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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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

One agent down. 99 more to go.

Well, day one is complete for my 100 literary agent challenge. I sent my novel Medical MECH to agent Nancy Gallt. Her submission process was a little different than others will be. I didn’t send an actual query letter. Instead, I completed the textboxes on her submission page, which included the first 2,000 words of my story, an author bio, that sort of thing. One interesting aspect of her submission process was that she wanted to know what my character would say on behalf of my story. Kind of neat.

Anyway, tomorrow I plan to contact my second literary agent. The goal is to contact 100 agents by the end of 100 days. I hope along the way I’ll have an agent or three request to read the manuscript. But if not, hey, that’s the way the game is played. I won’t give up. I’ll simply revisit my work and try and make it better.

I’ll keep you posted.

Psalm 20-4

One agent. Per day. For 100 days.

That’s the plan. And it begins tomorrow. For the next 100 days, I plan to send query letters and sample chapters to 100 literary agents. My hope is that I’ll be able to secure an agent for my middle grades adventure novel, Medical MECH.

So what will this plan look like?

Well, I exercise six days a week. I write almost daily. So why can’t I devote time to getting an agent each day, too? The answer is simple. It takes work. Researching agents who represent my genre, learning how they want work submitted, and contacting them requires a substantial amount of time. A couple weeks ago while I was squeezing in a thirty minute workout, I thought: Wow, if I can devote time to my health every day, then I should be able to carve time from my busy schedule to send out my work. So here we go.

Tomorrow marks day one. I plan to send Medical MECH to literary agent Nancy Gallt. She represents one of my literary heroes, Rick Riordan–the author of the New York Times bestselling book series for kids, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Nancy is one of the most successful agents in the business of books. She knows quality work when she sees it. And if I’m going to seek representation, I might as well start at the top. Is Medical MECH up to her standards? I believe so, but I also understand the reality of what I’m about to face.

Rejection.

In the next 100 days, I must steel my emotions for rejection. Most of it won’t be personal. It’s just business. Agents need to make a buck. I believe Medical MECH can make them money, but my challenge is convincing agents I’m worth the risk. Regardless, being told you’re not good enough hurts. Does knowing I’ll be told this make the process any easier? I don’t think so. It just means I have realistic expectations going in.

I’m filled with hope. A little bit of fear. But wish me luck, because I’m about to embark on a 100 day journey that could potentially change my life…and if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. At least I’ll know I took life by the reigns and went for my dreams.

And that’s the biggest lesson here. Go for your dreams, no matter how lofty they may be. I’m going for mine. Are you?

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.

Failure is a motivator. Success is a paralyzer.

You’ve heard it before, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Or, if you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new. Several years ago, I remember seeing a poster in a classroom I was observing that talked about how people who fail are in good company. The poster went on to show famous failures from history. It was pretty cool. Check it out:

Famous Failures

Anyway, yesterday I attended a school inservice with motivational speaker Salome Thomas-El, a school principal from Philadelphia. Principal El has appeared on Dr. Oz, and is an author to boot. He is renown for giving his inner-city students the game of chess and, with it, the power to escape the hard knocks of urban life. Cool guy. He talked a lot about caring for at-risk kids and reaching them on their level.

Great stuff. During his talk, he said something that stuck with me all day long: “Failure is a motivator. Success is a paralyzer.” Now, I already knew how failure can motivate you to succeed. But I hadn’t heard how success can paralyze you. He explained how his chess students, after learning the game, began to win. Tournaments would approach, but the kids wouldn’t practice because they believed they were already good players. It wasn’t until the kids started losing that they became motivated to become better. Failure was the key.

Of course, as a writer and a person who is driven to succeed, I wondered how I can apply Principal El’s concepts not only to my students but to myself. And not only that, but where would I want to apply those principles? The obvious answer for me was with my writing. I crave success beyond the small measurable amount I’ve had over the past several years. I would be thrilled to have my work represented by a literary agent–my next goal. The road to reaching that goal, however, will be paved with failure. Does knowing this make the trial seem easier? I don’t think so. Failure is a tough pill to swallow. Nobody wants to be rejected. It hurts.

Recently, a fellow author I admire named Kathy McManis Holzapfel, who writes under the pen name, Cate Noble (check her out here), shared a video of a conversation between two blockbuster authors: Stephen King and George R.R. Martin. Within their conversation the authors talked about their projects and writing processes, but one story shared by Stephen King was an eye-opener.

He talked about failure.

In his bedroom when he was just starting out, Stephen King hung a nail in his wall. On that nail, he would stick all his rejection letters to it. He wanted to see his failure so it would motivate him to succeed. Eventually, the rejection letters became so heavy that the nail came out of the wall and fell to the ground. So what did he do? He went and bought a bigger nail. Holy cow! Talk about motivation. If you’d like to see the video, check it out below. It’s lengthy, so if you simply want to see the part of the conversation I’m referring to, it’s around the 21:19 mark. For my young readers out there, there is a little bit of language between the two authors. They are Stephen King and George R.R. Martin, after all.

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? I’d say, for me at least, that I need to buckle down and prepare for rejection. I plan to send out my work to countless literary agents soon. Could be good. Could be hurtful.

But I’ve bought a big nail.

Bummer! Last days of summer vacation, but keep calm and write on.

Back to school

Welp, summer break will officially be over for me Monday. It’s back to school, to teach those kids a thing or two about Civics and History. I enjoy my time in the classroom with my students. I’m looking forward to getting started, but I’m also sad to see the break end. I have enjoyed spending time with my wife and children tremendously. Usually, I’m in a funk for a few days once I start back to work. I will miss my family. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still see them every day, but my time with them will be lessened quite a bit–especially once my doctorate school starts back up at the end of August. Phew, boy. It’s going to get busy, and it will happen quick. Still need to find time to write.

I enjoy a challenge.

The year isn’t over yet. So far, 2017 has seen two book releases from me: The Hero’s Ballad, an anthology of award-winning short stories, and Adventures in the Arcane, Volume IIan anthology comprised of a myriad of authors written in a fun pulp style with arcane elements. Both are great reads, with strong tales filled with adventure, thrills and heart. But guess what. I still have one more book to release before the year is through.

That’s right. Medical MECH will be my second novel, a book written for middle school kids. The story follows thirteen-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. Can Riley stop the robots before it’s too late?

Find out in September when Medical MECH hits store shelves. So summer is pretty much over, but life keeps moving forward. Although I will be super busy by the end of this month, I plan to keep devoting time to my writing projects. Not only in the form of Medical MECH, but also with the first novel in the Adventures of Maddie Jones series: Maddie Jones & the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors. Plus, I have set a goal for myself to send out my novels to literary agents this fall in order to secure representation.

Busy. Busy. But I believe hard work pays off.

Keep calm and write on

Top 5 Video Games of all Time: Gameplay vs. Story

I worked as a Gamestop game advisor during my early twenties. One of the most fun topics to discuss with coworkers and customers was our favorite games. Games, like movies, are subjective, so the following list of games are what I consider to be the best. You might disagree. Great. Let’s talk about your favorite games, too. That’s part of the fun. I have broken my list into two blog posts–one for games that had the best stories, and another for games with the best gameplay mechanics. Today, we’ll focus on story. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started already!

Top 5 Video Games: Story

5. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. I loved this game when it released back in November, 2001. The introductory tanker chapter alone is worth the price of admission. The story follows Solid Snake as he attempts to thwart nuclear disaster, but following an explosion Snake is believed dead. Two years later, a terrorist group takes over an oil rig and holds hostages–and one of them is the U.S. President’s daughter. Their leader goes by the name Solid Snake. Whoa, plot twist! You play as Raiden, a covert soldier who must sneak into the rig, rescue the hostages, and uncover the mystery behind Snake’s disappearance and treason. Pretty cool story.

Metal Gear Solid 2

4. Final Fantasy XII. This game came out October, 2006. My wife and I were newly married. I can still remember the night I beat the game, because my wife worked all evening long on a college paper while I stayed up and played FFXII. Procrastinator. She should have completed her paper early like I did. The game follows orphan, Vann, as war looms on the horizon. The Archadian Empire is invading neighboring kingdoms, and Vann’s home of Dalmasca is next. When Dalmasca’s king is assassinated, Vann, a sky pirate, an exiled knight, and a princess thought dead must uncover the mystery behind the Archadian Empire’s invasion in order to restore their home. It’s a political tale filled with intrigue, airships, and war. I highly recommend the game. It’s being re-released this summer for Playstation 4.

Final Fantasy XII

3. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. I’m a huge fan of the Uncharted series (and Final Fantasy, if you haven’t noticed). The games have a winning combination–great stories and fun gameplay. A Thief’s End came out May, 2016. The story follows treasure hunter Nathan Drake after he comes out of retirement for one last adventure–to go on a dangerous quest for Henry Avery’s pirate treasure with his brother, Sam. In the world of video games, the Uncharted games are your summer blockbusters. Big productions and epic stories. But Uncharted 4 is the best.

Uncharted 4

2. Final Fantasy X. This game came out December, 2001. I was still living at home with mom and dad. I had no responsibilities other than working part-time, and my classwork at Gulf Coast. Which meant I could play FFX all night long and not worry about getting up early the next day. Man, times sure have changed. The story follows Tidus, a superstar Blitzball athlete, as he is swept away from his world and transported to a mysterious land known as Spira. There, he meets a young summoner named Yuna who must journey to acquire a powerful spell from a place called Zanarkand–the name of Tidus’ hometown. The city was destroyed 1,000 years earlier by a creature called Sin. Yuna seeks to destroy Sin. Tidus tags along to help Yuna, and to discover the mystery of what happened to him and his home. It’s an emotional coming of age story filled with love and a twist ending on par with the movie, The Sixth Sense.

Final Fantasy X

1. Vagrant Story. Of all the games I’ve ever played, this one by far has the best story. The game came out May, 2000; and to be honest, I didn’t pick it up right away. It wasn’t until about 2002 I finally gave the game a shot. The story follows Ashley Riot, a Riskbreaker tasked with rescuing a kidnapped boy from a religious zealot named Sydney Losstarot. To save the boy, Ashley must travel to a magical city destroyed twenty-five years earlier by unnatural earthquakes. But Ashley isn’t the only person inside the city. Knights of the Crimson Blades, as well as other agents pursuing their own agendas, are also on the hunt for Sydney. If this premise sounds familiar, it is. When I wrote The Prophet of the Dragon, I considered what I loved about Vagrant Story and tried to recreate a similar feel. Some of those elements include a medieval stealth soldier, a religious zealot who kidnaps a boy and takes him to mysterious city, and knights in pursuit with their own sinister agenda. It goes without saying, I LOVE this game.

Vagrant Story

So those are my top 5 favorite games of all time…based on story. Next time, I’ll share my top 5 favorite games based on gameplay mechanics. So what are your favorite video game stories? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you!