The author at work
My wife and "editor"
If you would like to discuss any of the topics in these books, please e-mail me your opinions. I would enjoy discussing the Sci-Fi or the writing process with you.
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I am a retired professor of Computer Science and Mathematics. I needed some place to put my daydreams, so I started writing science fiction. Those dreams began with an apocalyptic, utopian, and near-future story of an unsatisfied God who returns to humanity by choosing a mathematician as his next prophet. The dreams followed the prophet's Family of Man off the surface of the Earth, into the solar system, then into the galaxy, the multiverse, and eventually, beyond physical reality. The journey has taken me into the world of Independent Publishing and to places I could not imagine.
If you enjoy contemplating realilty and are not afraid of mathematics, physics, philosophy, and religion, I invite you to enter my worlds.
As an Indie Author I have come to realize that even though my novels are physical artifacts sitting on bookshelves in libraries or homes, I can not leave them at that. I had imagined that once a book was written, once the story was told, the theorem was proven, Q.E.D. My task was done. The books would wait on those shelves until someone came along, looked at the title on the spine, glanced at the intricate and symbolic artwork on the cover, and decided to explore the contents. More likely, a random websurfer would stumble across an electronic clue and trace it down to an e-book version. But, until my fame reaches critical mass, I can not leave them to survive on their own.
I must think of myself as a teller of tales, traveling in search of an audience, and repeating my stories to those who will listen. It is a much more demanding role than I expected. I hope you are one who is interested in the mysteries of reality that I explore in my stories.
Perhaps you are a new author, or aspiring to be one? Perhaps you are a sci-fi fan with more bizarre ideas than mine and you want to write your own "Sixth Prophet" series? Well, here is how it happened for me.
The First Book
The idea for The Fifth Prophet occurred to me all at once, just as the revelation occurred to Sam Hollinshead. Maybe it even occurred in the same place, on my back porch. It was probably after I returned from running in the park, during which time I usually daydream anyway. This time the daydreams seemed too good to let them just fade away so I started to write them down. As a retired Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics I have plenty of free time. I took a handful of sheets of scrap paper from a pile in the corner by my computer and just started writing.
As the first burst of inspiration died down, I had a couple dozen pages of hard to read handwriting to show for it. But at least I had used up some of the scrap paper. Transcribing the scribbles into word processing files was the step that really marked the beginning of writing the book. I had to give the file a name, and I had to store it some place permanent in my data directories. Now I was committed to the process. I finish what I start.
Since I had the main idea of the story from the start, the next few months simply involved explaining how it could all happen. It seems to me to be similar to working on the proof of a mathematical theorem or developing a computer algorithm. Each time I reviewed what I had already created I filled in the missing parts of the story.
One of the most interesting parts of the process was the need to research. Even the mathematical parts of the story, with which I am very familiar, required me to investigate the details. I had to double and triple check that what I was claiming to be true was fact. Wandering off into physics and genetics required me to read entire books in order to get even an overview of what I wanted to include. Wikipedia turned out to be a great starting point for many of the concepts. The nature of that site requires you to follow up with further research, but it always has been a good jumping off place before diving into the pool of knowledge available on the Web.
Writing did involve some sacrifice. I couldn't waste time in my usual ways. My pool table is covered with papers, and I haven't played in months. Some of the yardwork and household chores are not being completed as promptly as they used to be. However, the greatest loss I forced on myself during this writing process was to stop reading Science Fiction books! I did not want any new ideas getting stuck inside my head which would end up on the pages of my book. As a life-long teacher, I hate cheaters and plagiarism.
So, month by month the story grew and evolved. The draft pages accumulated. The characters had to be reigned in, and not all of their lives could be included. I began rereading the parts that I thought were finished, and then began rewriting those parts until I thought they were finished again.
My wife is a retired English teacher. For over thirty years she corrected punctuation and grammar and spelling. She graded essays. She introduced her students to real literature and poetry. I trembled at the thought of showing her my work. Luckily, she is not a fan of science fiction and she tends to think that fantasy is frivolous, so she had no urgent desire to delve into the details of my attempts at writing a novel. She allowed me to touch her favorite books, Wariner's English Grammar and Composition, and the Harbrace College Handbook. They were her versions of my CRC Standard Mathematical Tables. She answered my inane questions about tense, point of view, and compound sentences. But she left the book untouched, at least the first book.
The result is what I have given to the world. If you are reading this after having read the book, I hope you enjoyed my universe. If you are reading this first, then go ahead, make my day, buy the book!
When I finally realized I had almost written a book, I began to get serious. I read and used the following books hoping to find out the secret to the process. They were helpful. Yes, they gave examples of all of my common mistakes. I tried to fix them, but the process seems like squeezing a balloon. I fixed dialogue here, and gibberish came out of my character's mouths two chapters later. In my imagination, objects are dark green solid cylindrical barriers off to my left and down the road. Sometimes they tended to end up on the page in the same way. At first, I told the story more than I showed it. Well, at least the authors of these useful books knew what they were writing about. Every possible writing flaw popped up somewhere in my drafts, before I hunted them down and killed them. I was hopeful that these authors had coached me well enough that some editor somewhere would read beyond the first five pages and I would achieve my fifteen minutes of fame.
Gore, Ariel. How To Become A Famous Writer Before You're Dead. New York, Three Rivers Press, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-307-34648-3.
Hart, Jack. A Writer's Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies That Work. New York, Anchor Books, 2007. ISBN: 978-1-4000-7869-1.
Lukeman, Noah. The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. New York, Fireside, 2000. ISBN: 978-0-7432-9093-7.
Hodges, John C. and Mary E. Whitten. Harbrace College Handbook: 1984 Printing. New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Pub.1984. ISBN: 0-15-531847-0. I'll look up a newer version later.
Warriner, John E. and Francis Griffith. English Grammar and Composition: Complete Course. New York, Harcourt, Brace and World Inc., 1965. ISBN: before ISBN numbers!
One of the biggest and best independent bookstores in my neighborhood is the Huntington Book Revue. My wife and I were there browsing one day, and I picked up a copy of The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, all nine hundred pages of it. It was selling at a bargain price because not many sci-fi fans are brave enough to jump into it. It is fascinating! On my way to the checkout I saw a table of books by Independent Local Authors. I asked how to get my novels on that table and was given a few pages of instructions.
First, the bookstore had to look at review copies in order to judge the quality and appropriateness of the books for their store. My books passed that test. My books were POD (print on demand) I am the distributor. I supply the books to the bookstore. Luckily, I had a few extra copies lying around, and I brought them in for sale. Basically, they are sold on consignment. The bookstore took a 50-50 split on all sales. They also charge a fee for placing them on the table, as well as a fee for displaying them on their website.
I considered this a marketing technique, and I did not break even. Even at the author's price from my publisher I lost a few dollars per copy. But readers saw my books where they belong, in a real brick and mortar bookstore. Book Revue's website gets tens of thousands of hits per month, and if even a fraction of those viewers saw my books the exposure was worth the price.
My research interests are mainly in Computational Geometry, and the impact of technology on the teaching of mathematics and computer science.
Boris Aronov, Alan R. Davis, Tamal K. Dey, Sudebkumar P. Pal, and D. Chithra Prasad. Visibility with Reflection. In Proc. 11th Annu. ACM Sympos. Comput. Geom., pages 316-325, 1995.
Boris Aronov, Alan R. Davis, Tamal K. Dey, Sudebkumar P. Pal, and D. Chithra Prasad. Visibility with Reflection. to appear in Discrete & Computational Geometry.
Boris Aronov, Alan R. Davis, Tamal K. Dey, Sudebkumar P. Pal, and D. Chithra Prasad. Visibility with Multiple Reflections. In Proc. 5nd Scand. Workshop Algorithm Theory, volume 1097 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science, pages 284-295, Springer-Verlag, 1996.
Boris Aronov, Alan R. Davis, Tamal K. Dey, Sudebkumar P. Pal, and D. Chithra Prasad. Visibility with Multiple Reflections. to appear in Discrete & Computational Geometry.
Alan R. Davis. Visibility With Reflection in Triangulated Surfaces. Ph.D. thesis, Polytechnic University, 1998.