Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2014, 10:53 am

Chasing dreams and helping others

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By Kelly Steiner,

Photo: Submitted
Tom Prior, a St. Ambrose University student from Bloomington, Ill., recently self-published his novel, "Skyfire." He spent five years working on it in secret before telling his friends and family. Now that he has released it, he is donating half of his sales to Catholic Charities and the Children’s Miracle Network.
Tom Prior kept a big secret from everyone for five years.

The 22-year-old St. Ambrose University student from Bloomington, Ill., recently self-published an action-adventure novel, "Skyfire," which he had been working on since he was 17 without any of his friends or family knowing.

"No one knew about the book until I gave my parents a 262-page single-spaced Microsoft Word document in the summer of 2013," he said. "They were very surprised."

Mr. Prior, who is triple-majoring in theology, radio/TV production and journalism with a minor in Catholic studies, spends much of his time working several internships and other jobs related to his majors. In his little downtime, he writes.

"When writing 'Skyfire,' I never planned to release it to the public because I was only writing as a hobby," Mr. Prior said. "But after seeing the final product, I wanted to share it with others so that they could enjoy it."

Mr. Prior will donate half of the proceeds of his book sales to Catholic Charities and the Children's Miracle Network, which are close to his heart.

"I remember being a young kid with dreams of writing a novel, and I want those kids to be able to accomplish their dreams in life," he said.

Mr. Prior has been studying philanthropy in early Christianity for his theology major, and felt donating money to Catholic Charities was the best way he could live through his studies, he said.

Despite his very busy schedule, Mr. Prior said it wasn't hard to find the time to write because it is his passion.

"Late at night, I would write while watching a movie," he said. "I would mostly spend time writing during breaks from school... I wrote it all on my laptop and saved it to a USB drive, which allowed me to keep this book private so no one else would know about it."

There also were times where Mr. Prior would go weeks and months without ever typing a word.

"I didn't tell anyone because that would create expectations from others," he said. "The beauty about keeping it a secret was that there were no expectations to finish it."

Now that the word about "Skyfire" is out in the open, Mr. Prior said he has sold nearly 70 copies, surpassing his goal of selling 50 by the end of March. He credits his family and friends for his success.

"Skyfire" is about a boy named Jack Singe who has to save the world from war and a nuclear crisis brought on by an evil empire. Mr. Prior said he was inspired by novels such as "A Game of Thrones," the Harry Potter series, "Lord of the Rings," "Pendragon," and "Deltora Quest."

It sells for $20. For more information, email Mr. Prior at