I am 55 years old. For 42 of those years, I wanted to be a published author. Last January 2, 2009, I published my first book in The Ethan Sparks Adventure Series. It’s titled: Escape of the Terra-Cotta Soldiers. In the past nine months, I have had 27 book signings. I am finally living my dream!
This dream took hold of me when I was 13. It all started with me reading The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger by flashlight under my bedcovers.
I clearly remember finishing Salinger’s classic coming-of-age story, putting the book down, and saying: “I want to be a writer. I want to move people with my stories.”
In the past 42 years, I have written 18 novels, two stage-plays, two movie-scripts, a dozen or more short stories, reams of poetry, and have kept a daily journal totaling almost 20,000 pages. Lots of cracked, yellow pages.
I was searching for my voice. Ironically, at the age of 55, I found that voice in a 13-year-old named Ethan Sparks. Ethan is a middle schooler who gets to go on archaeological digs with his famous father – and all because he landed an assignment with the fictional Young Explorer magazine.
In Book One, Ethan’s father, Dr. Sparks, gets to go to China to be the first foreign archaeologist to unearth one of the Terra-Cotta Soldiers. Not only does Ethan get to write a great article for the Explorer - he also cracks an artifact theft ring that sells stolen soldiers on the black market.
Disguised within an action/adventure that is driven through mystery and suspense; kids still learn about the inner-workings of an archaeological dig, a foreign culture, its people and all of its wonderful history.
In Book One, the reader gets to walk along the Great Wall with Ethan – that is, until they have to run to safety because of a sniper’s bullet.
Still, the kids get to see the Great Wall; its watch towers and turrets. The footpath itself was made wide enough to accommodate six chariots carried by horses, all riding six abreast.
After their trip to the Great Wall, they make Camp in Banpo, once an old Soviet-style block compound.
Nearby, in the village of Banpo, Ethan gets to see a Neolithical dig site, once the site of the Yangshao tribe. The remains of this matriarchal village has a little museum filled with cool weapons and tools, and dead people preserved in jars.
At this museum, Ethan meets a buddy named Chen Jun. In all the proposed eight books in The Ethan Sparks Adventures™ series, our 13-year-old hero meets a local friend his own age. In each book , Ethan wrangles a visit to his new friend’s home and school for the purposes of his articles.
Even though we see a Chinese boy at home and at school, the mystery drives the educational visits.
The same holds true for Dr. Sparks’ archaeological team’s official visit to the Terra-Cotta Soldier Museum. This museum is in Xi’an, just five miles by van from their Camp in Banpo, and the actual center of the mystery itself.
Once again though, kids learn all about the fascinating Terra-Cotta Soldiers. Particularly, how they were constructed by an ancient assembly line to protect the First Emperor of China in his after life. Remarkably, no two of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers look alike.
The First Emperor’s tomb not only has a vast regiment of Terra-Cotta soldiers, but also an underground palace with rivers made to run with mercury, trees and a ceiling of stars.
All throughout this fascinating history, the mystery unfolds and drives the story with a quest, lots of fast-paced action, as well as a suspenseful and immediate action that keeps kids reading.
All of the books in the series are narrated by 13-year-old Ethan himself. He talks to his readers, and tells them all about his exhilarating new adventures.
His entertaining narrative with its believable point of view draws kids in with his humorous and quirky coming-of-age.
To accommodate my readers’ attention spans, the chapters are short and always end with a cliff-hanger. The paragraphs are compact, and the sentences right to the point.
My goal — the reason I chose this genre — is to get kids to read. As a child, I was a voracious reader. But to be fair, in those days we only had CBS, NBC and ABC. No cable, no computers, iPhones, cell phones, Wii — or any honest-to-goodness diversion from reading.
Reading as a child, then later as a teen, was a wonderful, incredible escape. I took trips to foreign lands, met mythical people, and my imagination ran free.
If I can provide even a part of that experience to kids today, then I have finally fulfilled my dream. So far, all of the successful book signings tell me I have.
At each book signing, I place a card in the inscribed book that has the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
I receive an average of 22-28 emails per day from kids who write that they love my book, and when is Book Two coming out?
Book Two in The Ethan Spark Adventures series is coming out in January of 2010.
Book Two in the proposed series of eight finds Ethan in Santorini, Greece. He has one question to answer: Is Poseidon’s Trident a 3500-year-old myth, or a real artifact? Answering that question almost gets him killed.
I have received countless emails from girls telling me that they liked Escape of the Terra-Cotta Soldiers too. So Book Two has some “girl power” in it because of that great feedback.
I even received an email from an 80-year-old woman that the book is not just for kids, because she enjoyed it too. That email did not come from my mother. Instead, she called from Florida to tell me that she liked it.
Believe me, this touched me. Especially when she said, “Son, I always knew that you’d publish one of your works someday.”
She didn’t even mention that it finally happened 42 years later when I turned 55. My mom however did mention that if freaked her out how convincing I was narrating a story in the voice of a 13-year-old.
Some of my other friends said the same thing but in different ways. I heard, “It chilled me to the bone.” and “Woah, you really nailed the voice of a newly-baptized teen!”
I took all these remarks as a cause for celebration. Not only had my perseverance to become a published author paid off, but my childrens’ literacy goal has sparked a mission. And yes, the verb sparked is intentional.
Book Two is titled: Drowning in the Oracle of Delphi. I may not be Greek, but I could be. Because my awe with the Greek Isles rings quite true. This is because I love Greece so. The Aegean, the Caldera, Red Beach, ancient Akrotiri, Santorini and Fira. Within this fragile beauty is a fast-paced action adventure.
But kids will also learn about Minoan culture that thrived there 3500 years ago. They will see Professor Marinato’s awesome dig site of a complete Minoan city — all while a mysterious bullet ricochets at the site’s tin roofed entrance. Thus the mystery in Greece begins — a mystery that is driven right to the end of the story with immediate, suspenseful action that unfolds into an educational adventure. But kids will think of Ethan’s second adventure as a quick, entertaining read.
This is my goal – my mission: Keep our kids reading. Thank you Harry Potter for starting the modern-day movement!
My wish is for kids today to find enjoyment in reading without them realizing they’re learning. And at age 55, we can still have wishes.
In fact, in the spirit of genie’s lamp, I have three wishes:
- Keep the kids reading
- Educate them without them dwelling on it in the process
- Call forth an adequate paycheck from my books’ royalties so my beloved wife and I can live comfortably while we grow even older together.
I have been married to an exceptional woman named Jennifer for almost 27 years. And all during our wonderful marriage, Jennifer didn’t make me get a “real” full-time career — not even once. My beautiful wife waited patiently for me to fulfill my dream of becoming a published author.
Now I have. And I’m gonna blog all about it! However, I promise you subsequent entries will not be this long.