- Associated Press - Sunday, November 22, 2015

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - When Luke Melby sits down to write, he plops down in front of his desk, takes a deep breath and then pumps out a page of material.

Then he stops to think. He goes downstairs to clear his mind by hanging out with his family, and then he comes back up and writes another page.

“I like writing that helps people theorize and think. I like everything to be perfect,” he said.

Luke, 13, is a seventh-grader at Frederick Classical Charter School in Frederick. He’s also the author of “The Dragon Journal: Or Frederick, Saver of Dragons,” a book that for a moment in early November ranked as high as fourth on an Amazon.com best-sellers list for science fiction and fantasy.

The book is available on the website for $7. It’s 50 pages and 16 chapters. Ahead of it at the time were the 10th anniversary edition of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight/Life and Death Dual Edition” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Heart Goes Last.”

“The Dragon Journal” tells the tale of Frederick, a boy wizard caught in the midst of a great war between wizards and dragons. When Frederick’s father dies, he leaves a note behind that tells his son how to make peace between the two warring factions. A portion of the note is missing, however, and Frederick begins his quest to find the missing piece and so end the war.

Luke said the book took him years to write. Every time he wrote a chapter, he said he passed it among his friends to make sure that it made sense to them. When he finally finished it over the summer, he watched YouTube clips and searched the Internet for ways to publish it.

He finally landed at Createspace.com, a company that provides free tools for authors to self-publish and distribute their books. He sent them a copy of the book, which then went through a review process before the company decided to publish it.

The night after he sent in the book in, Luke said he couldn’t sleep. He continuously hit the refresh button on his computer to see if he had received a new email.

“I just kept leaning over and hitting the button like ‘Come on,’” he said.

When he woke up the next morning he’d received an email from the company agreeing to create both a print and online version of the book.

Luke lives in Frederick with his parents, Harris and Rebecca, and three brothers. Rebecca Melby said that her son has shown a penchant for self-motivation since before he could speak.

She said that Luke started ordering things online without her knowledge by the age of 3.

“Things would just show up, and I would be like ‘How the heck did that get here?’” she said. “But he was always coming up with new ideas, creating and inventing things.”

He is also currently signed up for piano lessons and has created several board games, she said.

Collin Kenny, who taught Luke ancient and medieval history in fifth and sixth grade, said that he knew exactly which student it was when he found out that one of them published a book.

“I knew if any of my students were going to do it, it would be him,” he said.

Kenny said that when he taught a lesson on the golden age of Islam, Luke wrote a short story about the ruler of a local village in that era. The story looked at the economic and social factors behind his rule, Kenny added.

Luke Melby said that he first tried writing stories in the third grade. He had read fantasies by J.R.R. Tolkien and Roald Dahl, and he thought he’d take a crack at creating his own, he said.

He’d write something up, and then pass it along to friends for feedback, he said. His initial feedback was not encouraging.

“All of it made absolutely no sense whatever” to his friends, he said. “It made a lot of sense to me. But to others I would be like, ‘What? What don’t you get about it?’”

Luke said he takes the constructive criticism he receives and tries to learn from it. He’s working on a prequel to “The Dragon Journal,” titled “Dragon World,” which he hopes to have finished by late 2016. He also plans to write a third installment to finish the series.

Luke said he already knows how the books will end, and he has left subtle hints throughout the book that readers will get only once they go further in the series, he said.

He said that he wants to be a full-time writer when he grows up. His goal is write a book that finishes as a New York Times best-seller.

“That sounds crazy, and it’ll probably never happen,” he said. “But it would be pretty cool, wouldn’t it?”

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Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, https://www.fredericknewspost.com

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