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The IOBA Standard is the journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association and covers the book world, with a special focus on the online used, out-of-print, and collectible bookselling markets.


Jack Jacobs and the Doomsday Time Machine

I started writing this book in the early part of January 2002 and finished it about 10 weeks later. I wanted to make it an educational book that everyone could enjoy, having no violence or swearing, yet intense enough to intrigue one’s mind. In addition to it being educational, I also wanted the story to have a lot of science in it, something I feel that I did accomplish while also having a lot of fun in the process. During the completion phase of the book, I found that the hardest part of all was keeping my elapsed times correct in relation to midnight, as time kept getting reset for Jack Jacobs while inside his time tunnel, essentially keeping him in the year 2199. Since the cosmological time in the universe was going backwards 100 years every 24 hours, I actually had to create a table to keep track of the time and year of the universe in relation to different events that were happening for Jack throughout the book. Figuring up the actual times for traveling from galaxy to galaxy, for instance, was easy.

As far as picking the title, well, the words “Doomsday Time Machine” came to mind. After having picked this to be in the title, I then brainstormed for the perfect male character’s name to go along with it. I thought of the children’s story Jack and Jill, a book everyone should know about, and the name Jack jumped out. Jack is also a name that both children and grownups alike can relate to. As far as a female organic supercomputer name, no, “Jill” was never considered. You’d have to admit, it would have been a little corny with Jack and his computer Jill. I always knew I wanted a female’s name that started with a J, and Jennifer was the name that came to mind. Jack’s last name, Jacobs, was used because it had a ring to it when used with the first name. Jack Jacobs is also a science fiction character’s name that has never been used before, as well as the words “Doomsday Time Machine” in any published literary work. At least I didn’t find any during my research prior to writing my book.

I do have to mention Larry Fredrick who played a part of my book. I met him for the first time in Charlottesville, Virginia at Virginia University two summers ago. I actually traveled to Charlottesville while doing historical research on my large novel. He was extremely nice and showed me around the McCormick Observatory near the Virginia University campus. He took me down to the basement and showed me all the old equipment, while also giving me a little history about the observatory. He even showed me the optical telescope and the hand-built wooden platform used for looking through the telescope. I had an enjoyable time then and also just last summer, when I met him again. He read the galley proofs of my book late in 2002, and gave me some great comments, not to mention some editing. His review and what he said about my book, is of course, shown on the back cover.

Anyway, I submitted my manuscript to Rutledge in March of 2002 and it was accepted a few weeks later. About ten days later I received a contract in the mail and was surprised that it was about $5000 higher than what I was verbally told over the phone to have it published. Well, knowing what I’ve written and “revealed” in my book, I decided to go ahead and have it self-published. This was also due in part to many literary agents and a small number of publishers not showing any interest in my large novel, a book that is currently finished, I might add. So, I paid the money and had a signed contract in my hands in the later part of May 2002. My Jack Jacobs novel was finally on its way to becoming a reality.

That summer that I had much anticipation waiting for the first editing of my manuscript from Rutledge and to seeing the first galley proof. I was surprised that it took Rutledge almost four months just to get me the first edited draft of my novel, a novel that was only about 25,000 words in length, and given to them in Word document format on a floppy disk. I did finally receive the first draft and upon reading their edited version, realized they didn’t understand Jennifer’s character much at all, as I had a high amount of re-editing on the first go-around. It appeared that no one with any technical background actually had a go at any editing. I actually had to go back and add words back into the galley proof to retain meaning in the book. When I sent the galleys back to the publisher by overnight UPS, it took them over three weeks to get my changes back to me for the second draft. Not only that but they started sending them back to me by UPS ground track, taking five to seven working days. The galleys went back and forth a few more times with additional changes each time. By this time I was sending all my changes to them by UPS next day air and enclosing a pre-paid pre-addressed UPS second day air envelope inside the next day air UPS package, to save time. Had I not done this, I’m sure my hardback books would not have been printed. I figured it up and found that I saved almost three to four weeks off the flow time for my hardback book, hardback copies that I also finally received from the publisher on January 23rd of 2003.

I could tell Rutledge Books was dragging their feet from about November 2002 on, but didn’t know the reason. Well, that reason was answered in February 2003 when they closed their doors and went out of business. They also closed their doors before accomplishing any news releases on my book, something that is now my responsibility.

Now that I’ve seen the full process of having a book printed from beginning to end, I’ve learned a lot. I have to take everything that has happened with a grain of salt and keep a positive attitude, as I know the book is a fun book to read if you like science. There is one positive thing I can say about Rutledge, and that is the excellent job they did with the cover on my book. Thomas Morlock, the cover illustrator, was very professional and was prompt in all my contacts with him. He also did an excellent job on the changes to the front cover, just as I had requested, changes such as the elliptical shape of the ship, for one.

Something that isn’t common knowledge to most people is that I mailed almost 200 signed copies of my first edition hardback book to university astronomy departments all over the United States and to the world on February 01, 2003. The reasons for me doing this everyone will, in time, find out. Out of all of the universities that were sent a copy, I received only one acknowledgement and a thank you for the book, an acknowledgement that was sent back through the defunct publisher, Rutledge, who forwarded it to me. I have the utmost respect for Cornell University for taking the time to send that “thank you.”

I did have a lot of fun taking pictures with my digital camera at the Post Office that Saturday when I mailed off the almost 200 copies. Guess the name of the lady at the Post Office counter who accepted all of my priority and airmail packages? It was Jennifer, coincidentally, the same as my organic supercomputer character. I got a kick out of that. The day of February 01, 2003 will always be a day to be remembered for me and turned out truly to be a day to be remembered by everyone, as this was also the same day that the space shuttle Columbia and her crew were lost. As a result, I signed a book to NASA in memory of the seven astronauts who lost their lives. It was inscribed: “February 01, 2003, A Memory and Reflection”, followed by many words of encouragement and wisdom to the families and friends of the astronauts who lost their lives. This copy is safely put away until it is finally presented to NASA.

Anyway, as far as finding one of the 1000 first edition hardback copies that were printed, they may eventually be hard to find, because in addition to all the extra copies I purchased at a discount, I liquidated the entire inventory as soon as I found out Rutledge was closing their doors. Very few copies made it to the open retail market. Nowadays I occasionally sign one of my first editions of my book over to someone I meet on the street, someone of my choosing, and I’m having much fun in the process. At some point that will stop though, as the number of copies I have dwindle down.

Science is a fascinating world and there is much to be discovered, but we must all start with our young kids and their imaginations. Just as Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Well, how very true and correct he was…but to understand your imagination, well, that is another story yet to be revealed.

Albert S. Abraham, Author

Editor’s Note: I was one of the people Albert very kindly sent a couple of signed 1st editions to. Thank you, Albert—I enjoyed the book! :>)



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