I am probably the last person in the world that would end up writing a fictional book. Granted, my father has written several books and articles about ceramics and if there was ever a plan for writing in my life, it should have been all about Electrical Engineering. You’ve know the Schottky diode and the Zener diode. Now there is the superconducting Conrad diode! The best diode that has ever been written about. That's how my writing efforts should have been. Well, life isn't always a straight line; there are many curves
English didn't come easy to me and it was almost an unobtainable subject. My only saving grace was that computers came along at just the right time. As odd as it may seem, our first computer was a Wang PC and it used a proprietary, but excellent word processer. The Wang Diablo 620 printer we used had a massive daisy wheel. You could actually hear it printing from every corner of our house. The upside was that the text looked immaculate compared to all my friend's computers who used 9 pin dot matrix printers. We then got an 8088-emulation card for the Wang and we used the word processing program Office Writer. These early word processors were a miracle for my English ability. Finally, I could write without pencil. What a relief! My intense struggle with English began to change in the ninth grade. I credit some of the credit to my teacher, Mr. Olpin. He went far out of his way to encourage me.
I went to college at WPI in Worcester MA with a degree in Electrical Engineering. As you know, Electrical Engineering is the best kind of engineering. It took 5 years to get a 4-year degree. I had some issues—If you ever meet a WPI graduate, ask them what a snowflake is. I got two snowflakes back to back. Sucked! Still graduated though. Three of my roommates and three of my friends didn’t. I guess the odds were not that high for those who knew me. I did take a creative writing class in college. It was fun, but I didn't get a lot out of it.
After college, I went from job to job. Why so many jobs? A few bad work situations but mainly the companies left me when their project/contract ran out. I really liked Electrical Engineering and was really good at it. To me, electronics just made sense. There is a certain beauty to a good design and I loved to learn about every single new electronic subject.
Recently, my company Sundstrand left San Diego. It was quite a blow. During my time off, I began hiking and trying to better my life. Fortunately, I got full time employment again. I still plan to do writing part time.
For most of my life, I would think up stories and go over them as I went to sleep. One day on a hike, I decided that I should try to write a book about one of my stories. I had 3 really good ideas and decided to go with the first story. I called my book A Graceful Interview. [Catch the cool pun there?] My mother and I went over the book several times and I found an editor to professionally edit my work. They both liked the premise of the book and I was also happy with it. The rest appeared to be simple. Go to a publisher’s website and upload the book. Then just collect a check. Simple, right?
It turns out, that publishers just don’t accept “un-represented manuscripts.” [Books are called manuscripts? I know that now.] Publishers require a "representative." I then spent some time looking for a representative to present my manuscript to a publisher. I quickly learned that representative's generally want 20% of the take. Most want $2K up front to even look at your book. The entire experience was a big letdown
Wow, this was really bad and my dream to publish almost died. As it turns out, my editor happened to have a contact with “a book representative.” Yay! I contacted Bethany and it turns out that she was not actually “a book representative.” She was a “self-publisher helper.” I was about to say: thanks, but no thanks. However, I decided to hear Bethany out with the service she provided. She made a lot of sense. Mainly that self-publishing it was an easier path with a much better chance of success.
We began working toward self-publishing A Graceful Interview with the goal of getting it on Amazon. One would think that this is a straight forward task. It was absolutely not. It started with a bunch of pre-edits. Bethany read my book [she was OK with calling it a book and not a manuscript] and had a bunch of suggestions. A big problem was that had a narrow prospective on the story. IE, I did not write for a reader. She was right on point and I made a bunch of changes. The book then went through a really intense edit. Some major issues were uncovered and there were many revisions. The result was a much “tighter” manuscript. However, through all the changes, the actual story was 99% the same. The 1% was a bit more back story on Heathcliff.
The next step was choosing the title. Bethany thought that A Graceful Interview didn't work. I really liked the title but, I'm not an expert on publishing and I respected her opinion. Here are some alternate titles:
Saving Grace [this had been used often]
Stepping Towards Immortality
Grace the Immortal
Interviewing an Immortal
Guts and Grace
Recording the Harvest
Selected for Harvest
You Will Do
A Step Towards Immortality [song with this title]
A Grave Misfortune
The Author and the Immortal
The Forever Interview
The Immortal Grace
Forever Grace [book on amazon of this title]
Biography of an Immortal [book& article with this title]
Learning to be Immortal
A Step Toward Immortality
How to Interview an Immortal [I really liked the movie How to Train Your Dragon]
In the end, I settled on Interviewing Immortality. It took some time to get used to the new title. Incidentally, I just found out that there is a book called "Interviewing for Immortality." Funny coincidence. After settling on the title, we did a lot of work on the cover. Originally, I had wanted to use this image:
While the image looked really cool, it was copyrighted. In case you don’t recognize the image, it is a pastel/water painting by acclaimed Japanese animator Yoshitaka Amano. This particular image is related to the movie Angel's Egg. I think it's a really great image and it edited it to make it black and with showing only the face.
After some major work, the cover was done and the final result made me feel like an actual author. Then came two surprisingly difficult parts. Making a good book description and getting reviews. You cannot imagine how hard it was to crunch an entire book into two short paragraphs. At the same time, there was also a thinly veiled sales pitch crammed in there. The effort took over two weeks of intense effort.
The next part was going to be easy. Get a few book reviews. This effort turned out to be nearly impossible. As I saw it, there were four options:
1) Pay for reviews. The least expensive one was $99 for a 200-word review. Most web sites wanted $2,000+. They also clearly stated that after paying them $2,000 you could still get an awful review that they would still publish!
2) Beg bloggers to review your work. I found that this option was an endless black hole. The idea was that you would just send them your book for free and perhaps they would do something. I had no luck with this.
3) There are four sites that will accept books to be reviewed. Yay! I sent my book to them and one of them actually responded and said they might look at it. They never got back to me.
4) Have your friends/family/yourself write a review. Every Internet post about the topic said under no circumstances, should I do this.
I chose the $99 option. An excerpt from this is now on the back of Interviewing Immortality. In life, you get what you pay for. I wasn't impressed with the $99 terse review. There has got to be an easier way and I am actually working on this. Perhaps, there will be some news ahead on that front.
After all of that effort, it was a final round of editing, formatting, developing a website and putting it on Amazon.
So, what’s next? While all of this was going on, I wrote a second book, Kim and Gabe Survive. It is in the editing stages now. I also wrote a third book, Cable Ties and it is waiting to be edited. At present, I have finished a sequel to Interviewing Immortality tentatively titled, Finding Immortality. It is waiting to be edited. I have the outline for sequel to Cable Ties tentatively titled, Cable Pairs and the sequel to Kim and Gabe Survive tentatively titled, Kim and Gabe Thrive.
The funny thing is that my decision to write a book all stemmed from my desire to write a science fiction book set in the Star Trek Voyager universe. It centered on the origin of the Borg, the Klingons and a new race [modeled loosely after a race of Engineers. Ya, I have a thing for Engineers.] It turns out that Paramount is rather strict about their books and would never let a book like that fly. This was going to be a well-researched third book and at least, I thought it had a really strong plot. Perhaps someday, I will write the book and give it away for free.
As for the rest, I still live in San Diego and I’m happily married with a wonderful daughter. Bill Conrad. January 15, 2018.
I can also be found here
Want to contact Bethany?