My daughter is a millionaire!

And she’s on her way to Narnia (but I’ll explain that part in a bit). At her school, students participate in an accelerated reading program. Kids read books and take quizzes, earning points based on their book’s word count (I think that’s pretty much the gist of it). Anyway, this year Olivia has taken off as a reader. She’s read books since before she could crawl, when I would read her Olivia the Pig and countless fairy tales, but this year something clicked.

I read her Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief. 

Technically, I only read her the first 3 chapters; because, like my former students, Olivia couldn’t stand the cliffhangers. She had to know what was going to happen next. She checked the book out from her school’s library, and before the week was over, she finished the book. At first I was disappointed. Not because she had finished the book so quickly, but because I wanted to enjoy her reactions as we read the story together. Then something magical occurred. Olivia checked out the next book in the series, finished it, moved on to the 3rd, finished it, and before the month was through, she’d read all 5 books in the series. Wow! I didn’t even read them that fast.

Olivia’s word count in her school’s accelerated reading program climbed. She read more books, completed additional series, and her word count grew and grew. And before Christmas Break, she reached the coveted One-Million words read club. She is officially a millionaire (and as of this writing, she has reached over Two-Million words). Holy cow, I’m so proud of her!

I wanted to reward her. My wife suggested we go out and get ice cream to celebrate, but I didn’t feel that was enough. Knowing Olivia wanted a Pokemon game for her 3DS, I mentioned it to my wife. “No way!” was her response. Why would we reward reading with video games? Good point.

Then I realized Olivia enjoys listening to my old Lord of the Rings audiobooks by BBC. They are dramatized, with music and sound effects. Someone at church mentioned BBC did a similar production of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia several years back, and I knew what Olivia’s reward ought to be. So that’s what I did. I bought the entire collection of BBC audiobooks, uploaded them to my old iPod, and now Olivia has been immersing herself in the world of Narnia in the evenings as she drifts off to sleep.

Just writing this post makes me even more proud of her. And if any parents out there want to encourage their children to read, then my recommendation is to put a book into your hands. After all, kids model everything you do. But I can say this: sometimes your children will do something spectacular and you’ll want to model them instead.

Because I want to be a millionaire like Olivia.

Olivia the Millionaire

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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.

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.

New Medical MECH Fan Art!

Medical MECH Fan Art -- Axel, Jazz, & Lizzy (art by Andrea).JPG

Medical MECH has a wonderful cast of characters–from Riley, the thirteen-year-old hero of the story, to TV Boy, a towering red robot who enjoys Starbucks coffee. Among my favorite are Axel, Jazz, and Lizzy. They’re a gang of misfit musicians who arrive mysteriously in Riley’s small town of Wood Dale, Illinois. What’s their connection with Medical MECH?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.

In the meantime, enjoy this fan art from a student of mine named Andrea. She is super talented and I’m stoked to see my characters come to life!

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

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

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.

Master Class Pen Pal

Pen Pals

Hey everyone! Sorry it’s been awhile since my last blog post, but the school year is in full swing and I’ve begun a new novel: Maddie Jones & the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors. The book is coming along great. It might be my best yet. The suspense grabs you by the throat in chapter 1 and doesn’t let up. The hard part is trying to keep the thrills coming, though. Keeping my fingers cross all my hard work pays off. I hope to secure an agent for it once it’s ready.

In the meantime, I’ve also been working on my Master Class lessons with James Patterson. I’m nearly through with the class. I’ve only got about 5 more lessons to go. The process has been super helpful in making Maddie Jones a page turner.

Something neat has happened through Master Class, too. The Site has a forum where writers can share their work. I posted the first Maddie Jones chapter, and wouldn’t you know it, I struck up a friendship with a Canadian author who is also working on a middle school novel. I shared a few chapters online, but I didn’t want to keep posting them in such a public place, so through my author website here, we were able to exchange emails. Now we’ve been sharing work back and forth, providing tips and insights for each other. It’s been a lot of fun to have someone read each chapter as they’re finished. Several critiques have even influenced me in the direction Maddie’s story has gone–particularly with the pacing, keeping the action going, that sort of thing. What’s really great is that we are both targeting our work to the same audience. I attend a lot of critique groups here locally, but there aren’t many people who write my genres.

Anyway, that’s what has been going on with me since my last post. I have a lot going on in the very near future, like the release of a new novel, Creative Con, and I’ll be a guest author for the Bay County Public Library on November 2. Stay tuned. I’ll let you know specifics as we get closer to the events.

My daughter is a wrecking ball!

So yesterday my family went out for dinner. We have a mini-van, or to be more accurate, a mobile living room. The thing is super comfy. The sliding door was open. My daughter Olivia stood just inside the open door. As I approached, she jumped into my arms and I twirled her to the ground. She laughed and said the movement felt like a tornado. I told her she was a tornado.

“Meh,” she told me. “I’m more of a wrecking ball.”

Too funny.

My next novel is based on Olivia and her two younger brothers. The main character’s name is Maddie, but her personality is mirrored after my daughter. Maddie is spunky, rebellious and intriguing–an overall great main character who isn’t your stereotypical girl. And those words aren’t mine own, but of someone who has read the novel’s first chapter and provided constructive feedback.

Olivia’s comment yesterday reminded me of Maddie, because like my daughter, she is certainly a wrecking ball. In light of this revelation, I thought it would be fun to share the first chapter with you in the Maddie Jones saga. I’ve posted it below, so read and enjoy…and let me know what you think.

Maddie Jones & the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors

Chapter 1

The worst day of my life started like this.

I was climbing the rock wall in gym class, hoisting myself up one colorful handhold at a time, when I heard an angry voice yelling at me to speed up.

“You can do better than that, Jones,” Coach Sinclair, my pudgy P.E. instructor whose whistle rested on his round pot-belly, shouted from below.

I grunted, grabbed a yellow handhold, and climbed a bit higher. Ever since the first week of school, I’d grown to hate the rock wall. It was my worst activity in the whole gym class. Maybe it was because I lacked the upper body strength of boys. Or the sturdy legs of a sprinter. I refused to believe it was because I was a thirteen year old girl.

“Let’s go, Miss Jones,” Coach Sinclair blew his whistle. “Two minutes to reach the top!”

“You know, Coach,” I said as sweat dripped into my eyes. “I heard a rumor that you didn’t make your high school football team. Is it true?”

“What?” he barked. “That’s it, you’re running suicides next.”

I groaned. Me and my big fat mouth. It got me in trouble more than I cared to admit.

I finally reached the top. I struck the bell Coach Sinclair required us to hit. It chimed, signaling success. Then I repelled down thirty feet to the basketball court.

Coach Sinclair was there to greet me with arms folded across his chest and a toothy grin. “Suicides, Miss Jones. You’ve earned them.”

“I’m beginning to think you enjoy torturing kids,” I told him.

His grin widened. “What? Me? Never.” Then he stepped aside, motioning to the lines on the court I’d need to touch as I ran back and forth.

“This class sucks,” I said.

“That’ll be ten additional suicides,” he said. “Another word, and it will be ten more.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but thought better of it. My mouth got me into this mess. I doubted it would get me out of it.

So I crouched into a running stance and took a deep breath. But before I could begin, the gym doors opened and in walked Principal Watson in her business skirt and blouse. Two armed police officers joined her. Principal Watson looked around, her eyes settled on me, and she pointed.

“There she is,” her voice echoed across the spacious gym floor. “That’s Maddie Jones.”

The officers nodded to Principal Watson, then began walking my way.

Holy cow! What was this about? Did they find out it was me who stole the cow and put him in the school’s library? Or was it the issue with the front office’s aquarium, when the fish went missing and somehow appeared in bathroom toilets all over campus? I promised Principal Watson I had nothing to do with the incident when confronted a month ago, but apparently she wasn’t convinced. What more did she need?

Perhaps she wanted the missing fish. I’d kept one. He was too cute to give back.

The officer’s shoes thudded against the court, their handcuffs clinking as they approached.

I had to act fast. I wasn’t going to Juvie. Not again.

I don’t remember running, but the next thing I knew, I was sprinting to the girls locker room, where a back exit led to the outside tennis courts and football field.

I heard one of the officer’s shout, “Hey, Maddie, wait!” and he lunged to catch me.

But I was too fast, and seconds later, my Nike tennis shoes were kicking up grass and dirt as I sprinted through boys running scrimmages for next Tuesday’s football game.

Look, I know I said I’m not much of a sprinter. But when running from trouble, you’d be amazed how quickly your legs can move.

And you know what’s crazy? Running from the police wasn’t even why this was the worst day of my life.

Just wait, things are about to get interesting.