Newbury Park author wants readers to head to the hills
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.”
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.
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