Thursday, October 6, 2016

BOOK BLITZ: Spies Like Me by Doug Solter

We are excited to share with you this 5-day Book Blitz for Doug Solter's Spies Like Me, the first book in The Gems series! So...Let's kick off this blitz with an exciting excerpt and a fun Q&A with the Gems! We can't forget the cool blitz-wide giveaway at the end of this post!

Young Adult
The Gems, #1
Publish Date:
October 4, 2016

Can she bring these girls together?

When she discovers her father’s plane crash wasn’t an accident, sixteen year old Emma wants to punish those responsible. Even if it means becoming a spy. The mysterious organization known simply as The Authority wants Emma to join the Gems. This team of all-girl spies knows how to handle themselves on dangerous missions…like stopping an evil plan to incinerate the world’s food supply.

Meet the Gems…

Olivia, code-named Emerald, is seventeen years old. Half English and half Jamaican. Specializes in leadership, marksmanship, and is a rated pilot.

Miyuki, code-named Ruby, is sixteen and from Okinawa, Japan. She specializes in gymnastics and martial arts. Trained in jungle survival and deep sea diving. Once blew up her boyfriend’s motorcycle using a rocket launcher.

Nadia, code-named Sapphire, is sixteen and from Saudi Arabia. She’s a science and computer nerd. Nadia’s zero-gravity school agriculture project created interest from NASA and the European Space Agency.

Emma, code-named Black Opal, specializes in high school theater and shopping.

Each girl comes from a different background. Each girl comes with different skills. Each girl comes with their own drama.

The Authority thinks Emma is the missing link to make this team work.

Emma thinks The Authority is her only chance for revenge.

Available Now

Emma led Ruby up the metal ladder inside the gigantic empty wine barrel. Both girls passed through the winery’s gift shop and went outside to the parking lot. Emma unlocked the doors of her car and the two girls climbed inside it.
“Mercedes AMG,” Rudy said. “How fast does it go?”
Emma pushed the start button. “I don’t know. I just got it a few months ago.”
“No speed?”
“I don’t like to drive like that.”
Ruby nodded. “Safety conscious.”
Emma rolled out of the parking lot and took California Highway 29 south out of Napa Valley towards Vallejo. As the car settled on a speed, Emma flipped on the cruise control. She gripped the leather-stitched steering wheel and exchanged a few glances at Ruby, who grinned. Normally Emma welcomed uncomfortable quiet over uncomfortable conversation, but Mrs. B was quite insistent that Emma should get to know this girl, so…
“Can you tell me your real name?”
Ruby shook her head. “Top secret.”
“Oh. Sorry. I’m new to all this spy stuff, so—”
Ruby covered her mouth as she laughed. “Only kidding. Messing with you. My real name is Miyuki.”
“Mi-yu-ki. Yes, it’s Japanese for awesome girl from Okinawa.” She laughed again. “What is your name, Black Opal?”
“What does Emma mean in English?”
“I have no idea.” Emma thought about it. “It’s English for normal girl who loves books and puppies, I guess. I’m boring.”
“You forgot to add pulls hair like a mother-trucker.” Miyuki laughed again. Her laugh was so rich and genuine. Something a person could get addicted to.
Miyuki talked all the way from Vallejo, through Berkeley, and over the bridge to San Francisco. She told Emma about the Gems and how they moved here from London, where they were stationed previously. About how much she looked forward to seeing America. About how Emma’s habit of not looking before changing lanes was a tad dangerous.
“I know. I keep forgetting there might be a car over there.” Emma checked her side mirror as they reached the end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Miyuki’s eyes lit up like a little girl. “So beautiful. San Francisco is so beautiful.”
Emma focused on the traffic, which could get tricky heading into the city. Miyuki continued to point out every fascinating thing she saw out the window. There was no desperate need to be loved in Miyuki’s voice. No compromising herself in some attempt to get Emma to like her more. Miyuki said whatever she was thinking at the top of her head, and Emma found it refreshing.

Emma led Miyuki into the San Francisco Centre Mall and the girl’s eyes were dazzled by the five indoor floors of shopping.

Miyuki ran up to one of the spiral escalators and craned her neck up toward the domed skylight. “This place is gorgeous.” She took Emma’s hand. “Show me around. Which store is your favorite?”
“Favorite? I can’t pick just one.”
“Then show me all of them.”
Emma loved this girl. They started on the fifth floor and worked their way down. The girls hit Emma’s favorite stores, and Miyuki bought just as many clothes as Emma did. Dresses, skirts, blouses, T-shirts, pants, jeans…it was obscene. And so much fun.
Miyuki twisted her ankle and studied her footwear. “I need new shoes. Which is your favorite shoe store?”
“Oh, Bailey’s on the second floor. The best,” Emma said.
They took the spiral escalator down to floor number two. Bailey’s greeted the girls with two sparkling display fronts as they plunged inside the heart of the store, where shoes, shoes, and more shoes were on display. Miyuki shook with glee as she attacked one display, picking out boxes and sizes to try.
Miyuki wobbled on some six-inch heels. “What do you think?”
“Those look great. But can you walk on—?”
Miyuki caught her heel on the carpet and fell backwards on top of a display, which collapsed to the floor in a crash that turned the heads of everyone inside the store.
Emma rushed to her. “Oh my God. Are you okay?”
Miyuki covered her mouth and giggled. “These shoes make me walk like a drunk giraffe.” Miyuki slipped them off and apologized profusely to the Bailey’s sales staff as they repaired the display Miyuki broke. Then she bought all the shoes off the display because she felt obligated.
Emma led Miyuki out of Bailey’s with two large bags of shoes. “You do know some of those shoes won’t fit you.”
Miyuki shrugged. “I’ll find good homes for them. Some girl would be happy to have them.”
The girls took the bags down to the Mercedes and stuffed them in the trunk.
“Would you like to share tea with me?” Miyuki asked.
Next to the food court, Miyuki and Emma found a small coffee table inside the Kaffee Cadre. A handful of people worked on their laptops as a cappuccino machine gurgled as it steamed milk into a high froth. Miyuki enjoyed a cup of honeysuckle tea while Emma went for the espresso. After two straight lattes, the cappuccino machine fell silent.
“May we join you?” A girl with brown skin accented by cool, bronze undertones and an English accent approached their table. Behind the first girl trailed another. She wore a pink and green-flowered headscarf that covered her hair and neck. Her warm, orange-brown skin had a glow about it. She was beautiful. The girls didn’t wait for an answer as they sat with Miyuki and Emma.
“You wear a size seven, don’t you?” Miyuki asked the girl with the head scarf. “The leopard pumps, white sandals, and the red heels should fit you.”
“Thank you.” The girl with the head scarf spoke in a quiet and polite way. “Is the black dress for me too?”
“Isn’t it beautiful? Mrs. B will have a porpoise when she reads the credit card statement. But if it’s for our mission—”
The English girl interrupted. “She’ll have a cow…not a porpoise.”
Miyuki lightly clapped her hands together. “That’s right. Ha! I said porpoise.”
The English girl leaned forward, her curly ribbons of golden-brown hair were way out of control. “The name’s Olivia, love. Code name Emerald.”
The girl with the headscarf showed Emma a polite smile. “My name is Nadia. Code name Sapphire. Very pleased to meet you.”
“Mine is Emma. Oh, code name Black Opal. Do you know if there’s a way I can get my code name changed?”
Olivia ignored Emma’s question. “Did you notice we’ve been following you this entire time?”
“Emma would have noticed, but I distracted her.” Miyuki sipped her tea and grinned politely.
No, Emma hadn’t noticed the girls at all.
“We followed you the moment you entered the mall,” Olivia said. “Observed what shops you favor. What things you bought. Your mannerisms. The way you interacted with Miyuki.”
“Wouldn’t it have been easier to just come up and say hi?” Emma asked.
“I like to observe my targets. You learn quite a bit about a girl when you watch her. Especially when she doesn’t think she’s being watched.”
Emma didn’t like how Olivia said target.
“And what did you learn about me?” Emma asked.
A smirk appeared on Olivia’s face. She loved this. “Your family’s wealthy. Appallingly wealthy. Your clothes, that Mercedes you drive, and your shopping habits reflect that to obscene levels. You’re also a loner. More comfortable with yourself than around others.”
“How do you know that? You can’t know that by only watching me.”
“Inside California Limited Miyuki excused herself to find a ladies’ room. Once she was gone, your body language changed immediately. You were putting up a front. A public face for her. And judging by how relaxed you became, acting nice around people exhausts you. But you’re a good actress. Must give you points for that, love.”
Emma’s defenses went up. What was with this girl? How dare she call her out in front of Miyuki like that. Emma actually liked the girl. She wasn’t being fake to her like Olivia implied. It wasn’t a total act, but sometimes Emma couldn’t help herself. It was a habit she’d developed in junior high to protect herself.
Miyuki squirmed in her seat. “Would you girls like some tea?”
“No one cares for you at school either,” Olivia continued. “It’s unnerving the way the girls fire eye-daggers in the hallways at you. Yet all the boys still drool when you pass by, for obvious reasons. It’s a shame none of them are brave enough to pick through the layers of ice around you.”
Olivia threw it all out on the table like it was no big deal. Peeling Emma back like an onion. Exposing every flaw. Every blemish. And Olivia had the added nerve to recite it all back like a stupid book report. Like she was trying to help Emma correct these “flaws.”
Emma then realized something. “You spied on me at school?”
“When Mrs. B first thought about approaching you, I suggested we do a bit of reconnaissance first. Gather some intelligence. See what kind of girl we were dealing with.”
“Right now you’re dealing with a furious girl who doesn’t like being treated like something’s wrong with her.”
Miyuki shifted in her chair. “Would you girls like to share a cookie with me?”
“I wasn’t casting judgments on you. Merely stating my observations,” Olivia said. “What’s with that 2.5 grade point average anyway? Had a 4.0 in New York, didn’t you? How does a girl get into a good medical school with a 2.5 grade point average? You still want to become a doctor, right?”
Emma wanted to throw her coffee in Olivia’s face and burn off that smug little grin of hers. But Emma did something worse. She opened her mouth.
“You’re a rude bitch.”
“Ouch. We’re not acting now, are we?” Olivia asked. “This is the real kitten coming out with her claws, isn’t it, love?”
Emma ran out of the coffee place and out into the mall as shoppers looked on with mild interest. The tears came on and Emma tried to fight them back. But they trickled down her cheeks anyway. Emma knew all her weaknesses. All her failures. Of course she pretended to be happy and pleasant to be around. She didn’t want everyone in California to hate her.
Emma reached the indoor parking lot and found her car. She pushed the start button and the engine rumbled. Emma backed out of the parking space, automatically engaging the car’s backup camera. Clearing the space, she touched her brakes and was about to shift the car into drive when she noted something on the backup camera screen. It was Miyuki running up to her car, with paper napkins in hand.
Emma hesitated.
Miyuki slowed behind the car, seeing the backup lights still shining.
Emma put the car into park.
Miyuki tried the passenger door, but it was locked. She flashed a warm smile through the glass.
Emma flipped the unlock switch. Miyuki eased into the passenger seat. She offered Emma one of her paper napkins with the Kaffee Cadre logo on them.
Emma took one and blew her nose.
“What Olivia did…” Miyuki sighed. “Mrs. B wanted her to observe. Not collect a psychiatric evaluation of you.”
“I thought we’re supposed to work together as a team?” Emma asked. “How can I trust someone who tears me down like that?”

“Olivia is paranoid about many things. She wants to take the mystery out of everything and everyone. And when she does, Olivia tends to focus on the negatives instead of the positives. Believe me, though, she’ll risk her life to protect yours. The same as I or Nadia will. Nothing is more important than the team.” Miyuki’s face softened. Her beautiful green eyes released this genuine vibe that melted away Emma’s hesitations. She didn’t know if she fully trusted Olivia, but Miyuki had won her over. “Olivia just received a text from Mrs. B. She wants us back at headquarters. If you don’t mind driving.”

*Q&A with the Gems*

Hi, Everyone! My name is Doug and I'm the author of the new young adult spy thriller Spies Like Me, the first book in The Gems series. Today, I'll be interviewing all four main characters from the new book. But first, a little background on The Gems themselves...

Olivia is from the UK and is a rated pilot. Nadia is the computer and science expert of the group. She's from Saudi Arabia. Miyuki has training in deep-sea diving and gymnastics. She's from Japan.  And Emma...well, you're the new one to this group. What skill training have you had?

Emma: Just some self-defense stuff. I don't get my full spy training until...

Olivia: (interrupting) Wait a moment. What clearance do you have, Doug? We can't do this interview without the proper clearances.

Me: Well, they wouldn't allow me inside your group's secret headquarters without having--

Olivia: C'mon, love. Hand it over. (She holds her hand out, expecting me to comply. I give Olivia my guest pass and show her my letter from Mrs. B, their boss.)

Emma: (to Olivia) Do you believe him now?

Olivia: Yes. I was only checking. It's protocol.

Miyuki: Please continue with your questions, Mr. Solter.

Me: Thank you. What's it like to be a spy?

Emma: I think it's fun. I love acting and being a spy is like acting without an audience. It's such a rush to pretend you're someone else.

Olivia: You're good at acting fake. No doubts about that.

Emma shoots her a look.

Miyuki: Emma is an excellent actor. Having the ability to fully commit to your cover identity is very important in our job. Her acting skills fit well inside our group.

Me: What about you, Miyuki?

Miyuki: I like taking the bad guys down. They're so surprised when they realize they've been captured by four girls.

Olivia: I enjoy gathering intelligence on subjects. The cloak and dagger moments of our job I really love.  

Me: Are you girls licensed to kill?

(The girls all look at each other.)

Emma: We're taught in training how to immobilize our opponents. Not kill them.

Miyuki: (nodding) We're not assassins. But if you try to hurt us--

Olivia: (interrupting) We'll knock your lights out, love.

Me: How do you girls balance school with being a spy?

Emma: I'm new, so I have no idea.

Olivia: When Miyuki, Nadia, and I were based in London, we had tutors supplied by our organization. They were the best in Europe.

Miyuki: Our tutors would instruct us in-between missions. We didn't go to school with the other kids.

Me: I've heard there's a possibility you girls will soon be attending public school in America. What do you think about that?

Miyuki: (Claps her hands together) I would love that!

(Nadia and Olivia both look concerned.)

Emma: I hope it's at my school. I don't have a lot of friends their yet.

Me: Why is that?

Emma: I've been in San Francisco for like three months. You see, I'm a New York City girl. The lights. The noise. The attitude. The weather. I had a lot friends back there. And here...let's just say that the kids here don't get me.

Miyuki: (Holds Emma's hand.) We get you! Right, girls?

(Nadia flashes a polite smile. Olivia is quiet.)

Me: What's the most dangerous thing you've ever had to do on a mission?

Olivia: In Canada we had to jump a snowmobile over an ice crevasse with a five-hundred foot drop off.

Miyuki: I remember! That was so fun.

Olivia: Fun? I had to change my ski pants after that one.

Nadia: Me too.

Me: Nadia, you've been quiet so far. What do you like about being a spy?

Nadia: (Her eyes fall to the ground) I—I don't know. I enjoy figuring out things and gathering information that we need for our missions. I enjoy solving complex problems and puzzles. Forensic science is something I would like to learn more about. I would also like to take a psychology class if our new school offered something like that.

Me: I heard that you have a waiting college scholarship to MIT. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) That's very impressive.

Nadia: (she turns red) It's an honor to be blessed with any college scholarship. My family is very pleased.

Olivia: (to Nadia) You're too modest, love. Nadia is like this beautiful Arabian Einstein. She's the smartest girl on the flipping planet.

Nadia: You're too kind. However, I'm not that smart.

Miyuki: Whatever. You should own that, girl. You are amazing!

Emma: You're like crazy smart. I don't see why you should hide it under that headscarf.

Olivia: (to Emma) Oy! What's that supposed to mean?

Emma: Don't get hot with me. I'm just saying Nadia should be proud of who she is.

Olivia: Maybe she's proud to wear a headscarf. Where do you get off telling her she's not being honest?

Nadia: I'm not offended.

Miyuki: Girls, we shouldn't be arguing in front of the author like this.

Me: After writing 65,000 words and ten revisions I'm used to it.

Miyuki: Oh, okay.

(At this point Olivia and Emma continue to argue. Nadia and Miyuki attempt to calm the two girls down. This finally works, but now Olivia and Emma face their chairs away from each other.)

Me: Final question. This is for each of you. What's the one thing you want our audience to know about you?

Emma: That sometimes I come off as a little cold when I first meet people. It's not like I'm judging them. I just like to get to know them first before I warm up to them.  Oh, and I love animals.

Olivia: (to Emma) That's two things, love.

(Emma rolls her eyes.)

Miyuki: That I love the outdoors and I'm always down for an adventure. I also want the boys at my new school to know that I'm single. So don't be shy. Come talk to me.

(The other three girls flash a surprised look at Miyuki.)

Miyuki: What?

Olivia: I'd like people to know that I feel proud to be in this group. Everyone can talk about doing something good in the world, but if you just sit there on your butt and don't do a flipping thing, then you're part of the problem. Everyone should stand up and do what's right.

(Olivia, Miyuki, and Emma turn towards Nadia who feels their eyes.)

Nadia: Something about me, yes? Well...I am not ashamed of where I come from. I try every day to follow a path in my life that is positive and peaceful. Hurting the innocent violates everything that I believe in. I wouldn't be here if my family and I didn't believe in the core ideals of this organization. People need our help when governments fail to protect them.

Me: What else does The Authority do? Can you elaborate on who exactly runs the organization?

(The moment I ask this Mrs. B, who gave me my credentials, enters the room with a tall man trailing her. The man has the chest the size of a semi-truck grill and is armed. They “ask” me to leave the room. A clear signal my interview with the girls is officially over.)


**About the Author**
Doug Solter has directed rap music videos and short films. He's written screenplays. Drank wine on the streets of Barcelona. Hiked the mountains. Loved a cat. Bought a frankfurter in NYC. Searched through a Roman City. Won money at blackjack. Lost money at blackjack. Yelled into the Grand Canyon. Rang up lattes at Starbucks for a month. Enjoyed a Primanti's sandwich in Pittsburgh. And one summer baked pizza and crazy bread for money.

Doug lives in Oklahoma where he writes young adult novels full of escapism. He's also a proud member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Stay connected with Doug Solter


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