I’m probably the last person in the world who would end up writing a fictional book. My father wrote several textbooks and articles about ceramics. If there was ever a plan for writing in my life, it should have been all about Electrical Engineering. Every engineer knows the Schottky diode and the Zener diode. Now there is the superconducting Conrad diode! Well, life does not always work out the way we want.
English did not come easy to me, and I had a tough beginning. 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 1200, and it used a proprietary but excellent word processer. It used the Wang "Diablo" 620 printer, which had a massive daisy wheel. You could hear it printing from every corner of our house. The upside was that the text looked immaculate compared to all my 9-pin dot matrix printers. Later, my father got a DOS 8088-emulation card for the Wang and the word processing program, Office Writer. Later, he upgraded to an HP Laserjet II.
These early word processors were a miracle for my English. Finally, I could write without a pencil or a typewriter with White Out. What a relief!
With this new ability, my intense English struggle changed. I credit some improvement to my ninth-grade teacher, Mr. Olpin. A truly inspirational individual.
I went to college at WPI in Worcester MA, with a degree in Electrical Engineering and a minor in English. As you know, Electrical Engineering is the best kind of engineering. It took five years to get a four-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! But I still graduated. Three of my roommates and three of my friends did not. I took a creative writing class in college. It was fun, but I got little out of it.
After college, I went from job to job. Why so many? A few unpleasant work situations, but mainly the companies left me when their project/contract ran out. I really liked Electrical Engineering and was fantastic at it. To me, electronics made sense because they always followed basic rules. There is a certain beauty to an excellent design, and I loved learning about every new electronic subject.
For most of my life, I would think up stories and go over them as I went to sleep. Then, six years ago, I was hiking during a period of unemployment and wrote a book. I had three good ideas and went with the first story. I called my book A Graceful Interview because I wanted to name the main character Grace. Catch the cool pun?
My mother and I went over the book several times, and I found a professional editor. They both liked the premise, and I was also happy with it. Getting it published appeared to be simple. Go to a publisher’s website and upload the book. Then collect a check. Simple, right?
It turns out, that publishers just do not accept “un-represented manuscripts.” (Books are called manuscripts? I know that now.) Publishers only work thorough a “book representative.” So, I spent some time looking for a representative to present my manuscript. All of them wanted at least 20% of the profit and some wanted two thousand dollars to even look at my book. The entire experience was a big letdown
My dream to publish almost died. My editor happened to know a “book representative.” Yay! I contacted Bethany, and it turns out that she was not a “book representative.” She was a “self-publisher helper.” I was about to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” However, I heard Bethany out and learn about the service she provided. She made a compelling argument to self-publish. Chiefly, self-publishing was an easier path with a better chance of success.
We began working toward self-publishing A Graceful Interview to get it on Amazon. We began with a pre-edit. Bethany read my book (she was OK with calling my work a book and not a manuscript) and had a bunch of suggestions. A big problem was that it had a narrow story perspective. (I did not write for a reader.) After thinking about it, she was right on point, and I made a bunch of changes. Then, the book then went through an intense edit. Major issues were uncovered. The result was a “tighter” story. However, the plot was 98% the same. I added more backstory on Heathcliff.
The next step was choosing the title. Bethany thought that A Graceful Interview did not work. I really liked the title but, I and not a publishing expert, 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 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 do not recognize the image, it is a pastel/water painting by acclaimed Japanese animator Yoshitaka Amano. This image is related to the movie Angel's Egg.
After we finished the cover, I felt like an actual author. Then came two unexpected issues. Creating a good book description and getting reviews. It is nearly impossible to crunch an entire book into two brief paragraphs which contain a thinly veiled sales pitch. The effort took over two weeks of intense effort.
The next part was going to be easy. Get a few book reviews. Unfortunately, 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 websites wanted $2,000+. They also clearly stated that you could still get an awful review after paying them that they would publish it!
2) Beg bloggers to review your work. I found that this option was an endless black hole. The idea was that you would send them your book for free and perhaps they would do something. I had no luck.
3) Four sites will accept books to be reviewed. Yay! I sent my book to them, and one said they might look at it. Unfortunately, they never got back to me.
4) Have your friends/family/yourself write a review. I read many posts about not doing this under any circumstances.
I chose the $99 option. An excerpt from this is now on the back of Interviewing Immortality. The $99 review did not impress me. There has got to be an easier way, and I have been trying to come up with a company that will fill this gap.
After all of that effort, I made another self-editing pass, formatted the document for publishing, developed a website, and put the book on Amazon.
So, what is next? While all of this was going on, I wrote a second book, Pushed to the Edge of Survival. It is about to be released. I also wrote a third book, Cable Ties, and it is also about to be released. At present, I have finished a sequel to Interviewing Immortality titled, Finding Immortality. It is about to be professionally edited. The sequel to Pushed to the Edge of Survival has been written, titled Pushed to the Edge of Existence. The sequel to Cable Ties, titled, Cable Pairs is in the outline stage.
The funny thing is that my decision to write a book all stemmed from my desire to write a “fan 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. I have a thing for Engineers.) It turns out that Paramount is strict and would never allow such a work to be published. 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 am happily married with a wonderful daughter.
July 12, 2021
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