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Carmel Valley author hopes for a hit in young adult fantasy

Daniel Park’s new book “Sentinel” was inspired by conversations with sons

Aspiring to write young adult fantasy fiction, Carmel Valley resident Daniel Park asked his 9- and 12-year-old sons what they would like to read in such a work.

Author Daniel Park
Author Daniel Park
(Melissa Jacobs)

“I wanted to write a book that I thought they would enjoy,” Park said in a recent interview at Ashley Falls Park at Del Mar Heights Road.

“Of course they wanted dragons and of course they wanted magic and they wanted evil mages who wanted to take over the world,” Park recalled. “I said, ‘OK, we can take all of those elements and put them into a novel.’”

Nine years later, Park has completed his quest with the publication of “Sentinel,” released June 15 on Amazon. The book, listed as 382 pages long, is a work of young adult fiction that incorporates all of the features Park thought would please his children and much more.

“This book has magic, dragons, action and lots of humor with kind of a roguish main character,” Park said, referring to his protagonist, the pickpocket and petty thief Nikolas.

“There’s a humorous side of this crazy adventure that he’s caught up in. That’s the idea behind ‘Sentinel.’ It’s supposed to be a fun fantasy book that gives people an adventure, a chance to meet some fun characters and hopefully there’s some positive life lessons there.”

A key to the narrative is its subtitle, “The Most Dangerous Enemy Isn’t Always the Dragon.”

That idea, Park said, stems from one of his inspirations for writing fantasy — Neil Gaiman.

“He said something like ‘Fairy tales are important not because they are true, not because dragons are real, but because they teach you that dragons can be defeated.”

“Sentinel” embodies Park’s aim of crafting a narrative that is an adventure embodying a series of challenges for his main character.

Cover of “Sentinel”
Cover of “Sentinel”
(Courtesy)

“‘Sentinel’ starts off in one direction with the dragon being the most feared and fiercest being in this magical world,” Park said. “As the story progresses, we can see that dangers come from a lot of directions, but we can overcome them if we’re committed to the ideas that we have in a complicated world.

“I want to empower people to overcome challenges. I want to empower people to take control of their lives and overcome problems. That strength is there in us. You can understand the world and be effective in the world.”

“Sentinel” is the sixth book Park has put out on his publishing imprint LexPrep, through which he markets his publications primarily on Amazon. Information on Park and his books can be found at danparkwrites.com.

Writing, Park says, is a hobby. Yet, it is a skill he has nurtured over the last decade. For the past 17 years, Park has worked as a lawyer at UCSD and is the campus’s chief legal counsel.

“I’ve had the immense honor and privilege to see UCSD really transform itself in the last decade and a half,” Park said. “UCSD has grown immensely and with that, it has grown in the complexity of its operation and the things it’s working on.”

Through the years, Park said, he had wanted to become a writer and contemplated writing works. His breakthrough came with a book called “Legal Mind,” released in 2013.

“I always wanted to be a writer when I was younger and I wrote a lot then,” he said. “Then life happened. I went to law school, started my career in the legal field and had some kids.

“Between working as a lawyer and raising young kids, writing wasn’t in the cards for me then. I didn’t have any time. If I wasn’t working, I was taking care of my family.

“But over time, my kids got older and this was actually one of the insights that later became (the book) ‘You are What You Do.’ I came to realize you didn’t need to do it all at once because that was what was keeping me from getting started.

“I was like, well, what I really need to have is this huge block of time where I can focus and think and then I will be able to be a writer. I realized one day that was never going to happen. I wasn’t ever going to have that huge block of time. And if I wanted to be a writer, I just needed to get started. So I did.”

“Legal Mind” explores concepts with which Park is thoroughly versed as a lawyer.

“It was kind of a broad overview of how the legal system works,” Park said.

It’s sequel, “How Would You Rule: Test Your Legal Wits Against the Law’s Strangest Cases”, was released in September 2020.

“‘How Would You Rule’ is much more accessible because it’s told as a series of stories about different aspects of the law,” Park said. “It basically walks you through the first-year law-school curriculum using more interesting cases than are taught in law school. It gives you some of the main concepts and ideas, so you could take those concepts and apply them in a legal context.”

Throughout the intervening years between the two legal books, Park toggled between various other writing projects.

Encouraged by his success in transforming himself into a writer, Park published “You Are What You Do: Live the Life You Were Meant to Live” in October 2020.

“That is my personal growth book, kind of my Covid book. I worked on that the most when we were at the height of the pandemic. It was mostly for myself to say, ‘Hey, you can do it if you want to and if you put yourself on a positive path to do it.”

Meanwhile, Park began exploring fiction, resulting in “The Last Shot and Other Stories About Life, Death and Love”, published in January 2021, and a novel, “Sea of Troubles,” which debuted the following month.

Through the years after his first book and his conversation with his boys about what they would enjoy reading, Park pecked away at “Sentinel.” He subjected it to voluminous review and editing before finally hitting the “publish” button.

His sons Andrew, now 21, and Eric, 18, gave their enthusiastic endorsement, Park said, which gave him inspiration to continue working on it.

“They now have the final published version in their hands and that for me made it all worthwhile,” Park said.

Having just been released, “Sentinel” hasn’t had much time to percolate among readers. As of July 2, it had generated one reader’s comment, a potentially positive omen.

The commenter gave it five stars and wrote “Wow!” adding “I loved losing myself in this story.”

“Hopefully, people have gotten the book in their hands and they’ll make time to read it,” Park said. ”Hopefully, when they read it, they’ll like it. I’m looking forward to more reviews.”


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