Book Four is in production!

The fourth book in the Ethan Sparks Adventure series will be published in November 2011, just in time for the holidays. This juvenile action/ adventure series is marketed for kids ages 9 to 14. However I receive e-mails at spyguyethan@gmail.com from people of all ages that say how much they enjoyed reading these engaging adventures to exotic countries!

The title of my new book is, March of the Mayans.  It is set in Mexico.  Ethan takes the reader on an adventure to Mexico City, Palenque, the Landacón Jungle and El Castillo in Chichén Itza, which is the embodiment of the Mayan Calendar. The reader learns about the Mayan culture, astronomy, the rainforest and the inner-workings of an archaeological dig as they visit cool Mayan ruins and tombs. All of this education is disguised within an action-packed adventure that is narrated by our hero 14-year old Ethan Sparks. The Ethan Sparks Adventures are fast-paced with short satisfying chapters and quick,witty humor. They engage and thrill today's attention spans, thus keeping the kids reading!

My action/adventure series now has four books.  Escape of the Terra-Cotta Soldiers set in China.  Revenge of Poseidon’s Trident set in Greece.  Chase of the Mummies set in Egypt. And the latest, March of the Mayans set in Mexico.

If you would like more information about the Ethan Sparks Adventure Series, please go to: www.ethansparksadventures.com.

The books are available on sites such as amazon.com, bn.com and many other booksellers online.  They are also available as E-books.

 
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I’m Back with an upcoming event!

My blog is back online!  Just a quick note to let you know I’m back and will be doing a Book Reading/Discussion/Signing at Kernersville Public Library this Friday, July 22, 2011 at 3 p.m.  Hope to see you there.

For more information see the Library’s Website.

More to come soon.

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Book Three is in production!

The third book in my juvenile/action adventure series will be published in time for the Holidays.  I was not able to achieve this with Books One and Two.  I am very excited, I even have a slogan:  Go to Egypt for the Holidays….Or China…Or Greece.  Purchase an Ethan Sparks Adventure Book.

The title of my new  book is, Chase of the Mummies.  It is set in Egypt.  The reader goes on an adventure with Ethan to Cairo, Giza, Luxor, Karnak, the Valley of the Kings to see King Tuts Tomb, and a cruise up the Nile.

Chase of the Mummies is a pivotal book in the series.  I think I am most proud that I have made Egypt a character unto itself.  Egypt is such a  historically rich country!

My action/adventure series now has three boks.  Escape of the Terra-Cotta Soldiers  set in China.  Revenge of Poseidon’s Trident set in Greece.  And the latest, Chase of the Mummies set in Egypt.

Children ages 9 to 14 go on an action-packed  adventure with thirteen-year-old Ethan Sparks as the narrator.  The young readers may turn the pages quickly because of the suspense.  But by the end of the story they have learned about world culture, ancient history, and the inner workings of an archaeological dig.

Dr. Gary Stickel, an modern day archaeologist has endorsed the Ethan Sparks Series.  The London Times calls Dr Stickel ” the real-life Indiana Jones”.  Below is Dr Stickel’s endorsement:

The Ethan Sparks Adventure books are fun, engaging books for young readers. They are wild rides to some of the great sites of archaeology, such as the tomb of the first emperor of China and his terra-cotta soldiers. I hope the boys and girls who read them will be inspired to get involved in real-life archaeology—maybe even on my own digs!

– Dr. Gary Stickel
“the real-life Indiana Jones”—London Times
Excavator at Achilleion (legendary birthplace of Achilles, hero of the Trojan War)
Excavator at Machu Picchu—the “lost city of the Incas”
Current project:  Co-director of the Search for Odysseus’ Palace Project, 2010.

If you would like more information about the Ethan Sparks Adventure Series, please go to:   www.ethansparksadventures.com.

The books are available on sites such as Amazon.com, bn.com and many other booksellers online.  They are also available as E-books.

On a personal note, I want to share what a gratifying mid-life experience this has been.  I spend mornings answering fan mail at spyguyethan@gmail.com.   I also maintain an Ethan Sparks  Fan Club on Facebook.

This year I was able to perform a book presentation on China for three-hundred seventh graders at the Northwest Middle School in Greensboro NC.  I also talked with the students about being a writer.  It surprised me how many seventh graders in the auditorium also want to be writers.  Many of the students performed their poetry.

In addition to this presentation, I also had thirty-six Book Signings/Readings, Book Fairs, Educator Appreciation Receptions, and Charity Events.

The fact that I am learning to balance writing and editing with promotional events proves my mid-life change of career was a life-altering decision.  I have met so many phenomenal children and their parents.  I have enjoyed many conversations with teachers, librarians, and booksellers. My world has grown so very much.

The journey I embarked upon in 2007 has taken me places I had never dreamed of.   I find this ironic, since I have wanted to be a writer since the age of thirteen.

Sorry it took so long to update my blog.

Take Care,

Nick

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Chase of the Mummies: An Ethan Sparks Adventure

On July 11, 2010, I completed the first draft of Book Three in the Ethan Sparks Adventures Series! At this time, its working title is Chase of the Mummies: An Ethan Sparks Adventure.

July the 11th happens to be a benchmark date because it was Ethan Sparks’ 14th birthday. In Books One, Two and Three in the series, Ethan was 13. In Books Four and Five, he will be 14. Book Six, the last book, Ethan will turn 15 years old.

With the publication of Book Three (scheduled for November 2010), I will be halfway through the series. At this point in my career, Ethan Sparks Adventures is reaching its critical mass stage. By this, I mean that the series is really starting to catch on.

On July the 1st, my interview in the Kernersville News came out. It was featured on the first page of the Lifestyles section, complete with a photo of me and a prominent picture of Book One, Escape of the Terra-Cotta Soldiers.

When I first saw this published interview in my local paper, I realized that critical mass had begun. It was gratifying to see that my writer’s journey had reached this benchmark.

On August the 28th, I will be performing my 40th book signing at one of my local Barnes & Noble bookstores. This one is in Burlington, NC.

I am so grateful to Becky Carnigan, the Community Relations Manager at the Greensboro Barnes & Noble for her continuous support in scheduling book fairs and book signings. Also, Renee Johnson in High Point, Susan Ellington in Burlington, and Jane Derian in Winston-Salem.

I was also privileged to perform a “China presentation” at the Northwest Middle School in Greensboro on June the 9th.

My presentation, which I gave to 300 7th graders, was a lot of fun for both the kids and myself. I told the kids stories about my China experience with a Powerpoint that featured actual photographs of my China trip. Afterwards, the 300 7th graders and I had an invigorating Q&A. What a rush that was!

My heartfelt thanks go out to Ms. Tammy Balser, who is in charge of Social Studies for the 7th grade at Northwest Middle. My presentation was part of her seventh grade curriculum about Asia.

I would also like to thank my publicist, Ellen Berry, for all of her insight and expertise in putting together such a phenomenal Powerpoint presentation. Thanks to her, it was a major success!

My next step in my writer’s journey is for Book Three to go through its editorial process. I anticipate that this round will go much more smoothly than Book One and Two, now that I’m in my groove. I’ll let you know!

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The Powers That Be Made Me Change the Title of Book Two

Up until a few days ago, the title of the second book in the Ethan Sparks Adventures Series was Drowning in the Oracle of Delphi. Just days before the book is due to go “live” in mid-February,  the powers that be made me change the title. The new title is: Revenge of Poseidon’s Trident. Which one do you like better?

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Book Two is Going Live!

Book Two in the Ethan Sparks Adventure series goes “live” before the end of January, 2010. It’s title is Drowning in the Oracle of Delphi.

The Back Cover Synopsis is:

From the moment Ethan Sparks lands on the Greek Island of Santorini, he thinks his assignment for The Young Explorer Magazine is a bad joke. The thirteen-year-old reporter is covering his dad’s latest archaeological dig—and it’s a weird one.  A modern-day oracle in Delphi has uttered that Poseidon’s Trident really exists. Now Ethan’s father believes the Trident is buried in a volcanic ledge under the Aegean Sea.  Dr. Sparks wants to use the latest underwater archaeology equipment to find the Trident, but his usual backers refused to fund such a ridiculous expedition.  When Spiros, a wacko billionaire comes up with the cash, Ethan wants to know why.  In his investigation with his new friend, Nico, the junior spies uncover a secret organization that would sooner kill the boys than let them reveal the truth.  It will take a lot more than spy-guy skills to escape being shark bait.

The series website can be found at: www.ethansparksadventures.com. The website will also go “live” before the end of January, 2010. Ethan can be emailed at spyguyethan@gmail.com. He will answer all emails.

The Third Book in the Juvenile Action / Adventure Series is currently being written. This time Ethan’s adventure is in Cairo, Egypt. The publication date we are striving towards will be June 15, 2010. It’s title is: Uncovering the Buried Pyramid.

Book Four is already on the drafting table. Unhinging the Secrets of Stonehenge will hopefully come out in time for the 2010 holiday season.

At this time, a location for Book Five is still not known. An E.S.L. teacher I met while doing a book signing at a Teacher’s Appreciation Reception at the Greensboro, NC Barnes & Noble suggested that Ethan go on one of his adventures at a Latino locale. Great idea! Does anyone know of an exciting archaeological site in a country where Spanish is spoken? Please comment on this blog, or e-mail spyguyethan@gmail.com with any suggestions.

Book Number Six will show Ethan at home in Chapel Hill, NC. Readers will get to meet his mom and older brother, Carter, and Ethan’s best friend Drew.  We will also visit the Research Laboratories of Archaeology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And then it’s off to a Native American dig on the grounds of an old plantation. This great example of a grand North Carolina plantation built in 1860 becomes much more than a routine dig. Ethan discovers that a murder occurred there 150 years ago, and in his last investigation as a reporter for The Young Explorer magazine, he solves it. The last book in the series is eerie with spirit photography, a chilling motive for murder, and some cool forensics. It’s a real period piece, and very spooky.

Can you tell that I’m having fun writing this series? Kids find the stories a blast to read, and they’re learning about a foreign culture, embracing diversity, history, and the inner-workings of an archaeological dig.

What a journey this has been for me as well! Since the age of thirteen I have wanted to be a writer, and it took Ethan to drive me there. And he doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet!

Hope you enjoy reading about it on this blog, the website and the book series itself!

Finally, I would like to thank my publicist, Ellen Berry (no relation). Ellen has kept this 55-year-old young and in touch with technology. Who would have ever thought I’d be blogging? Honestly, I didn’t even know what a blog was until recently. The wonderful thing about Ellen is the way she can juggle all the support system that I need. She’s great at revision, website creation, logo design, and marketing — she’s turned Ethan Sparks Adventures into Ethan Sparks Enterprises.  Thank you, Ellen. I also want to sincerely thank Aric Johnson for his editorial genius, Sara Drake for her incredible contributions to the development of this series, and Russ Palmer for his wonderful insight into Greece and very clever and promising ideas. Last, and most importantly of them all, my supportive wife Jenn who pretends not to notice when I converse in all my different characters’ voices.

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Writing a Good Story Becomes a Great Story with Revision

At a recent book signing for the first book in the Ethan Sparks Adventure Series — Escape of the Terra-Cotta Soldiers — someone called me an “author”. All of my adult life, I have fantasized of that exact moment when someone called me an author.

For the past 42 years I have been a writer; ever since I wrote my first book at the age of 13.

Now, at 55, a mother from Jones Elementary School in Greensboro, NC brought her son who is in 5th grade to my book signing event at Barnes & Noble to meet the “author” of a new Action / Adventure Series.

The boy read my back cover synopsis, and the first page, and I actually saw excitement flash in his eyes.  As I personally inscribed and signed his copy, he told me that he had written a short story, and that he wanted to be an author when he grew up.

I had an inspiring conversation with this boy between lulls in my book signings. For me, this was a seminal moment in my life. It was then that I realized that my reason for writing this Juvenile Action / Adventure Series had expanded from entreating kids to read to also inspiring some kids to want to write. For this boy, with his multitude of questions about writing, I was a role model.

I encouraged him to email me at spyguyethan@gmail.com, to discuss writing stories, keeping a journal, observing everything he could around him, and continue asking any questions he had regarding his journey of becoming a writer.

In my own writing and publication journey, I learned many valuable experiences about the craft of writing. The most important one was that writing for publication involves a honing of one’s craft called “revision”.

Ethan’s first adventure in China went through two rounds of revisions. To me, it was an epiphany to take the originally written story and craft it into a fast-paced, exciting read for kids ages 9 to 14.  It was a lot of hard work, but its final development far exceeded even my expectations.

I just recently completed the requisite two rounds of revision for my Second Book in the series. This time, Ethan’s adventure takes him to Greece. Drowning in the Oracle of Delphi is due for publication in January 2010. Some say, including my publisher, that it is even more exciting than Book One. The reason for this is because I have learned that revision is absolutely essential in taking a good story and making it a great one.

I am proud of my Ethan Sparks Adventure Series. Kids enjoy a quick read filled with action and adventure, and also learn about other cultures, their history and the inner workings of an archaeological dig. In Book Two, my readership gets to scuba dive with 13-year-old Ethan and experience an underwater dig that involves GPS and stereogrammetric planning. Of course, to keep it suspenseful, Mako sharks circle overhead.

So far, in Books One and Two, I have been consistently applauded for “nailing” the voice of a 13-year-old young explorer as he cleverly narrates his engaging adventures.

Kids email me to let me know how much they enjoy reading a story in the First Person Narrative. I guess they can tell how much fun I have in writing them.

Book Three in the Six Book Series is entitled: Unburying the Buried Pyramid. This time, Ethan’s adventure takes him to Cairo, Egypt, and his sidekick is a 13-year-old boy named Alex.

Now that Book Two is off to the printer, I’m enjoying writing Ethan’s adventure in Cairo. And even though its inevitable revision will be hard work, my fantasy of becoming an author has truly exceeded anything I could have ever imagined!

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A Writer’s Dream

I am very excited. My brother, Paul, started an Ethan Sparks / Nick Barry Fan Club on Facebook. To become a fan, please sign onto Facebook, type in ‘Ethan Sparks/Nick Barry’ in the Search box and click the “Become a Fan” button.

Launching the The Ethan Sparks Adventure Series has been the realization of my dream. Book One, Escape of the Terra-Cotta Soldiers, set in modern day China, is selling more books than I ever imagined. Book Two, Drowning in the Oracle of Delphi, is being edited and should be out in two months or so.

In Book Two, Ethan Sparks is in Greece. The inquisitive 13-year-old is on his second assignment as a reporter for The Young Explorer magazine. This fast-paced action/adventure for juveniles ages 10-14 takes the reader on a roller coaster ride in Santorini. Kids are emailing Ethan every day at spyguyethan@gmail.com.

The kids email saying what a “cool dude” Ethan is. They all want to know when Book Two in the series is coming out. A truly phenomenal sign.

This is the type of sign that already has me writing Book Three, Uncovering the Buried Pyramid. In this one, Ethan is on another adventure with his father, an esteemed archaeologist. This time they’re in Cairo, Egypt. I plan to have this book out in June 2010 — just in time for the summer reading list.

The fact that middle-school teachers and librarians endorse this series, and subsequently parents approve of their children reading it, makes it all worthwhile for me.

I’m thrilled that I have created a series that kids want to read. Kids reading is my cause – especially the 10-14 year olds.

So you see, I’m living my dream. I awake every morning with purpose and drive. Even I’m looking forward to Book Four, Unhinging the Secrets of Stonehenge. Stonehenge predates the Ancient Egyptians. It’s a fascinating locale. But I know that Ethan has to go on a fast-paced adventure there to keep the kids reading.

The first four books in the series takes our hero, Ethan Sparks,  on adventures to exotic locales such as China, Greece, Egypt and Britain… so far…

At a local Barnes & Noble Educator Appreciation Reception, where I was a keynote speaker, an English as a Second Language teacher suggested that I take Ethan on an adventure in a Latino locale. Great idea! I’m thinking Chile or Peru, or maybe the rainforest, or even Machu Picchu.

If you have any suggestions, please comment on this blog or email me at spyguyethan@gmail.com to offer your suggestions.

I know that Book Six, the last in the series, will take place in North Carolina. We’ll get to meet Ethan’s mom and older brother, Carter, his best friend Drew, and his two Dachsunds, Schnitzel and Strudel. A culinary joke, given the fact that Isabella Sparks, Ethan’s mom, is a cookbook author and has her own show on the Cooking Network.

In Book Six, we’re on a Native American dig up in Boone, NC. And all because Dr. Sparks, Ethan’s dad, heads up the Research Laboratories of Archaeology at U.N.C. The Sparks’ home town is in Chapel Hill, NC.

I do not have a title for Books Five and Six yet. Again, any suggestions? If I choose your suggestion, I will send you a personally inscribed and signed set of the entire series.

One more thing before I hit “Enter”. I plan on writing a surprise last Ethan Sparks book. In this adventure, Ethan is 17 and on a solo sail around all the continents. His final farewell until it’s time to think about colleges. Don’t have a title for this one either – any suggestions?

Well, enough for now dear Blog Reader. Talk to you soon. Until then, take care and thank you.

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Question: How can a 55-year-old-man narrate a book in the voice of a 13-year-old boy?

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 spyguyethan@gmail.com.

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:

  1. Keep the kids reading
  2. Educate them without them dwelling on it in the process
  3. 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.

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