Fibonacci Numbers, Rhododendrons & Writing (Fibo – Who?)

Fiction writers have more in common with writers of non-fiction than they might believe.   Here’s an example of non-fiction from the world of Fibonacci numbers and mathematics.

Richard Alan, Rhododendron, Village Drummer Fiction, blog

Rhododendrons

My wife and partner, Carolynn and I visited the Rhododendron gardens in Federal Way, Washington over the past weekend.  Many of the plants were in bloom and we’ll be returning in a week or so to see many others which hadn’t bloomed yet.   As we gazed at the intense colors of the blooms and the compact buds that were just opening, I was reminded of the Fibonacci series.

The numbers consist of the unending series:

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89…

Fibonacci, Leonardo Pisano, lived in Pisa, Italy around 1200AD and gave his name to the Fibonacci numbers.

Richard Alan, Village Drummer Fiction, blog, Carolynn, Rhododendron

Carolynn at Weyerhauser Rhododendron Garden

Fibonacci numbers can also be seen in the arrangement of seeds on flower heads such as the Coneflower or sunflower.  Look at the way the petals of a flower are arranged.  You will find them in 2s, 3s, 5s and more, but no fours.  If you think you have found a flower with four petals look closer and you will notice that two of the “petals” are actually part of the reproductive parts of the plant!  For some reason, nature doesn’t like the number four.

Richard Alan, Village Drummer Fiction, blog, rhododendron

Richard Alan, Village Drummer Fiction, blog, rhododendron

Most daisies, for example, have 34, 55, or 89 petals which are the 9th,10th, and 11th Fibonacci numbers.

Richard Alan, Village Drummer Fiction, blog, rhododendron

I have enjoyed numbers most of my life.  One of the best definitions of mathematics is that it makes the invisible visible.  Every time we take a ride on a jet there was a team of engineers who used mathematics to design and build that plane so it will go safely through the air at 400 miles per hour.  We can’t see what they’ve done just looking at the airplane and most of us wouldn’t even recognize the Navier-Stokes differential equation that was used to design the wings; but without that equation and its proper use the plane would have never left the ground.

Did you know that it’s a good thing bees can’t read?  If they could, they might find out that, from an aeronautical perspective which considers their wing area and body size, the bee shouldn’t be able to fly.  Being illiterate the bee just flaps the heck out of its wings and flies on his merry way.

I could have shortened this drastically by simply writing the series.  Wouldn’t that have been boring?  I add to the facts by using imagery of flowers and leaves.  I then provide a definition of mathematics the reader most likely hasn’t thought of and then a humorous story about the bee.  These are obviously the same techniques I use when I write fiction.  Surely this makes the rather dry subject of Fibonacci numbers and mathematics in general come to life.  Would you agree?

 

All photos were taken by Richard Alan.

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Challenge Accepted

I wrote in my last blog that I was participating in the Fourth Writer’s Platform-Building Challenge.   Today @RachelHarrie posted the first challenge.

“Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem.

Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”. These five words will be included in the word count. If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), do one or more of these:

  • end the story with the words: “everything faded.” (also included in the word count)
  • include the word “orange” in the story
  • write in the same genre you normally write
  • make your story 200 words exactly!”
Being someone who never backs away from a challenge, following is my 200 word entry.
*  *  *

Shadows crept across the wall.  The orange sun set.  She was nervous.  Her fiancé was coming home.  They hadn’t seen each other since entering the Army.  The last time, eighteen months ago, was in Fiji, spent mostly in swimsuits.  She was proud of her looks, which made heads turn.

She drove Army trucks until the IED.  Badly burned, it was a miracle she survived.  Her soft skin was replaced with scar tissue.  What would he think?  She desperately wanted to be held by him.  Would he want to spend their lives together now?  She had written him about her disfiguration, suggesting he reconsider their relationship.

He replied that they would talk when he got home.

His car pulled up.  Looking sad, he walked to the door with a pronounced limp.  She opened it.  He immediately threw his arms around her, kissing her.

“I have something to show you,” he said, revealing titanium leg braces.  “I lost my legs below the knee.  If you want to breakup, I’ll understand.”

“Look at me.  What do you see?”

“I see the woman I want to marry.  And you?”

Crying, she replied, “I see my strong legged fiancé.”

Except for their love, everything faded.

*  *  *

This was a very interesting assignment.  My first draft was 483 words.   I didn’t think there was any way this story could be edited down to 200 words without loosing its essence.  It took me a while, but I did it.  A lot of words can be superfluousness.  Live and learn.

*  *  *

My next blog will have three book reviews and more helpful links.  Happy reading!

Richard Alan


Write Campaign 11 Question Tag! I’m It!

I am participating in Rachel Harrie’s Fourth Write Platform-Building Campaign.  Fellow campaigner Diane D. Gillette tagged me in an amazingly fun game of 11 Question Tag, so without further delay, here’s my answers to her excellent questions!

The 11 questions Diane had for me:  

1.  Where is your favorite writing spot and why? My home office because it is quiet and I am surrounded by the math and science books I love.

2.  What author/book first made you want to write?  It was not a specific author or book that got me started.   I wrote an article for http://memoirsfromnam.blogspot.com/. The blog owner, @CJHeck60, asked me how long I had been a writer.  I told her I hadn’t and she said I should.   With CJ’s and my wife’s encouragement, I decided to give it a try.  I found I really love writing.
3.  If you could no longer write, what would your creative outlet be?  First I would perform research in mathematical analysis.  Second I would drum.  I am a second generation percussionist and two of my sons were state HS drum line champions.  When our last son moved out we converted his room into a drum room.

4.  Music or silence when you write?  Absolute, positive, and complete silence.

5.  What is your writing goal for 2012?  Publish at least 4 new bestselling novels.

6.  What pushes you out of your writing comfort zone?  I’m always comfortable writing.  Occasionally I might feel the pain one of the characters feels, but I also get to feel their love.

7.  Where do you go when you need to escape for a while?  I start writing mathematical proofs or work on learning a foreign language with Rosetta Stone.

8.  Which series are you eagerly anticipating the newest release for? (If you aren’t addicted to any series right now, then what new book by a favorite author are you waiting for?)  Book 3 in the Meant to Be series, Finding Each Other, is due out early summer.  Full disclosure:  I’m prejudiced.  I’m the author.

9.  What’s your favorite online resource for writers?  There are several great ones.  I can’t narrow it down to one.  I frequently visit:  John Kremer The Book Marketing Network, The Book Designer Practical Advice to Help Self-Publishers Build Better Books, World Lit Cafe Where Readers and Authors Unite, and Jane Friedman’s Writing Advice  Free Advice for Writers

10.  Do you read any literary magazines? If so, which ones?  No.

11.  What’s something that made you smile today?  Seeing my wife and knowing she is my soul-mate.

Now it’s my turn to tag people.  I choose http://thegoldeneaglesblog.blogspot.com/http://caitlin-lane.blogspot.com/,http://www.christinetyler.net/http://nickwilford.blogspot.com/http://sallys-scribbles.blogspot.com/http://cjparmenter.wordpress.com/http://bornbookish.blogspot.com/http://www.donasdays.blogspot.com/http://writer-steps.blogspot.com/http://raeann28.blogspot.com/

My 11 Questions for You:

  1. If you write about characters who love each other, does their love reflect the love you have in your own life?
  2. Would you be able to write in a genre you really dislike?
  3. You are having a dinner party.  What 4 authors (dead or alive) would you invite and what would you serve them?
  4. What about writing do you enjoy that non-authors don’t realize is fun?
  5. If you listen to music, while you write, does the music influence the mood of your story?
  6. Is your writing better in the early morning, afternoon, late evening, or is it always the same?
  7. After someone tells you they enjoyed reading your book, what positive comment would you like to hear about your book?
  8. If you consider writing your passion, and assuming you have the time, how long would your days be and how many days per week would you write?
  9. How many characters in your writing mirror characters in your real life?
  10. When you meet fellow authors, do you inspire them?  If yes, in what way?
  11. Do you find it difficult to end a story or would you prefer to continue writing the current story?

Have fun!  Happy Reading and Writing!

My Three Newbie Mistakes and the Blogs that Helped Me Past Them

I think many of you will relate to my story.  I’m sure I’m not the only new author who has committed the mistakes that I did.  When I decided to write a novel, I only thought about what I needed to do to write a manuscript.  I asked my wife to look into how we could self-publish.  I set a goal of writing four books in one year.  I’ve always been a good story-teller and many people encouraged me to write a book.  Naively I thought:

  1. My great story would translate into a great book on the first draft.  (It took a few drafts to become the great novel it is.)
  2. My wife would only have to fix the typos and spelling errors.
  3. We would be good to go for uploading it to be published.
  4. Our friends and family would buy the book for themselves and for gifts.
  5. Word of mouth would create frenzied buying; soaring my first book onto the bestseller lists.

I did say we were naive.  My first book, Meant to Be, was published by CreateSpace, Kindle Digital Publishing (KDP), and Smashwords in June, 2011.  (Carolynn will tell you how all that went in a future blog.)  I immediately began work on the second book in the “Meant to Be” series, The Couples (published Dec, 2011).  I also was making notes for book three as ideas came to me.  This activity was taking place during the weeks that Carolynn was trying to manipulate Meant to Be into the multiple different formats each publisher required.  By the time the first book was published, the second was completed.  Carolynn went into editing and publishing mode while I wrote book three (Finding Each Other, which will be available late Spring 2012).

Meant to Be and The Couples are beautiful novels about people who are striving to find their soul-mate; their life-partner; the person they are meant to be with the rest of their lives.  We are getting great feedback on both books.  People have told us that the characters are like family; they like them and want to know what is going to happen next.   Although the books are selling, they are not selling as well as we think they should.  We needed to figure out why.

I’m sure most of you have already spotted what our near fatal mistakes were.

  • Error #1 –  We had no marketing plan in place.
  • Error #2 –  Carolynn was the only one who read and edited the first book.
  • Error #3 – We did not sign up for a Twitter account.

I’m not sure which mistake was more egregious.  I can tell you the second error was easiest to correct.  The Couples was read by multiple people who made suggestions and corrections, in addition to Carolynn’s editing.  This will continue to be our standard operating procedure until we are able to afford a professional editor.

Neither of us had any experience  with marketing.  We did create a website and a Facebook page.   After that our search for knowledge began.  Carolynn and I began to read everything we could find online, and in print, about book marketing.  There is a wealth of excellent sources available.  We were amazed at how much helpful information this community shares.  Following are some of our favorites.  I will also update the blog roll with the various blogs we enjoy following.   These are not complete lists.  They are just the ones we seem to reference the most.  I’m sure I have missed a few and will update the blog roll as I find them.  By the way, we now have a marketing plan, a blog, and a Twitter account.

The helpful blog list:

I hope you find these sites helpful.  What other blogs and websites do you like?  Please share in the comments.

Richard Alan

 

Village Drummer Fiction