At A Glance
James Matthew Cox Jr. was born in Texarkana Arkansas and he lives there today. His parents encouraged him to read and to enjoy it at a very early age. His father made certain he gained an appreciation for science fiction. His childhood heroes had names like Asimov, Bradbury and E. E. Smith. After graduating high school he earned a Bachelor's degree in computer science and a Master's degree in mathematics. He worked 25+ years as a math/CSCI instructor and recently added 'Open-Source Java Developer' to his resume. During all those years he continued to enjoy science fiction, both reading and writing, and finally decided to DO something about it.
In More Detail
I grew up on a farm seven miles outside of Texarkana, Arkansas. Nothing unusual about that except that I never really learned much about farming. I was always fascinated with science and my parents bought me my first computer in the 10th grade. In the 11th grade I won first, second and third place in the local, regional and state Science Fair with my project "Computerized Weather Forecasting," which also won me the Air Force Certificate. That set me on my path.
After graduating from Arkansas High, I spent my first two years studying computer science and math at Texarkana Community College. In addition to an outstanding education, TCC gave me an appreciation for two-year colleges that would influence my later life. Another two years at the University of Central Arkansas got me a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics. I completed my Master's degree in Mathematics at East Texas State University, which eventually became Texas A&M University at Commerce. I then spent a year at the University of Arkansas working on my Ph.D. but did not complete it: I felt a call to a different path.
During my time in grad school, I worked as a teaching assistant. After the first week of terror I knew that was what I truly wanted to do, and while a doctorate would be nice, it was not necessary. I didn't want to teach at a four-year university. I never cared much for research; it was fun and math is a fascinating subject, but what I really wanted to do was TEACH!!!
My experience as a student at TCC, a community college, left no doubt as to where and what I wanted to teach. My years teaching at two-year colleges were, with one exception, the most rewarding in my life. I taught Developmental and Transitional math, with occasional forays into Computer Science. Then, my teaching career came to an abrupt halt.
On February 28, 2011, my wife took me to the hospital. I thought I had a particularly bad case of my usual twice-a-year sinus problems, but I was wrong. I checked into the hospital with a case of pneumonia and a severe kidney infection. They turned into double pneumonia, MRSA, kidney failure and half a dozen other things, any two of which should have killed me. The doctors told my parents I wouldn't make it and that they should begin making the funeral arrangements. They overlooked one critical detail, though.
GOD wasn't ready for me to die yet. I give HIM all the credit and all the glory for the fact that I'm still alive today! After checking into the hospital in El Dorado, I woke up a week later in Little Rock and on the slow road to recovery. That took a lot longer than I thought it would, and by the time I was ready to teach again I couldn't find a job doing it in Texarkana.
Enter GOD, once again. I've always been interested in writing, and HE told me I should work on that. And yes, after all the miracles HE performed healing me, I listened!
Mom and Dad taught me to love reading at a very young age. Mom taught me to love reading, and Dad introduced me to science fiction. My writing career began in the seventh grade, although I didn't realize it at the time. I took a three-part mini-course: Art, Typing and Shop. Typing taught me to type, a skill I've always appreciated and never lost, and it gave me a way to write that other people could actually read! My first few stories - make that my first few dozen stories - were crap. Writing, like anything, takes practice. In my case it took a LOT of practice!
Over the (many) years, I continued writing, and eventually moved from my typewriter to the computer. There was never a question on what I would write: science fiction! I tried my hand at fantasy but I just didn't have the 'feel' for it. Tempus fugited, and back in the early 90's I wrote the prototype for what would become the first book I published.
My story titled 'Electronic Pride' involved a master Technician who belonged to something called the 'Technical Guild' in this nebulous setting called 'The League.' This was the first time I managed to give my main character problems; something that is critical for a believable story. This Tech overcame his own personal problems, saved the day and (sort of) got the girl. The End. I wrote four or five more crap stories after that, but each one worked to hone my writing skills as none had before.
Enter cyberpunk, an SF genre I don't particularly like. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate it either, it's just like venison: I won't go out of my way to eat it and I don't miss it if I don't have it. That's how I feel about cyberpunk. One cyberpunk staple is the bionically-enhanced fighter/assassin; someone who augments his (or her!) body with robotic or bio-organic stuff to make them fight better. In some cases this stuff is a drug that makes them stronger/faster/tougher/etc. The thought occurred to me: "What if one of these super-killing-machines suddenly developed a conscience?"
Enter Micah Stone, an ordinary person working a dead-end job and looked down upon by his colleagues. Through simple fate and a desire to stop what is morally wrong, Micah ends up in a 'military' unit that feeds its soldiers drugs to enhance their physical abilities and to suppress any feelings of guilt they might have.
TREASURE SHIP, as my characters would say! When Micah ends up kicked out of his unit and learns the truth about it, and what he did while in it, he dedicates himself to atoning for what he did, even though that is a not-possible goal. The start of that path turned into the book Stone Blade, and even as I finished it, I knew Micah's story did NOT, could not, end there!
The Indie Author
After completing Stone Blade, I began writing more and more stories about Micah, his friends and the League. In 2009, my wife encouraged me to whip my books into shape and get them published. It was during the summer which, as a teacher, I had off. I worked and sweated to whip Stone Blade into shape and, once I finished it, I just knew it would be on the bookshelves within six months!
WRONG!! After doing considerable research on the Internet, I located a list of book agents and began writing query emails. I was convinced that the traditional way was the best way, and once again I knew the first, or at most second, agent would be slavering to publish my masterpiece. I don't suppose I need to say "That didn't happen." 2009, 2010, 2011 + sick + recovery, 2012 and a good part of 2013 passed, as did queries to almost 100 agents. I received three responses, all of them negative.
Then, in desperation more than anything, I decided to self-publish. By that time I was saturated on the 'traditional' propaganda that real authors didn't self-publish. But, I also knew through and through that my stories were good and that people who read them would enjoy them! Once again I took to the Internet, to find out just how other folks did it. I read lots of negative articles on the perils and pitfalls of some of the self-publishing compaines out there, specifically: how much they charged and how little they delivered. Then I found more articles on ebook publication and popularity, and that publishing them was FREE!
The rest, as they say, is history. Well, almost. I had never stopped writing, and by then I had six stories (books) waiting in the wings. I didn't want to inadvertently sign away and possibly lose the rights to my characrters, my series or my NAME, so I elected to temper my bold new adventure with a hefty dose of caution.
After due consideration I decided to update 'Electronic Pride,' reconfigure it for my now-better-developed League and publish it first. I figured that if bad things happened, I would still have my series in reserve. I spent the rest of 2013 writing and rewriting, changed the title to A Pattern of Details and, on January 10, 2014, I published my first book!
NOW: "The rest, as they say, is history." The road is not smooth and it is certainly not without obstacles, but with determination and conviction it can be walked. And conquered! If you're interested in my journey from then until now, check out my blog.
James M. Cox, Jr.