Among gamers, I’m nerd of the nerds!

Stormblood

Recently, I discussed how video games hinder creativity. Basically it boils down to the amount of time video games steal from writing my novels. Although I enjoy playing games, I aim to become a successful writer. That means juggling my time so I work productively yet still have time to destress in an interactive world like Uncharted or Final Fantasy. So which game is stealing so much of my time right now? None other than Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood.

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood is an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game). I’ve been playing the game off and on since 2013 when the game released with a Realm Reborn. Since then the game has seen two expansions: Heavensward and Stormblood, the latter being the most current.

If you’ve ever played a game like World of Warcraft, then you know how addicting the gameplay can be. Of all the games I have ever played, I have logged more hours in the world of Eorzea than any other. I play as Vosslar, a level 70 elezen bard/paladin/white mage/you name it. One of the great things about the game is you can play multiple classes. I have a tank, a healer, and a DPS (damage per second) character.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, then you’ve likely never played a game like this. What’s so addicting about FFXIV’s gameplay is the online element. Through the game, I am connected with thousands of players. Together we can form parties and tackle dungeons, monsters, and high-level raids. Gamers are typically a nerdy group, but MMO players are the nerds of the nerds.

Anyways, what are you playing? Shoot me an email and let me know.

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Do video games hinder creativity?

Are video games bad for me

I love to play video games. I game every week. Sometimes I prefer games with a solid story, other times games with riveting gameplay mechanics. Games are entertaining and fun, a great way to escape from the stresses of the day. However, some would argue video games hinder creativity.

Years ago when writing The Prophet of the Dragon I would have argued vehemently against that statement. It’s no secret that my first novel was heavily inspired by one of my all-time favorite video games: Vagrant Story. Heck, my current project, Maddie Jones & the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors, includes elements inspired from the Uncharted video game series. Both of these games helped to blossom creativity, not hinder it.

So why do some say video games diminish the art of creating? Well, it’s really quite simple–video games can be addicting. Lately, I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood. It’s an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). When I login to play, I’m not just gaming by myself; instead I team up with hundreds of thousands of players from all over the world to tackle quests, dungeons, defeat internet monsters, and seek fortunes in conquest and raids. It’s highly addicting. Now, I must clarify that I do play in moderation (I mean, come on, I have a family for crying out loud. Not to mention I’m working on a doctorate degree). But the game has certainly stolen time from my creating.

Because of my time in FFXIV: Stormblood, I’ve not spent as much time with my current novel. I’m still working on it (I do have dreams and aspirations to make it as an author), but the time I usually spend in the evenings to hammer out edits has instead been consumed with dragons and bards and internet monsters.

So do video games hinder creativity? Yes and no. On the one hand, games can inspire the best of stories. On the other they can consume your time when you should be writing that bestselling novel. But I suppose this can be said about any form of entertainment, whether it be movies or social media. We just have to moderate how we play so we can keep the creativity flowing. I know I will. And in the meantime, I’m off to join a party of would-be heroes to slay an internet dragon…right after I finish editing my latest chapter.

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.

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

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.

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

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!