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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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.

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.