Melina has been preparing for a future career as a spy.
She just doesn’t know it.
Legendary spy Evan Roberts always knew that his fifteen-year-old daughter Melina
also possessed the absolute lack of fear required of an agent. Without telling her his
real profession or his intention, he began to guide her toward an eventual career as
a spy. However, Melina’s world is shattered after her mom is involved in an accident
that leaves her mysteriously unhurt but unresponsive. Her father’s plans on hold,
Melina settles into life at a suburban high school, immersing herself in a world of
schoolwork, her friends and a budding romance with Alex, the cute new guy in her
When Melina and her father uncover shocking new information about her mother’s
accident, Melina is pulled deep into her father’s shadowy world. With Alex
desperately trying to find her and only hours to go before it will be too late to save
her mother, Melina and her father work together using their combined
skills to find a way to reach her.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The Origin of This Book
It’s funny. I don’t think of myself as a writer. I am an electrical engineer and I design
integrated circuits for a large telecommunications company. It is not as though I
have written many books. This is the only book I have written. Nonetheless, if one
were to ask me how I came to write this book, I can trace it to the exact moment.
I was sitting on the couch playing a game on the Wii with my then seven-year-old
son Travis. This was our usual as we had spent the better part of several hours a day
playing various games throughout the entire summer. Toward the end of the night,
my ten-year-old daughter Melina entered the room to tell me that she was going to
bed. I realized that, as of late, I had not spent any time with her. She had been
spending time working on a book review blog of her own called Reading Vacation,
so I didn’t seem to see her much. It was sad. She was getting older, and she was
spending way more time with her mother, just like I was spending way more time
with our son. Then it hit me. I would write a book that would feature her (and her
brother.) I could describe the feelings that I had about my daughter getting older. I
could tell about the fierce protectiveness that fathers have as well as the joy that we
have but might not show at having a daughter. I could even weave some anecdotes
of events in her life into the story. (There is a scene in the book where a young
Melina leaps off of a boat that is parked inside a store. That whole scene actually
happened word for word.)
Having decided to write a book, I needed a plot. The main characters had to be a
dad and a daughter. I also wanted to showcase women in roles that traditionally
were thought of as being done by men. I rolled it around in my head and came up
with the spy genre. Finally, the dad and daughter had to spend time together so
they could talk as well as work together to solve a problem. I can’t say any more
without revealing the story, but I was very happy with what I came up with. I hope
you enjoy it too.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The main character and her brother were modeled after my own kids. Almost every character in the book is named after a friend or family member.
Melina stared out the window of her classroom and thought of a
million things that she would rather be doing. Her language arts teacher,
Mrs. Frerking, gave lectures that could be used to induce hypnosis, so
Melina often found herself daydreaming of things far more exciting than
“Miss Roberts. Eyes to the front, my dear,” Mrs. Frerking said
from the front of the classroom. Known for being the toughest teacher in
tenth grade, Mrs. Frerking had a pet peeve about students that did not pay
attention in class.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Melina said as she quickly sat up straight in
her chair and fixed her gaze to the front of the room.
“Now then, we have a few minutes left so let’s spend some time
going over the reading assignment for the coming week,” Mrs. Frerking
said, addressing the whole class. “Remember, there is a test on it
Mrs. Frerking liked to teach right up to the bell. She took immense
pleasure in making the students that had put all their things away in
anticipation of the end of the class have to get them back out again.
“Okay,” she continued. “Our book selection for this week was the
historical non-fiction book, Great Women Spies of the Civil War.”
Ordinarily, Melina would have read this book immediately after
she got it. She loved historical non-fiction and this book in particular
featured strong, courageous women living exciting lives. There was one
problem. She had lost the book. She remembers bringing it home, and then
it was gone. Afterward, she tried to borrow a copy but the classmate that
was going to lend Melina her copy didn’t because she had never finished
reading the book herself. Another student in her class was going to lend
her their copy, but she forgot to bring it to school.
“I trust everyone has done the assigned reading?” Mrs. Frerking
said with an expression of rhetorical doubt on her face. “Is there anyone
that would like to answer a few questions for the class?”
There was the usual assortment of hands raised with enthusiasm
and hands half-raised as if to say do NOT call on me.
“Hmmm …” she said as she scanned the room, increasing the
A voice whispered in Melina’s direction. “I hope she doesn’t call
The voice belonged to Alex Winfield, the boy that sat in the seat
next to her. He was new to the school having just moved from Seattle a
few weeks after the start of classes. All of the girls in the class thought he
was extremely cute with long, straight shoulder length blond hair and deep
turquoise colored eyes. He also dressed in a way that was different from
all of the other boys that was a mix of old Seattle grunge and new skater
boy. As luck would have it, when it came time to find the new student a
seat, he ended up at the only available desk next to Melina. While he said
hello to her every day and they had engaged in numerous conversations,
shyness on her part prevented the conversations from being anything but
awkward and all business. Mostly discussions of school assignments and
“I hope she doesn’t call on me either,” Melina whispered back,
trying to flash her best smile.
That went well Melina thought, but she had to get back to the
matter at hand. Mrs. Frerking usually called on the half-raised hands, so
Melina raised her hand quick and high.
It didn’t work.
Mrs. Frerking turned and stared at Melina. “You read the entire
selection, Miss. Roberts?”
“Uh, yes ma’am,” Melina stammered.
“All right, then,” Mrs. Frerking began, still standing at the front of
the class, “what can you tell me about Sarah Emma Edmonds?”
Melina thought for a moment, stalling, before offering “She was a
That brought scattered giggles from the students. Mrs. Frerking
was now slowly walking toward Melina.
“That is most intriguing,” Mrs. Frerking said as she continued a
leisurely stroll toward Melina. “I would not have guessed that from the
title of the book.”
Mrs. Frerking smelled fear and was now closing in for the kill. She
now stood directly in front of Melina’s desk. “Miss Roberts, can you tell
me how Sarah Emma Edmonds was revealed as a spy?”
There are times when people have been known to come up with
brilliant answers under extreme pressure. This was not one of those times.
“The government tapped her phone?” Melina said meekly and
clearly in question form.
With that, the class erupted in laughter. Melina did not understand
what she said that everyone thought was funny.
“My dear,” Mrs. Frerking said, “I suppose it would be news to
historians that Sarah Emma Edmonds had a telephone ten years before it
Now she understood. All she could muster at that point was a
“Umm,” she finally uttered.
“You did not read the book, did you Miss Roberts,” said Mrs.
“No ma’am, I lost it,” Melina said, trying to sound as contrite as
Mrs. Frerking sensed that her young student had suffered enough.
“Okay, Miss Roberts. You have a twenty-four hour reprieve. Find it and
read it by tomorrow.”
“Okay ma’am. Thank you,” Melina said meekly.
Mrs. Frerking now addressed the whole class. “Let’s try this again,
is there anyone in class that did read the book?”
A girl a few seats in front of Melina raised her hand. “I did.”
It was Ellen Barrow. Tall as a runway model and dressed almost as
well, she was part of a group of people that were considered the popular
crowd. Popular having the usual meaning that you were pretty and wore
the latest trendy clothes. Although Melina could qualify under those rules,
she preferred to dress in her own style of jeans and retro tennis shoes, so
she steered clear of them. She had extra motivation to stay away from
Ellen in particular. One day at lunch, early in their freshman year, Melina
suggested to Ellen that perhaps she should not cut in front of everyone in
the cafeteria line. Every day since, she has greeted Melina with a stink-eye
“Okay, Miss Barrow,” said Mrs. Frerking “Can you tell me how
Sarah Emma Edmonds was revealed as a spy?”
“Sarah Emma Edmonds masqueraded as a man throughout the
Civil War, so she could be more effective as a spy,” Ellen began. “When
she contracted malaria, she was forced to give up the ruse. Although Sarah
was never found out, the male avatar that she created was listed as a
deserter during her bout with malaria and she just stopped spying
“Excellent, Ellen,” Mrs. Frerking said enthusiastically. “I hope
everyone has studied as hard for the test tomorrow.”
With that, Ellen turned around and gave Melina a bonus I’m-
smarter-than-you stink-eye. Mercifully, the bell rang at that point, and
Melina made a beeline for the door. Once outside the classroom, she
began to make her way with the throng down the hall toward her locker.
Melina heard a voice behind her. “Hey lady, wait up.”
She stopped and turned around. It was her best friend Jean.
“Hey,” Melina said with a small wave.
Melina had known Jean since kindergarten. On the first day of
class, Jean grabbed a game that Melina was playing with right out of her
hands, and a small fight broke out between them. In order to help the two
strong willed girls get along, the school principal made them spend the
rest of the week at recess playing together. By the end of the week, they
were best friends. Jean knew her friend well, and could tell by her voice
and her manner that something was wrong.
“You sound terrible,” Jean said. “What is the matter?”
“Come on,” Melina said. “Walk with me to my locker and I’ll fill
you in on all of the details of the great language arts class meltdown.”
“Oh no! Did you say something stupid to that cute new guy?” Jean
Melina smiled. “No. I wish it were only that awful. I said
something stupid to the whole class. I hadn’t read the reading assignment
and Mrs. Frerking called on me to answer questions about it. Then, I said
in front of everybody that I thought a Civil War era spy was busted
because of a phone tap.”
“And …?” Jean asked, thinking there was going to be further
details to the story.
“The Civil War had ended ten years before the phone was
invented,” Melina said with a dismissive tone.
“Well, I can see how that would be embarrassing in that egghead
language arts class. Us folks in bonehead English, we barely can use
phones,” Jean said sarcastically.
“I’m sorry, Jean,” Melina said. “That is not what I meant.”
“Why are you even in that advanced English class?” Jean said,
“You obviously hate it. You are such a genius in science and math. You
Melina held up a hand toward Jean. “Don’t say it.”
“You should junk the difficult English stuff and focus on your
strength in the hard sciences,” Jean said. “There. I said it.”
Melina sighed, clearly unhappy about having this conversation
again. “I am taking that class because it will help prepare me for what I
ultimately want to do as a career.”
Jean rolled her eyes. “I know, I know. You want to be some
foreign diplomat or something. You want to get out of the suburbs and see
“I want to do something exciting with my life,” Melina explained.
“If I take science and math classes, I will end up in some boring career as
some boring scientist or engineer.”
“Like your dad,” Jean said smugly.
“Listen, Jean,” Melina said, “I love my dad. He apparently is a
brilliant engineer and the software code that he writes is mind numbingly
difficult, but that is not for me. I see him put on a tie and go to work at the
same place every day. When he comes home, and I ask him how his day
went, he says that he sat at his desk all day typing on a keyboard and
moving a mouse. He never complains, and he does seem happy, but that is
not the life that I want. I want a career that has some excitement to it.
When my family asks me how my day at work went, I want my
description of it to sound just like a novel.”
“Doesn’t your dad get to do some traveling?” Jean asked.
“Every two or three weeks he goes on a two or three day trip to the
corporate headquarters in Washington D.C. He described these trips to me
once. He does the same thing he does here, but he does it in another city.
Instead of typing on a keyboard in his office here, he gets together with a
bunch of other engineers to talk about what they type on their keyboards.
Elaborate discussions of software tasks and function calls.”
“All I know is that you should pursue what you have a talent for
and …” Jean started, but stopped suddenly, turning her attention to behind
“And what?” Melina asked.
Jean gave Melina a quick head nod that indicated that she should
look behind her. Melina turned around and there standing in front of her
was Alex Winfield.
“I am sorry. I did not mean to interrupt,” Alex said, looking
alternately at both Melina and Jean.
“No problem,” Melina said, flustered and now standing up a little
“Who’s your friend, Melina?” Jean said, not flustered.
Alex held out his hand to Jean. “My name is Alex.”
“I’m Jean,” Jean countered, shaking his hand.
Melina then regained her composure. “My friend Jean was just
trying to convince me that I should give up the hard language arts class.”
“If you are thinking about what happened in class today, that is
kinda why I’m here,” Alex said, “You told Mrs. Frerking that you had lost
your copy of the book from the reading assignment. I am finished with
mine. Would you like to borrow it?”
There was a noticeable pause as Melina tried to process the turn of
events. The cutest guy in language arts class is offering to solve her
problem of finding a book before tomorrow. Sensing that she was taking
too long, Melina answered abruptly.
“Sure… Uh… Are you sure? I mean are you sure that you are done
with it?” Melina stammered.
“I’m positive,” Alex said, as he took the book out of his bag and
handed it to Melina. “I’ve read it twice already. I’m a humongous fan of
Melina took the book from him and slid it into her backpack.
“Thank you, Alex.”
“I still think you should drop the language arts and concentrate on
physics and math,” Jean said, trying to be a part of the conversation. “You
do awesome in those classes.”
“Physics is my favorite subject,” Alex said. “When I was in
seventh grade, my science teacher made us do a biography paper on a
famous scientist. In order to prevent the entire class from doing their
papers on Albert Einstein, the teacher assigned us the names of the
scientists. I did my report on Ernest Lawrence. What he accomplished was
so fascinating that I have been hooked ever since.”
“Ernest …?” Jean asked.
“Ernest Lawrence,” Melina said, with a tone that implied that his
name was common knowledge. “Nobel Prize winner… inventor of the
“Cyclotron?” Jean said suspiciously. “You just made that up.”
“No,” said Melina, laughing. “The cyclotron is the scientific name
for an atom smasher. It accelerates elementary particles such as protons up
to near the speed of light. Then the particles are forced to smash into one
another. The collisions can be observed for new particles in the collision
“Lawrence’s invention was so revered by the scientific community
that he has an element in the periodic table named for him, Lawrencium,”
“This conversation has crossed way over the line into geekdom. I
am starting to learn things,” Jean said, rolling her eyes.
“Wow,” Alex said as he turned to Melina. “It sounds as if you
know your stuff.”
“Physics comes easy for me,” Melina said. “I have not missed a
single question on any of the quizzes this year. But the real physics
gearhead in the family is my little brother Travis. He has always been a
little small for his age, and he has never been that interested in outdoor
activities, so he spends a lot of time inside reading. Mostly about science.”
“Sounds as if he might turn out to be a scientist when he gets
older,” Alex said.
“Maybe,” Melina said. “He just received a Castle Grant.”
“I heard about that,” Alex said, his face with the look of
recognition. “That is the grant that is given to the top five middle school
physics students in the country. It is supposed to allow them to do
independent research of a physics topic of their choosing.”
Melina pointed at Alex. “That’s the one. He hasn’t chosen his area
to study, but he said something last week about investigating his theory of
the possible existence of a seventh quark. A gentleman from the grant
committee said Travis’s theory has a lot of potential. He said Travis has an
unusually natural grasp of the subject.”
“I like physics a lot, but it is not natural for me,” Alex said. “I have
to study pretty hard. It helps that my dad is an engineer. He can help me
with the tougher problems.”
“Melina’s dad is an engineer too,” Jean said.
“Yeah, he’s a software engineer. He works in downtown Dallas at
Hadron Systems,” Melina said.
“Hey!” Alex replied excitedly. “That’s where my dad works! He
just transferred from the Seattle office. That is why we moved.”
“Wow,” Melina said, “What a small world.”
Alex looked around. “What was that noise?”
“That would be my watch,” Melina said as she held up her arm and
pointed at her wristwatch. “It apparently thinks it is the top of the hour.”
“You know, I’m no watch connoisseur, but that is the ugliest watch
I have ever seen,” Alex said, clearly joking with Melina.
“You’re telling me,” Melina shot back, “Its face is twice the
normal size. And do not get me started on the fluorescent orange color.”
“It was a gift, I presume?” Alex asked. “From someone you cannot
offend. Like a mob boss.”
“No,” Melina said, laughing. “I lost my watch about a month ago,
and I borrowed one of my mom’s watches.”
Jean was thinking ahead. She could sense ‘the question’ coming,
and she had to get her friend out of there.
“You know, Melina, we should get going to our next class,” Jean
said as she tugged on Melina’s arm.
Melina gave Jean a strange look. It was unlike her to want to rush
to class. “I’ve got plenty of time,” Melina said as she turned back to Alex.
She was clearly enjoying her conversation.
By then it was too late. Alex asked her ‘the question.’
“With such taste in watches, your mom must be a left-brainer,”
Alex said. “Is she an engineer too?”
“No… she doesn’t work… she stays home…” Melina said feebly.
Alex stood silently waiting for Melina to continue.
“Excuse me,” Melina said, finally.
Melina grabbed her backpack and disappeared around the corner,
leaving Alex with a perplexed look. He started to follow her but Jean
stopped him with a hand to his chest.
“It’s not your fault,” Jean said quickly.
Alex looked as if he were in a daze. “What just happened?”
“It’s Melina’s mom,” Jean began. “About six months ago, her
mom was driving home from the store, when she got into a car accident.
She ran a red light, and another car hit her broadside. Physically, she came
through all right, but they believe that she hit her head because she was
unresponsive when she got to the hospital.”
“Oh my God,” Alex gasped. “Did she get better?”
“Since she did not appear to have any other injuries, they hoped
that her condition was temporary,” Jean continued, “but the doctors are
baffled. There does not seem to be any reason why she should not just
wake up. It has been six months and yet there has been no improvement.”
“Is she still in the hospital?” Alex asked.
“No. They moved her to a long term care facility across town,”
Jean said. “Melina visits her every weekend.”
“I feel so terrible,” Alex said.
Jean reached over and gently grasped Alex’s arm. “Alex, don’t.
This is not the first time that this has happened. My best friend is just
going through a rough patch. Please bear with her.”
Alex looked in the direction that Melina went. “Should I go talk to
“I’ll talk to her,” Jean said as she started walking. “Don’t worry
“Tell her that I understand and that I will see her in class
tomorrow,” Alex said as Jean disappeared.
Jean found Melina down the next hallway, standing next to the
water fountain, dabbing her eyes with a tissue to soak up the tears.
“You sure have a way with the guys,” Jean said as she approached.
“I’m going to have to take notes.”
Melina looked up, her teary expression giving way to a stifled grin.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jean said. “Alex said to tell you that he
understands about what just happened and that he will see you in class
tomorrow. He seems like a nice guy. I can understand why you have a
crush on him.”
Melina looked up quickly. She had never told anyone her feelings
about Alex, even Jean. She felt guilty about not mentioning it to her, but
these were new feelings, and she was still trying to work through how she
“You can’t lie to me,” Jean said, laughing. “I saw how you looked
at him. How long have you felt this way about him?”
“A couple of weeks,” Melina said, looking down. “I have talked to
him in class a hundred times since he came to the school, but one morning,
I was talking with him in Physics class and as he looked over at me, he
smiled a certain way. At that moment, I felt something that I have never
experienced before in my life. It is difficult to explain, but I had an
overwhelming sense that I wanted to be around him. I’ve felt that way
ever since. I am sorry I have not told you about it. This is all new for me.”
“It’s okay, lady,” Jean. “I understand.”
“Don’t you think Alex is way out of your league?” A voice
boomed from behind Melina.
It was Ellen Barrow and a few of her toadies. It was no secret
around school that Ellen was interested in Alex. She had been angling for
him to ask her out since his first day in class. Without any luck.
“It is none of your business,” Melina said as she turned around.
“It is so my business,” Ellen said, excitedly. “When I talked to
Alex last week, he remarked how pretty my hair was. It is only a matter of
time before he asks me out, and I cannot have anyone get in the way.”
“Well, we’ll have to let him do what he wants,” Melina said as she
bent down to get a drink from the fountain.
Ellen then put her finger on the spigot of the fountain so that it
sprayed water all over Melina.
“Just stay away from him,” Ellen said as she stormed off, her
toadies following bewildered behind her.
Jean started to wipe the water from Melina with her jacket. “I
didn’t hear anything about rain in the forecast.”
“Do you think that she is right?” Melina asked. “That Alex is out
of my league.”
Jean stepped back and looked at her friend. “Why, because you
choose to wear plain jeans and boys tennis shoes instead of the latest
“That’s part of it,” Melina said. “I mean, look at Ellen. I don’t
think that she has worn pants since third grade, and she has a different set
of shoes for every outfit. She’s tall, and she’s pretty. She has perfect blond
Jean put her hand on Melina’s shoulder. “Look, I am only going to
say this once. Your clothes are not trendy, but they look good on you. And
you are one of the prettiest girls I know with a smile that could light up a
room. So do not let Ellen convince you that Alex is out of your league.
Besides, you have something that Ellen does not have.”
“What do you mean?” Melina asked.
“He clearly is interested in you,” Jean said.
“Do you think?” Melina asked.
Jean rolled her eyes. “Guys do not just walk up to you out of the
blue and offer to lend you a book without there being some interest. That
and the fact that he appeared to have the same look on his face that you
did. I’m positive.”
Melina put her arm around her friend. “Thanks Jean.”
Jean smiled at her and then turned serious. “There is one thing that
I have to ask you, though,” Jean said as she moved in front of Melina and
placed her hands on Melina’s shoulders. “Now, don’t take this the wrong
way, but what in the heck is the matter with you? What happened to the
Melina that I used to know? The confident Melina. The fearless Melina. I
can’t understand why you let Ellen talk to you like that. The Melina I used
to know would have broken both of her arms.”
Melina took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Jean was right. She
had changed. And she a valid point about the broken arms.
When Melina was in kindergarten, she started studying martial
arts at a special studio across town. Set up by her father’s employer, the
studio was attached to a fitness complex owned by the company, and it
taught only the children of employees and their extended families. The
studio offered classes in all of the different forms of martial arts and
Melina began by studying Tae Kwon Do. Focusing almost entirely on
punching and kicking forms, but with little sparring, she excelled to the
top of her class.
When Melina was in fourth grade, her father told her that she must
switch her study to Krav Maga. Originally developed by Israeli
commandos, this form of martial arts was unique in that it emphasized
disabling your opponent as quickly as possible by any means possible,
even if it meant poking out the opponent’s eye or breaking their neck.
At first Melina did not like the sheer brutality of Krav Maga. She
liked the beauty and grace of Tae Kwon Do while this new form of martial
arts taught how to harm anyone that was a threat to her in the most
efficient way. It did not help that she was at least ten years younger than
anyone else that was in the class. Melina pleaded with her father to allow
her to continue studying Tae Kwon Do, but he insisted that she study Krav
Maga. “You will need to be able to defend yourself,” he told her.
She continued attending Krav Maga classes all throughout
elementary and middle schools, slowly progressing up through the
different levels of belts. At each belt level, the students were expected to
spar with each other and try out what was learned during class on each
other. Though she was in a class with students that were much bigger than
she was, she held her own during the sparring and developed a reputation
for having a particularly fierce fighting style.
Her ability gave her tremendous confidence, and it was reflected
in her manner both in the studio and at school. In sixth grade, she once
was confronted by a group of eighth grade girls that took exception to her
trespassing in the eighth grade hallway. After getting shoved around the
hallway a bit, Melina unleashed a fury of fists and feet that resulted in
broken bones for several of the girls involved. Reviewing the hallway
security tape, the principal remarked that it looked like a clip from a Bruce
When she was a freshman in high school, she finally reached the
level of black belt. While this was the highest belt level that could be
achieved in Krav Maga, there are nine Dan levels of black belt. Each new
level is achieved only with more intensive training that includes the study
of advanced weapons. She was studying for her black belt, third Dan when
her mother’s accident happened. At that point, her mother had been taking
her to class exclusively. Her dad made it clear to her that it was crucial
that she continued her martial arts training. He said that he would leave
work early to take her, but she decided to quit. She had lost the desire. It
just wasn’t the same without her mother.
Melina looked up at her friend. “Many things changed after my
mom’s accident. I’m just not that person anymore.”
Ron Corriveau is an electrical engineer and works designing custom integrated
circuits. He started writing to prove to himself that he actually does have a right side
to his brain. Originally from Southern California, he currently lives outside of Dallas
with his lovely wife and two awesome kids. He has only recently come to terms
with the fact that he is a geek, although he would like to stress that he doesn’t hold
any kind of leadership role in the organization.
Have you read this book or others by this author? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!