BANGOR, Maine — Dave Barrett didn’t set out to be a novelist. In fact, the Hampden man took up writing as a lark nine years ago, when he participated in National Novel Writing Month.

That contest’s goal: Write 50,000 words — in the form of a novel — in 30 days.

“I had a blast, and my family was super-accommodating. ‘Daddy’s writing, don’t bother him,’” Barrett said. “I didn’t cook dinner. I didn’t do dishes. I didn’t do anything. And I just kind of got into a habit. Every November, I sit down, and I do my writing.”

On Tuesday, the product of the 2010 NaNoWriMo contest, “It’s All Fun and Games,” will hit bookstores. It’s the first novel Barrett tried to get published, and it’s already creating buzz in at least one key demographic.

Barrett recently returned from San Diego, where his book premiered at Comic-Con International. An Inkshares book, it was one of two titles chosen by Nerdist to serve as the pop culture enterprise’s initial foray into publishing.

His road toward becoming a published author began with an Inkshares contest.

“To be honest, it was not a writing contest,” Barrett said. “Inkshares is a crowdfunding publisher, and so the first tier of the contest was based on who could get the most individuals to preorder the book.”

Barrett finished in the top five of that contest, and his novel was submitted to Nerdist, along with other finalists, before ending up in the top two.

Inkshares is billing “It’s All Fun and Games,” as a pioneer in the sub-genre of live-action role play in fantasy fiction.

The premise of his book is simple, to start: Six friends who enjoy spending their weekends in live-action role play situations — picture imaginary dragons, wizards and the like — head into the forest to play a game. Then, they realize that the game has come to life, and their make-believe powers are real.

Then, parallel quests begin. First, they must stay alive. And second, they’ve got to figure out what they’re supposed to accomplish. While not as polished as the early Harry Potter books, it captures the same other-worldly feel that J.K. Rowling excels at.

The book is being pitched as a young adult novel, but adults are just as apt to enjoy the adventure. As soon as the “game” begins, Barrett ratchets up the tension rapidly as foes begin popping up and causing trouble for the protagonists.

And while not all of us play live-action role playing games, that shouldn’t discourage potential readers from picking it up.

“I don’t consider the book to be a live-action role play book,” Barrett said. “I consider it to be escapist fantasy. It’s a fun adventure story. Having the characters start in the LARP was a very seamless way to get them from one world to the other.”

Barrett, 43, is married and has three children. He said when he began writing “It’s All Fun and Games,” he was primarily writing for his kids. Creating Allison, a key character who’s a girl, was important to him.

“My oldest is 15 now, but [when I wrote the book] she was 11, which is why Allison is one of the leads,” he said. “I’m very conscious of the fact that fantasy role-playing [such as Dungeons and Dragons] is a very white guy kind of thing. I wanted it to appear accessible, that no matter who was reading the book, they’d say, ‘Yeah. I could see myself getting into that.’”

Barrett said pop culture trends that favor fantasy movies such as “Lord of the Rings” and TV shows such as “The Big Bang Theory” have helped liberate a potential audience for books like his.

“I think that culture has embraced geekdom,” he said. “It may not necessarily be ‘cool’ with a capital-C, but it certainly is not marginalized the way it used to be.”

And when it comes down to it, what’s really so geeky about a cool adventure?

Unfortunately for readers, “It’s All Fun and Games” ends too soon. Barrett wraps things up nicely, but admits when he wrote the book, his goal was to reach the magical 50,000 word barrier so he could reach the NaNoWriMo goal.

The good news: He’s got two more books — the end product of the 2011 and 2012 contests — that serve as sequels.

If, that is, “It’s All Fun and Games” takes off and readers want to see sequels.

“I have partially been lazy [about working on editing the next two books], and partially been trying not to jinx myself,” Barrett said. “Obviously, if this [book] tanks and nobody buys a copy, ever, then there’s going to be no market for the second book.”

With that said, Barrett is thinking positively, and already considers himself lucky.

“I’m optimistic. I’m always optimistic. Because right from the get-go, this has been so much more successful than I ever imagined it would be,” Barrett said. “A trip to San Diego? I am so far in the black already that it’s not even funny.”

Barrett will attend a book signing from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday at The Briar Patch, 27 Central St., Bangor. The book is available through Inkshares or Amazon for $5.99 (e-book) or $9.99 (paperback). Barrett said those looking to buy it locally should talk to their area bookseller about ordering copies.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...