Condor writer

Manhattan Beach resident Darryl Nyznyk has written three novels, including two thrillers and the Christmas book, ‘Mary’s Son.’

Manhattan Beach resident and writer Darryl Nyznyk has written novels of murder and suspense for adults, as well as a Christmas tale for the younger reader. His desire to be a storyteller was inspired by the heroes Tarzan and John Carter, from the mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs, to the adventures conceived by Jules Verne.

“I love daydreaming. I believe I was going to come up in the bottom of the ninth inning and hit a home run that wins the game or I was going to be whisked off to some land and save a damsel in distress,” Nyznyk said. “I carried that excitement for daydreaming to my adulthood and I really started writing when I wrote ‘The Third Term,’ which was my first novel.”

The political thriller, “The Third Term,” was published in 1997, but it wasn’t until 2010 that Nyznyk published his second book, “Mary’s Son,” a holiday story about two children from different sides of the tracks whose lives are changed after meeting a mysterious man. Nyznyk returned to the thriller when his latest novel, “The Condor Song,” was published this summer.

An attorney for most of his career, his early adulthood was influenced by his college experience at UC Santa Barbara and the University of San Diego during the end of the Vietnam War.

“It was a rebellious school (Santa Barbara) at a rebellious time,” Nyznyk said. “Then I went to the University of San Diego (where he earned his magna cum laude JD degree). I came out idealistic. I came out in favor of the poor and downtrodden and the environment. Those were elements that were in my ideal. I got into the business world and I never went so far afield that I had to come falling back to the things that were part of my ideal. I always stayed reasonably close to it and I think the benefit that I gave my clients was I understood the ideals of the environmentalists and I respected them, so I could tone down the demands of my clients.”

The Condor Song

Nyznyk doesn’t consider himself an environmentalist, but he became interested in the movement when he became an attorney. Early in the 1990s, he wanted to write a legal thriller that was “less standard ‘everybody hates attorneys story’ and get into something where you have good and bad, which you do with all of humanity.” At the time, he was in court versus a lawyer who was representing a nonprofit group that was an off-shoot of the Sierra Club.

“The county of Los Angeles had a general plan, a plan for the development of the county that was outdated,” Nyznyk said. “It violated California law and this attorney, who represented the environmental group, realized that. He filed a lawsuit against the county, he basically shut down all development in the county until the county could upgrade their general plan. My client was one of the guys who wanted to build in the county. We couldn’t unless we met with this environmental attorney, gave him some concessions for his group, and then we were able to build. I was very intrigued by the wonder of that.”

Nyznyk also learned about the Sierra Club’s efforts to halt Walt Disney’s bid to build an environmentally friendly ski resort in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the 1960s known as Mineral King Valley. It so happened that Disney was also an honorary member of the Sierra Club because of the company’s production of a series of nature documentaries beginning in 1948 with the short film “Seal Island.”

“The Sierra Club said at first the Mineral Valley was a perfect place for a ski resort so Disney ran around with the forrest service, developing these plans,” Nyznyk said. “Then the Sierra Club realized, ‘Wait a minute, this place is really sensitive.’ So they got into this probably 12 to 15 year battle, which ultimately made that area of the Sierra Nevada mountains part of Sequoia National Park. It’s a fun story and I wanted to blend elements of that in ‘The Condor Song.’”

In “The Condor Song,” down-on-his luck attorney Sean Donovan is drawn into a web of murder when famed environmentalist Buck Anderson is found dead in the Sierra Nevada. When Sean returns to his home town to attend Buck’s funeral, Buck’s niece, Carla, who Sean quickly becomes drawn to, asks if he can take on the case with the Sierra Club against the development of a ski resort. Atticus Golden, known as Uncle Atti, who could be called a fictionalized Walt Disney, has tried for years to develop the land but has been stopped dead by environmentalists. Things get even more complicated when Sean has to battle against his old firm that fired him, and his former partner, that is now representing Golden’s interests. Throw in the endangered condor and the Mexican mafia, and things turn even more deadly as Sean gets closer to the truth of Buck’s untimely death.

With ‘The Condor Song,” Nyznyk had years of writer’s block. He started the novel nearly 20 years ago when he was still practicing law and Sean Donovan was in his late 20s, early 30s. When he revisited the story, Nyznyk was a few years older, done with his legal career and was the president of Anastasi Development, a real estate development company based in Redondo Beach.

“I got out of the frame of mind of a young attorney and I was now a middle-aged attorney so I was dead in the water on this story, I’m going to say for as much as a few years because I didn’t want to rewrite the whole thing. I knew I had to because I wasn’t into that character anymore. When I finally landed on Sean Michael Donovan and the trials and tribulations of a 50-year-old attorney, it really flowed.”

Through his years as an attorney representing developers and also being environmentally conscious, he learned “very early on we all are part of this world so we have to compromise.”

“The developers, who hate the environmentalists, have to realize that without the environment we have nothing,” Nyznyk said. “So we have to reach a compromise with those who want no development and they have to reach a compromise with us, people are here for God’s sakes. I kind of developed that during my legal career, actually blending the two. It wasn’t as difficult in the writing as it was while I was learning the process.”

Mary’s Son

Raised Catholic, Nyznyk said that spirituality has become more important to him as he has gotten older, but he now considers himself more of a Christian than Catholic.

“I don’t go for the dogma, I do go to church,” he said. “My thing is the message of Christ, short and simple … it’s love. Love God, love your fellow man. Imagine if everybody just followed that one rule, love your fellow man, we would have no war, we would have no greed.”

Christmas is Nyznyk’s favorite time of the year, but he was “bored with the stories, the books, the movies that were coming out at Christmas time,” that focused on the jolly man in the red suit.

“They were all Santa this, Santa that … one of the greatest Christmas stories is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ and the other is the original ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’” he said. “I wanted to tell a mainstream, modern day story that brought in the real meaning of Christmas, I.E. Christ’s birth. I played around with Charles Dickens, Christmas ghosts and traveling time with the element of young kids from ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and put those things together.”

“Mary’s Son: A Tale of Christmas” first was told in December 1994, when he and his wife Loretta threw an eighth birthday party for Julia, their third daughter (they have four grown daughters). For more than 45 minutes he told a group of girls the origin of Christmas.

“My reason, in addition to wanting to settle them down after a day of cake and insanity, was I wanted them to remember the real meaning of Christmas,” Nyznyk said. “Now their dad has written a story that they can keep on their bookshelf and every Christmas they can read it to their kids and the real story of Christmas comes out.”

In “Mary’s Son,” Sarah Stone is an 11-year-old spoiled rich girl neglected by her father. Jared is a poor teen abandoned by his father. Their lives cross paths after they meet a strange man name Nicholas who has an uncanny resemblance to Santa Claus. With the help of some Christmas magic, the two travel to Bethlehem for Christ’s birth.

Nyznyk said the challenge of “Mary’s Son” was not to “smack people in the face” with its message.

“I didn’t want to be to over the top spiritually,” he said. “To me the nativity is such a wonderfully heartwarming story and I wanted to convey that and have my characters in this story learn Christ’s message of love and hope.”

Since its publication, “Mary’s Son” has been a three-time Gold recipient of the Mom’s Choice Awards, which honors books that are motivational for juvenile and young adult readers.

Writing path

Nyznyk’s path to become a full-time writer began in 1992, when he was “complaining” to his wife that “law was getting to me.” His wife said to him, “Take some time off and write.”

“The next day I went to work,” he said. “I called Loretta and said, ‘Did you mean what you said yesterday?’ She said, ‘You’re driving me crazy with this wanting to get out of the law and into writing, do it.’ So over the next six months I gave up my law practice, which to this day scares me to think that I did that … I took six months writing that first book (‘The Third Term’) … it was the most awe-inspiring experience I ever had, just being able to get up, work all day, write this book. At the end of that I looked at our finances and realized we were quickly heading for bankruptcy. I had to start working again.”

While “The Third Term” did receive positive reviews, financially it didn’t pay the bills. So in January 1998, he went to work for Anastasi as an in-house general counsel. Within one year he was president of the company before leaving in January 2007. The following year, he taught a class on negotiation for one semester at Loyola Marymount before he decided to devote himself full time to writing.

“When you want to write you need to focus on writing and the truth of the matter is teaching one class, one semester, because it was the first time I taught, it was a full-time job,” he said. “It was 40 hours a week and my pay was negligible, almost negative. I decided I needed to stick with the writing, that’s where my heart is and I’m doing it and I love it.”

Nyznyk recently finished his next novel, “The First Gospel,” which he calls a “modern day thriller with a historical thrust,” similar to “The Da Vinci Code.” He is also currently writing a sequel to “Mary’s Son,” that he hopes appeals to young adults.

For more information, visit crossdovepublishing.com.

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