or not, the agent who contacted me back is none other than Nancy Gallt. She represents blockbuster author Rick Riordan, of Percy Jackson & the Olympians fame. I honestly didn’t expect to hear back from her, and she was the first agent I queried on day one of my challenge. What did she say?

Well, she said no. Bummer. But I had no grand delusions that she would represent my work. I figured someone who represents an author like Rick is extremely selective. Although I knew in my heart she would say no, I tried anyway. When I got her reply–which was nice, by the way–it kind of sucked the wind out of me. I’m not even sure why, knowing my chances. But nonetheless it didn’t feel the greatest. Being told you’re not good enough never is.

Regardless, I’m not giving up. I still have another 99 potential rejections to go. Or, as the case may be, no responses at all. But you know what? It only takes one to say yes. Am I optimistic? You know it. Am I passionate about storytelling? Absolutely. And that’s why I won’t quit, no matter what. I believe my  novels will make it to a bigger audience–one day–and persistence is key.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Nine year old girl captivates audience with tale of star stealing ogre, a rap-battling prince, and a quest to save bedtime.

And did I mention she’s my daughter? Yep, I’m one proud daddy. Years ago when Olivia was only four-years-old, she created a story about a meanie stealing the nighttime stars. In her story, a prince defeats the meanie and returns the stars to his princess, because without her stars, she couldn’t sleep. Her story idea was so well conceived that my wife and I didn’t believe she created it at first. We contacted her Pre-K teacher, grandparents, and Sunday school teacher to ask if they had shared a book or movie involving similar themes. Each person said they hadn’t.

In that moment, we knew Olivia’s imagination was beyond what we thought capable of a child her age. And being a writer, my wife prompted me to sit down with Olivia to tell her story.

And we did.

The end result is a children’s story called Ferdinand and the Stars in a Jar.  The tale begins when an ogre can’t sleep because stars are shining on his head, keeping him awake. He devises a plan to steal the stars, and thus sets the stage for a conflict of bedtime proportions.

Today, Olivia had an opportunity to share her story with classmates. To say the kids enjoyed the story is an understatement. They were hooked from the beginning and giggled at all the right moments. Several kids asked Olivia when the book would be out, because they wanted their copy now. This reaction touched Olivia’s heart in a huge way. My wife said when she picked her up from school, she was literally jumping up and down with joy. Man, talk about …

Melt.

My.

Heart.

Olivia is currently illustrating the story herself. The book will be published (fingers crossed) before the school year ends. My hope is that she will be able to give a copy to each classmate as a gift.

Anyway, if you’d like to read Olivia’s story I have included it below. Let me know what you think, and I’ll relay your messages personally to Olivia.

Yep, I know the author.

FERDINAND & THE STARS IN A JAR

Written by Olivia Douglas & her Daddy

From the day he was born, Ferdinand liked to sleep. The nasty old ogre slept from sunup to sunset, moonrise to moonfall. All he did was sleep. He slept so much his fingernails grew three feet long and the hair in his ears curled into braids. And when he slept, the darker the better. Not a nightlight in sight. So one evening when a light shone bright and peaked inside his castle’s walls, Ferdinand became angry.

“Argh!” the smelly ogre boomed as he climbed to his feet. He went to the window and threw back the curtain, before taking a peek. “What blasted light is keeping me awake?!”

A star twinkled high in the midnight sky.

“Argh!” Ferdinand yelled again. He covered his eyes and stomped his feet. He threw the loudest tantrum the likes never seen. “The light! It is so bright! It is toooooo bright!” He looked at the star and growled beneath his breath, then he threw back the curtain and snuggled into to bed.

But the light kept shining right on his head.

“Argh,” he bellowed, deep and with a burp. “That star has made me ANGRY!” He crawled out of bed and stomped around his room, asking himself, “What to do? What to do?” He scratched a wart on his chin. “I can’t sleep.” He picked a booger from his nose. “I can’t think.” He ate it. “I can’t think when I can’t sleep.”

But then Ferdinand saw a glass jar on his bedside table. The ogre snatched it up and stalked to the window, glanced back and forth between the jar and the star.

Jar. Star. Jar. Star.

“I kow what I’ll do,” Ferdinand finally said to a shoe. “I’ll capture that star, and put it in this jar. Then I’ll bury it deep, so it can’t make a peek.” But he couldn’t stop there. He’d have to capture them all if he were truly to get some rest. So Ferdinand went outside, which he rarely did, and traveled the world while collecting the stars. He scraped them out of the sky with his long fingernails, and flicked them into the bottom of the jar. Scrape and flick. Scrape and flick. Until the stars in the jar created a glare so bright, Ferdinand had to wear sunglasses to block the light. He grew tired, but he couldn’t rest, not until he’d captured …

Every.

Last.

Star.

Now, legend says that when he removed the last star from the night sky the whole world conked out and never woke up.

Hah, whatever.

Here’s what really happened: Ferdinand went back home, simple as that, and put the jar of stars under his bed so the light wouldn’t shine on the top of his head. And after he had fallen fast asleep, he happily dreamed of stink-farts and pop-tarts and the smells of his dirty feet.

Now far away, many towns and rivers and forests away, a princess awoke in the dark. “What happened to my night light?” said Ophelia, rubbing her eyes. She sat up and went to the window. “What happened to all the stars?”

“Hey, baby!” called Prince Claudius, with a wide-brim hat and mad-skillz when he rapped. Why just last week in a rap-battle with Motha-Goose, he impressed with his rhymes as he quoted Dr. Seuss. “An ogre came at night, and has stolen all the light. So I’m head’n to his castle, to give him a good hassle. But don’t you worry now, or wrinkle your fine brow. I’ll return after battle, to give you back your dazzle. Chica-chica, yeah.”

Princess Ophelia giggled. Prince Claudius bowed. And with coolness and courage and clever ideas, he whipped the reigns of his horse –which was named Star, go figure –and headed toward the north to try and retrieve the stolen light.

Hours passed. No one could sleep. Save Ferdinand, of course, who kept everyone awake with his wheezing nostrils.

Squo-ha-ha-honk, shee-hee-hee-ooo!

Squo-ha-ha-honk, shee-hee-hee-ooo!

He snored with such racket and ruckus that everyone wore earplugs and shouted to be heard. Until the prince entered his bedroom, not uttering a word.

Claudius studied Ferdinand sleeping in his bed. He was pretty gross – well, what do you expect? He’s an ogre! – and tried to find the stars. A light sparkled from underneath the mattress. Hmmm, the prince thought with a tip of his hat. I’ll just time the ogre’s snores as I sneak in like a cat.

Squonnnk-sheeeooo!

He put in some earplugs, and tip-toed into the room.

Squonnnk-sheeeooo!

The earplugs slipped out, and the prince’s ears rang.

Squonnnk-sheeeooo!

He reached up under the bed, and felt a smooth, round jar.

Squonnnk-sheeeooo!

Then …

Whack!

Wink!

Those ogre eyes popped open, and Claudius froze so he would not be seen.

“Argh,” Ferdinand yawned. “Is that you, momma?”

The prince made his voice rough and deep.“Uh-uh-yeah, baby, momma’s here for you. Just lay back and rest a bit, I know just what to do. I’ll rap you a lullaby, filled with all you love. So close your eyes and get some sleep, you flea-bitten dove. Chica-chica, yeah.”

And so the prince did. He rapped booger raps and danced booger jives, told fart jokes and squirted fart sighs. He built an ogre cradle that smelt of toe-jam jelly. He made a makeshift paci and rolled him on his belly. Then he grabbed the jar of stars and hid them under his hat. He tip-toed to his horse and fled in no time flat.

Well, Claudius kept his word. And in two shakes of a billy-goat’s gruff, the prince shook the jar of stars and untwisted the top.

Alla-bam! Light spewed out like soda from a can, and …

Alla-beep! The stars returned to heaven for all the world to keep.

Later that night, something woke the princess. Tap! Tap! Tap! Someone was throwing pebbles at her bedroom window. Ophelia crawled out of bed and went to take a look. Claudius stood there smug, with a jar full of bugs.

“I’ve returned with your dazzle,” the prince said with a grin, as he nodded to the sky. Ophelia glanced right up and couldn’t help but smile. Then he held up a jar of yellow-glowing fireflies.“And a nightlight for your bedside desk, so you’ll never wake again distressed. Chica-chica, yeah.”

Princess Ophelia sighed. And, despite the eventful evening – and the smelly ogre’s feet – the two lived happily ever after.

But what happened to Ferdinand, you ask? Well, that nasty ogre could no longer get out of bed, stuck in his cradle with a light shining on his head. He tossed and he turned and he hid beneath his pillow, with his hiney in the air like a burrowing armadillo.