A tale of adventure and freedom. Kief loves exploring the rugged mountains on his horse, Natch, with his best friend Tarc. But when he receives a mysterious map on his birthday, left behind for him by his dead grandfather, Kief is thrown into an adventure beyond even his imagination. Leaving home to pursue his childhood dream of attending the merchant academy on the coast, extraordinary events unfold propelling Kief, along with his friends and his map, toward the same perilous destiny.
The Dark Eagles First Flight by David R. Smith is first installment of what I anticipate to be an epic battle between liberty and tyranny. It is the story of Kief, an adventuresome young man who lives in a free land, much like our own was at the turn of the 20th century. He dreams of nothing more than the excitement that only the sea can bring. His well planned dreams of learning the merchant trade and captaining his own ship are crushed in an instant as his homeland is attacked by a ferocious people who’s culture teaches them that they must rid the world of all evil. With the help of some peculiar gifts from Kief’s long since passed grandfather and protection from the mysterious dark eagles, he and a small band of friends join together to resist an enemy who cannot be reasoned with. The dangers of resisting an oppressive and tyrannical invader eclipse any thrill that the sea may have had for Kief as he and his band learn what is and is not worth fighting for.
David Smith’s character development is wonderful. As a reader, you quickly get a sense of each character and feel as if you know them. I appreciated how well their personalities and talents complimented each other. As I read it I couldn’t help but wish that my boys were old enough to appreciate this book. At five and two, I’m lucky if I can get them to sit down long enough to eat dinner let alone read them a chapter book, but I just know they will love it when they get older. The Dark Eagles First Flight is full of adventure and my heart was pounding with excitement as I read the last few chapters. I recommend this book to young and old alike and especially to anyone who loves freedom.
My 6th grade son just finished reading "The Dark Eagles First Flight" and he informed me that it is the best book he has ever read, better than the "Hunger Games". He is doing an oral presentation on the book and he is genuinely excited about talking with his class about this book. I just wanted to send this email to thank you for engaging my son’s imagination and helping him love to read.
Hello Mr. Smith, Just a quick note to let you know my 11 year old son absolutely loved your book and would like to know when you will have your next one out? He's eagerly awaiting! Thank you for signing the book we bought at the mall a few months ago in Chandler, AZ. My second youngest son will be reading it too, as will my daughter I'm sure they will love it just as much.
A tale of adventure, freedom, and love. No, this is not a love story in the romantic sense; but a story of love for one's country, home, family, and friends. Author David R. Smith does a wonderful job weaving words, accented with picturesque book illustrations (I'm a sucker for books with maps), to transport you into the world of Fundautum and onto Hople's Island - a land of rugged mountain terrain, sweeping rivers, and quaint, lantern-lit towns with carriages & horses. Well-paced, suspenseful, and littered with action, this story is definitely filled with what makes the male species tick (adventure, a battle to fight, the pursuit of dreams), but also infused with inklings of magic and love interests that can keep a girl entertained.
Dear Mr. Smith, I met you at the Colorado Boulevard Barnes and Noble before Christmas when I was in Denver for business. I bought your Dark Eagles First Flight book for my son Bo who is 12 years old. Prior to this it seemed like he had been missing the passion for reading that was there before. He loved your book and it ignited the reading fire once again. I am getting the Wells in Desolation book for him as a gift to take on our family trip. Thank you for sharing your gift of a fantastic story!
Mr. Smith, I recently met you at a Barnes and Noble in Lone Tree, CO where I picked up your book for my high school library. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book by a new author. I was not disappointed at all. It was as entertaining as any YA book I’ve read in recent memory. Thank you for the escape!
Kief is a strong young male character that exhibits strength, courage and standing up for what he believes in. I couldn't help but think what a good example this character is for young people today. The other supporting characters, all of Kief's friends, that happen to be males and females, compliment him, and help in this quest. They are great characters, flawed in their own ways, but all very relatable to teens. They had good friendly relationships, so the dialogue was often fun as they teased each other amidst the great challenge they were facing. I'm so excited to let my kids, 10 and 14 read this book. You will be holding your breath as the youth undergo a grand scheme to battle the enemy. This book will be a great read for tweens and teens that like books about adventure, friendship and going after your dreams. Mr. Smith has written a book that will keep you on the edge and leave you wanting more.
The book was wonderfully written. It is a book for all ages and gender. I enjoyed the character development and the friendships formed from the adversity they faced. I would love to read the second one and find out how...
Author David R. Smith does a fine job with his dialogue, which flows smoothly and wittily throughout. His interactions between characters are genuine, and the portrayals of his young female characters in particular are refreshing.
I thoroughly enjoyed “The Dark Eagles” because it was totally exciting and there was a lot of action. I give “The Dark Eagle’s First Flight” five out of five book worms for its adventure and excitement!
Want a free copy of local author David R. Smith's new adventure novel and a cool treasure box, too? If so, you'll have to scour the foothills to find it.
Smith, of Newbury Park, recently published his first action-adventure novel for teens and young adults, "The Dark Eagles — First Flight."
In it, teenager Kief begins an adventure after his late grandfather leaves him a mysterious map on his birthday. Events propel Kief and his friends on a perilous journey involving another planet.
Beyond Kief's adventures, however, Smith is taking his readers on their own mini-adventure in the hills from Agoura to Montecito. He aims to bring out the adventurous side in young people and their parents by sending them on a real treasure hunt. He has hidden copies of "First Flight" in the foothills — inside old-style treasure boxes — for readers to find.
Smith, 42, said he and his wife, Jenelle, were thinking of ways to promote his book when their 18-year-old son, Tate, suggested hiding books somewhere for people to find.
"We were like, 'That's a great idea,' " Smith said. "I thought about geocaching. It's just book-caching. I started to build boxes, and it kind of fit with how the opening chapter starts. Plus, I love the outdoors. I used to work on a dude ranch, taking people on rides. It's a great opportunity to get people together with their parents and turn off the video games and go on a hike."
After hiding the books, Smith posts the GPS coordinates on his website, http://www.fundautum.comhttp The book and treasure box are the prize for the first person who finds them.
Smith has stashed 14 books in Paramount Ranch, Oak Park, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Simi Valley, Newbury Park, Montecito and Carpinteria. Ten have been found, and more will be hidden to coincide with book signings.
"What I've tried to do is go on an existing trail and put it adjacent to the trail," Smith said, adding that he hides the boxes within about 1½ miles of a trailhead or parking area.
Camarillo resident Anna Binney and her 10-year-old daughter Sierra are among those who tracked down one of Smith's books. They searched for the treasure box hidden near a trail off Wendy Drive in Newbury Park.
A fan of geocaching, Binney said she heard about Smith's book cache adventures from Connie Halpern, who owns Mrs. Figs' Bookworm in Camarillo. Smith plans to have a book-signing there March 30.
"It was a nice little walk, and the box was beautiful," said Binney, who read the book with her daughter after finding it a month or so ago.
She said Sierra, a fifth-grader at Camarillo Heights Elementary School, wrote a book report about it for school.
"He's giving away a lot of books, but if you're a new author, it's a clever way to get your foot in the door," Binney said. Finding the book and treasure box made her and her daughter want to read it, she added.
Leading others to adventure is a renewed passion for Smith, a Salt Lake City native who spent most of his childhood on a farm in Heber City, in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. He loved spending his free time exploring the mountains on his horse. Growing up, he also wanted to be a movie director and used his Super 8 camera to make silent movies with his siblings and friends.
Smith, an engineer who now works as a marketing manager for a company that sells prepaid debit cards, had no writing experience until five years ago, when he began writing the book in his spare time.
"It was my passion as a young man. When 'Star Wars' came out, it changed me. I wanted to be the next George Lucas and tell stories," he said.
Like many first-time authors, Smith self-published his book, which is at 14 local bookstores and on Smith's website. He hopes the project will turn into a four-part series and plans to publish the second book in the series early next year.
Local author David R. Smith has created a bold new world in “The Dark Eagles: First Flight,” the first in a series of books that he hopes will inspire kids to replace video games with real-life adventures of their own. Smith is visiting Conejo Valley middle schools this week to share the value of exploration, imagination, creativity and the freedom derived from adventure.
On Monday, Smith told students at Lindero Canyon Middle School in Agoura Hills about the adventures he’d had as a child and the active, imaginative life he forged with his wife and three sons. He toured several middle schools in the Conejo Valley this week and will be in Thousand Oaks at Redwood Middle School today and at Los Cerritos Middle School tomorrow. Having grown up in the Wasatch Mountains near Park City, Utah, Smith, 43, told students about the freedom he felt riding his horse, stargazing and making movies with a used movie camera that he bought at a pawn shop.
In a subsequent interview, Smith said that when he was 12 he read the book “The Ash Staff” by Paul R. Fisher. “My friend and I loved that story,” he said. The fantasy tale inspired Smith and his pal to venture into the mountains on horseback with homemade swords in hand to fight imaginary goblins and real-life red ants, and generally just enjoy a day of fun rooted in imagination. “For us it had been a grand adventure,” he said.
Smith told the students at Lindero Canyon, “There are so many amazing, exciting things you can do.” When asked to share an imaginary world of their own creation, students talked about characters with magical powers, elves, superheroes and horses that ate cotton candy. Smith then shared some of the secrets from his book. The world that Smith’s characters inhabit is a planet called “Fundautum” that is similar to Earth but with slight differences. The fictional planet is smaller, has two moons, less gravity, a shorter calendar year (292 days) and a smaller population.
Smith likened life on Fundautum to America in the 1800s, when people rode horses and used lanterns, and engines were powered by steam. “It’s a lot easier to fly (in Fundautum),” Smith said of his make-believe world. In addition to heavier atoms that create a thickness to the air, people weigh less on his Earth-like world, he said.
The resemblance to Earth fascinated students. The notion of a thicker atmosphere made kids imagine what it would be like to jump on a trampoline in Fundautum. They also wondered what nighttime would be like with two full moons. An engineer and businessman, Smith told students that even though he studied science and math in college he was able to become an author.
He said the story of “The Dark Eagles: First Flight” about a boy named Kief had been swirling in his imagination for years. Eventually, Smith’s family insisted that he write down the stories. “It has taken five years for me to develop ‘The Dark Eagles’ series and complete the first book,” Smith said. A great idea is just the first step in writing a book, he told students, adding that extensive editing of a book is a must. The first draft of his book was 500 pages, but he whittled it down to 286 pages. Smith explained some common pitfalls that students might avoid when writing their own stories. Writers often “show a scene and then explain the scene,” he said. “Delete the explanation.” He suggested writing stories as if you’re watching a movie. “Show it so (readers) can see it in their eyes,” he said.
Smith, a Newbury Park resident, has been promoting his book in unique ways. He has hidden books in a few mountain areas and is a member of a geocaching group that uses GPS systems to discover clues that will lead to the hidden cache—a free copy of “The Dark Eagles: First Flight.” Smith’s wife, Jenelle, said the book is about freedom gained through adventure. Jenelle Smith said her husband’s creativity was a surprise. “I think for me, living with him for as long as I have, I never knew how creative his imagination was and how fun the world he created is in this book.” She hinted that other creatures will be introduced later in the series.
The library events at local middle schools were organized by school media center employees. At Lindero, Debra Byer arranged for all sixth- and seventh-grade students to attend the event to gain insight into how books are developed. “I like to expose students to as many different authors as possible,” she said. Smith will sell and sign copies of “The Dark Eagles: First Flight” at Barnes & Noble Booksellers from noon to 2 p.m. Sat., Feb. 16 at the Westlake Promenade.
1. Tell me about the book in your own words?
The Dark Eagles – First Flight is a grand tale of adventure and freedom. Young Kief loves exploring the mountains around his home on his horse, Natch, with his best friend Tarc. Following a mysterious old map, left behind for him by his dead grandfather, Kief makes an amazing discovery. Taking his newly found treasure with him, he leaves home to attend the Merchant Academy on the coast where he dreams of becoming a captain and sailing the seas. But his future plans are dashed to pieces as he and his friends find themselves at the heart of a struggle for the liberty of their island nation.
2. What were some of the bumpy parts on your road to publication?
The biggest challenge for me, as probably for most first-time authors, was the need to be persistent. You learn so much about yourself and your writing abilities with your first book. The process is long and, at times, can feel hopeless. It has taken five years for me to develop “The Dark Eagles” series and complete the first book. You rewrite and revise over and over as you chip away the rough edges of your story or add details that you are missing. I would say to myself, “That’s it, I have it!” and then a reviewer would point out something and I’d have to go back and make changes. Don’t give up. If you love writing just keep going, keep working at it, it will come. And when you get your first genuine, unsolicited, praise from a fan it is the most amazing thing. There’s nothing like it!
3. Have you always liked fantasy? What's your favorite book?
I have always liked fantasy. I love going on adventures and fantasy books are full of them. I’m a big fan of the classic adventure stories and one of my favorites is “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson. His descriptions of the pirates and their villainous yet endearing natures are so real you feel like you are on the journey with Jim Hawkins. “The Hobbit” is another favorite of mine. I also like more recent novels like “The Hunger Games.” Fantasy can provide inspiration too. Like Frodo walking up Mount Doom, fantasy can encourage us to push forward in our personal lives regardless of what challenges we face. It strengthens us and gives us hope through the characters and events they experience. Nothing seems to inspire us more than a great story!
4. What are your future writing plans?
The Dark Eagles – First Flight is just the beginning of The Dark Eagles series. There are four more novels to come. I’m nearing completion of the second one now, “The Dark Eagles – Wells in Desolation.” Kief’s adventures take him across the seas to hostile and desolate lands filled with death and despair. Seeking justice and driven by the raw will to survive, he encounters new friends that help him along his journey and reveal secrets about the past and his unfathomable destiny. But a shocking truth threatens to doom the fate of The Dark Eagles forever.
5. Any advice to aspiring writers?
As I mentioned earlier, I love the classic adventure stories: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, H. Ryder Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, Mark Twain’sTom Sawyer. I love them for their adventures and I love them for the near poetic words of their dialogues and descriptions. A part of me aspired to be like them. But that wasn’t my gift. We all have specific gifts and styles as writers. We have to embrace who we are and then work to develop it, to stretch it. With that, I say, be true to yourself as a writer. The other night I was watching a movie about a writer who was apprenticing a young man. At one point, the young man was sitting at his typewriter thinking. The seasoned writer asked him what he was doing and then told him to stop thinking and start writing. He told him there is no right or wrong in the first draft. I have found that so very true in my own experience. Just start typing the words. You will be surprised where your own gift of writing will take you if you unleash it. My wife, not a writer herself, encouraged me to do it years ago as she tried to help me let go and stop pretending to be some author I am not. She told me to sit down and start writing about anything, especially something I hadn’t thought-to-death about. She called it freewriting, or writing from the heart. It was truly a liberating experience.
6. For fun, What's your favorite ice cream topping?
I love chocolate and fudge toppings with nuts, especially pecans!
ME: What was the most memorable adventure you had while exploring the Wasatch Mountains on your horse and how old were you? (I’d really appreciate a picture of you as a boy on your horse.)
DAVID: When I was 12 years old, I had just finished reading The Ash Staff by Paul Fisher. My friend and I loved that story. One day after school, we saddled our horses and with our homemade swords (metal pipes smashed flat with a hammer on an anvil) we set off to explore the oak brush forests at the base of the mountains. We galloped through the narrow passes, darting around them, fighting off imaginary goblins and monsters.
(Okay, he looks a little older than 12 here, but use your imagination)
At one point, we came upon a group of deer that scattered deeper in the forest. Had we had bows, we were sure we could have killed our own dinner. We continued exploring at a walking pace to give our horses and us a rest. Then we darted off again.
I was in the lead and as I came around a bend there was a massive anthill. My horse was spooked and jumped sharply to the left to avoid the mound. My body, on the other hand, continued in its straight course and landed directly on top of the anthill.
(Smart horse, eh?)
I rolled off and sprang to my feet, brushing the red ants from my arms and clothes. I felt myself a true warrior since I had skillfully avoided receiving a single ant bite. My friend laughed so hard he almost fell off his horse. For us, it had been a grand adventure.
ME: What made you want to be a movie director growing up? And what was your most ambitious movie project?
DAVID: As a kid, I saw Star Wars 17 times. And that wasn’t on video, it was in the movie theatre. (Serious cash for a kid! No wonder he went for an MBA.) And I think I came close to that number with The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Those two movies had a huge impact on my childhood. (Not to mention your wallet!)
I wanted to be like Lucas and Spielberg and top what they had done. I saved my money (okay, I’m not going to make the obvious comment here) and bought a Super 8 movie camera. I filmed a number of very short pieces and then set out to make my first full-length (4 minute) Super 8 movie (a roll of film had just over 4 minutes on it).
We opted for a cowboy movie since we had all the props. It was the typical outlaws-robbing-the-bank-and-the-sheriff-finding-their-secret-camp-to-get-it-back movie. All the outlaws died, complete with bloody ketchup bags and one outlaw rolling six times across level ground until his bag of ketchup broke for the zoom-in blood frame.
I remember one scene where I told my younger brother, “Okay, you are dead. You can’t move in the background on this next scene.” He told me okay. As soon as I started to roll the film, he stood up in the background, dusted off his hat, and walked off, completely forgetting what I had said. (I don’t know…it may have been intentional. After all, he was a younger brother, right? A perfect opportunity to get you back for all those times you must have lorded it over him. :D)
The movie ended with a panning of all the dead bad guys lined up like a Clint Eastwood movie. One of my friends couldn’t hold it in and had a big ole grin on his face. With no editing tools and no ability to re-shoot (I had used up my only roll of film), that would have to do.
(I hope you kept it to show your kids.)
ME: How have your early experiences with movie-making and your later studies in engineering, physics, and business administration prepared you to be a writer?
DAVID: Movie-making helped develop my natural creativity at a young age. Whether it was a movie I actually shot or one I planned for, I developed my ability to visualize and tell a story. Even now that I’m 43 years old, I still see scenes in my head from which I write my stories. I see pictures and then put them into words. I sometimes wish I had started writing books at an earlier age. But my engineering background and experience in the business world with people and relationships has given me a great perspective and insight that I have pulled from in my writing. My basic understanding of planetary motion came from my physics courses, which I used to create the world of Fundautum. I wanted the world to be as realistic as possible. There is something about making fantasy believable that adds to the appeal of it. Tolkien created a history and language, Rowling connected her wizard world to that of humans in England. By making it relatable it becomes more believable, even with fantasy. We want to increase our chances of going there, being a part of it. That is what I’ve tried to do, create a new world but one that readers can feel a partial connection to.
ME: Where and when do you do your best writing, and why do you think that is so? (Please share a picture of your writing space.)
DAVID: I have so often heard of writer’s block. It is something that I have never yet experienced. My imagination goes so fast that the problem I usually have is getting all that is in my head down on the paper. I can write anywhere. I have no problem blocking out the world.
(Yep, this is definitely a first for a writer’s space.)
I ride a motorcycle 140 miles roundtrip to work through northern Los Angeles. I come up with many scenes as I ride. Then, when I get to work early, I will spend time writing or I will stay up late in the evenings. Saturday mornings and holidays are especially great as everyone usually sleeps in and I have a few hours to focus. My wife often drives on longer road trips and I get a lot of writing done then as well. With lovely California weather, I enjoy writing outside on our back patio whenever I can.
ME: I left Southern California partly to get away from the traffic, the overbuilding. Are you ever tempted to move back to Heber City, Utah? Or does some other locale seem tempting?
DAVID: Once the mountains are in your blood, it’s hard to get them out. I’ve thought many times about moving back to Utah or Idaho or Colorado. But I was fortunate four years ago to find a small town called Newbury Park about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. It borders the Santa Monica Mountains that run along the coast. The highest peak is around 3,500 feet, which is small compared to Utah mountains, but considering it drops to sea level in a few miles, they aren’t just hills. And then I drive 20 minutes through open farm fields to get to a rugged, secluded beach where I surf until sunset with my boys while my wife walks our dog, Alex, on the beach. It’s hard to beat!
ME: I’m curious about the title of your series, THE DARK EAGLES. Why that title, and how does it relate to the theme of your series?
DAVID: A dark eagle is a special bird that is central to the story. I hate to give away anything, so I will leave it at that. (Hmmm…we’re going to have to read the book.)
ME: Okay, let’s say we put two authors who have influenced you–Robert Louis Stevenson and Suzanne Collins–smack in the middle of the Hunger Games. Who would get out alive and why?
DAVID: Ha ha, that’s an easy one. (Oh, really?) It would be Robert. He knows about fighting treacherous pirates while Suzanne knows about fighting teenagers. (Haven’t faced any treacherous teenagers, have you?) Not to mention Katniss never really grew from her experience. She ended the series not any more selfless than she was at the beginning. Jim Hawkins, on the other hand, risked his life for the crew. He had true grit. (Okay, this answer alone should get the comments piling up.)
ME: Do you prefer outlining a story first or writing by the seat of your pants? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of both?
DAVID: I definitely write by the seat of my pants or, as Indiana Jones said, “I’m making this up as I go.” I did spend a lot of time (years) working out the overarching plot in my head, as well as all the connections and history behind the whole story. (It must have taken quite a few motorcycle rides!) But with that as the structure, I just sit down and write. I’m always amazed when my characters do something unexpected, or when something works out perfectly with the overall plan. It’s awesome. (I know exactly what you mean.)
ME: What are you working on now and can you give us a peek into the story?
DAVID: I’m almost finished with the next novel in THE DARK EAGLE series. In THE DARK EAGLES – WELLS IN DESOLATION,” Kief’s adventures take him across the seas to hostile and desolate lands filled with death and despair. Driven on by revenge and the raw will to survive, he encounters new friends that help him along his journey and reveal secrets about the past and his destiny. But a shocking truth threatens to doom the fate of the The Dark Eagles forever. (Pretty good peek.)
ME: Finally, do you ever see yourself going beyond fantasy into other genres? If so, which ones?
DAVID: Not at this point. I love fantasy and the escape from, as well as the inspiration to, real life that it can provide. Like Frodo walking up Mount Doom, fantasy can encourage us to push forward in our personal lives regardless of what challenges we face. It strengthens us and gives us hope through the characters and events they experience. Nothing seems to inspire us more than a great story!
Now don’t forget to leave a comment here if you want a chance to win a copy of David’s book!
You can learn more about David and his writing on his website, which features a rather cool interactive map to his imaginary world. If you want to buy his book, it’s available onAmazon and Barnes & Noble.