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

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Twelve agents down. One has responded…

Publishing Contract

If you’ve followed my blog over the last couple weeks, you would have seen I’m currently undertaking a literary challenge. The challenge isn’t a competition, nor one I’ve joined with a group to achieve. It’s one I’ve given myself. Here’s the goal–to contact 100 literary agents in 100 days. I started twelve days ago. I’ve sent twelve queries. And guess what? One has responded.

Believe it or not, the agent who contacted me back is none other than Nancy Gallt. She represents blockbuster author Rick Riordan, of Percy Jackson & the Olympians fame. I honestly didn’t expect to hear back from her, and she was the first agent I queried on day one of my challenge. What did she say?

Well, she said no. Bummer. But I had no grand delusions that she would represent my work. I figured someone who represents an author like Rick is extremely selective. Although I knew in my heart she would say no, I tried anyway. When I got her reply–which was nice, by the way–it kind of sucked the wind out of me. I’m not even sure why, knowing my chances. But nonetheless it didn’t feel the greatest. Being told you’re not good enough never is.

Regardless, I’m not giving up. I still have another 99 potential rejections to go. Or, as the case may be, no responses at all. But you know what? It only takes one to say yes. Am I optimistic? You know it. Am I passionate about storytelling? Absolutely. And that’s why I won’t quit, no matter what. I believe my  novels will make it to a bigger audience–one day–and persistence is key.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

One agent. Per day. For 100 days.

That’s the plan. And it begins tomorrow. For the next 100 days, I plan to send query letters and sample chapters to 100 literary agents. My hope is that I’ll be able to secure an agent for my middle grades adventure novel, Medical MECH.

So what will this plan look like?

Well, I exercise six days a week. I write almost daily. So why can’t I devote time to getting an agent each day, too? The answer is simple. It takes work. Researching agents who represent my genre, learning how they want work submitted, and contacting them requires a substantial amount of time. A couple weeks ago while I was squeezing in a thirty minute workout, I thought: Wow, if I can devote time to my health every day, then I should be able to carve time from my busy schedule to send out my work. So here we go.

Tomorrow marks day one. I plan to send Medical MECH to literary agent Nancy Gallt. She represents one of my literary heroes, Rick Riordan–the author of the New York Times bestselling book series for kids, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Nancy is one of the most successful agents in the business of books. She knows quality work when she sees it. And if I’m going to seek representation, I might as well start at the top. Is Medical MECH up to her standards? I believe so, but I also understand the reality of what I’m about to face.

Rejection.

In the next 100 days, I must steel my emotions for rejection. Most of it won’t be personal. It’s just business. Agents need to make a buck. I believe Medical MECH can make them money, but my challenge is convincing agents I’m worth the risk. Regardless, being told you’re not good enough hurts. Does knowing I’ll be told this make the process any easier? I don’t think so. It just means I have realistic expectations going in.

I’m filled with hope. A little bit of fear. But wish me luck, because I’m about to embark on a 100 day journey that could potentially change my life…and if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. At least I’ll know I took life by the reigns and went for my dreams.

And that’s the biggest lesson here. Go for your dreams, no matter how lofty they may be. I’m going for mine. Are you?

Writers Don’t Get Downtime

Well, my next novel is currently in the hands of test readers. A couple copies have trickled back in, and so far the kids are enjoying Medical MECH. Once I have everyone’s feedback, I plan to revisit the manuscript for rewrites and edits. Afterwards, I’ll send the story out to agents and keep my fingers crossed that it will get picked up. In the meantime, I’ve started my next project: The Adventures of Maddie Jones.

If you’ve ever read anything on writing, or heard a successful author answer this question: What should I do if I want to become a writer? They will almost unanimously say to write, write, and write some more. Read a lot, and read different genres. So that’s what I do. I rarely have downtime between projects. I finish one and immediately move on to the next. Although Medical MECH is nearing completion (well, it’s nearly complete as far as the manuscript is concerned. Publication is a whole other beast), I have ideas for new stories that are itching to be told.

My newest project is a five book series for young adult readers. The series name is The Adventures of Maddie Jones. Each book will follow Maddie as she journeys to uncover mysteries of the past. The stories will be thrillers told in a James Patterson style–short chapters and a fast-paced narrative. Maddie’s “voice” will be akin to Percy Jackson’s from The Lightning Thief. I’ve diligently been working on book one’s outline, and it’s coming along nicely so far. At the moment, I’m wrapping up the third act. The outline will take several edits and rewrites to make it a solid start, but I’m excited to begin writing once the outline is complete. If you’re curious, here are the individual titles for each book:

  1. Maddie Jones and the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors
  2. Maddie Jones and the Grave of Robin Hood
  3. Maddie Jones and the Doomed Knights of the Round
  4. Maddie Jones and the Ghost of Coronado
  5. Maddie Jones and the Inca Mummy of Ecuador

I’ve written the story synopsis for each book. For now, check out book one’s premise:

When business tycoon Rico Raja kidnaps Hank Jones, a museum curator who deciphered an ancient text involving the Terracotta Warriors, his teenage daughter Maddie must uncover the secrets behind the greatest archaeological discovery of the twentieth-century in order to save him. But when those secrets reveal a 2,000 year old curse, and Rico’s plan to release the soul of the First Qin Emperor of China, Maddie must seek allies in the unlikeliest of places—from a Terracotta Warrior who has come to life, General Li Fei. Perhaps Maddie should call the National Guard, or the Army, or the Ghostbusters, because things are getting out of hand.

What are your thoughts on this new project? Which book title draws you in the most? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email.

When History Meets Gaming

I’m currently working on a young adult novel called Maddie Jones & the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors. The book is the first in a five book series. As the name implies, archaeology and history are a staple of the stories–each book will follow Maddie on her adventures as she uncovers mysteries from the past. Think Indiana Jones meets Percy Jackson, and you’ll get an idea of the story direction. Anyway, this writing project has led me to dive into the latest Tomb Raider game. Plus, one year ago Uncharted 4 came out, so I’m itching for a historical thrill ride.

The game has been a lot of fun so far. The story follows Lara Croft as she attempts to unravel the mysteries behind the Divine Source–an ancient artifact said to grant immortality. Her father sought the artifact throughout the course of his life, but came up empty-handed. Now Lara has uncovered a missing piece to the puzzle, and she’s off to raid tombs and discover lost cities.

But she’s not the only person seeking the artifact. Trinity, an organization reputed to be thousands of years old, is also on the hunt–and they’ll kill anyone who gets in their way. Can Lara overcome an entire band of mercenaries and unravel the past to discover what her dad could not?

The answer is…I don’t know yet. I’m only a few hours into the game, but I’ll let you know once I’ve finished the ride. So what are you playing? Leave a comment or shoot me an email and let me know.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

If you want to be a millionaire…

I once heard that if you want to be a millionaire, you should start thinking like one. Do what they do. Follow in their steps and you’ll be successful. Well, if it were that easy we would all be rich.

Although I wouldn’t turn down a million dollars, what I want is to be a successful writer. But if I’m going to make it–truly, truly make it–then I need to learn from the best. One of the authors I admire is Rick Riordan. He’s the creator of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series for kids. Like me, Rick started out as a middle school teacher. I believe he taught science. I teach social studies. When he was working on his first young adult novel (you may have heard of it. A little known title called The Lightning Thiefhe decided to recruit students to read his work and give him feedback. His test readers were kids, the target audience he was writing for.

I’m excited to announce I have learned from the best. Tomorrow, six middle school kids will each get a copy of my young adult novel, Medical MECH. I can’t wait to hear what they think. And, most importantly, to use their feedback to make the book a potential bestseller.

Oh, if you can’t tell, I’m super optimistic about my novels being successful. Writers must be their greatest cheerleaders. There’s a lot of rejection out there, and not many people believe you’re going to make it. But that’s a message for another blog post.