Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bottoming Out

We had the best of intentions.

As all of you are aware by now, Lynn’s day job consumes a large portion of her life. She has built the Poway High Student Services Office into a model counseling, support, and enrichment facility for the teenagers who attend PHS. Times being what they are, however, the program is chronically underfunded and always on the cusp of being washed away with the latest round of budget cuts. Fundraising is an unfortunate and, quite frankly, unwelcome part of the job.

Earlier this year we learned that one source of funding for Student Services was going away and the office was going to receive $10,000 less support. It was Evans who came up with the “bright idea” to try and replace this money with sales from a book. We were actively searching for representation for our novels anyway; so, why not give one to PHS? This meant a change in direction since we couldn’t wait the years required to get in with a publishing house. This wasn’t a huge deal because, besides believing that the publishing business is floundering, being independent appealed to our “can do spirit.” So we chose what we thought was our most appropriate work, poured our time, energy, and money into making it the best eBook possible, and launched it with parental pride.

Our first worry was that we had been kidding ourselves–that we really couldn’t write something worth reading. We were nervous that, even though we’d been honing our skill for years, had attended writers’ conferences, had paid a professional editor, and had sent the novel out to advanced readers, it really was crap not worth the money someone would spend on a box of Girl Scout Cookies. We felt better when the first reviews came back positive. Teens and adults told us they either liked or loved the book. Breathing a sigh of relief, we thought, “We’re on our way!”

Although we do have one marketing degree between us and have both spent some of our formative years selling in department stores, self-promotion is not our strong suit. Knowing this, we designed a simple marketing formula–The 3 Rs: Reading, Reviewing, and Recommending. We relied on our extensive network of friends, family, associates, and the PHS students to read Bobbie Titan in the Mark of Kain, have some of their opinions posted where “strangers” could see them, and encourage them to let others know about the book. Our goal was to sell about 3,000 books over the course of a year, with the volume ramping up, peaking, and then sliding off. By then we hoped to have Bobbie-2 out so that those who liked the first book would get onboard for round two.

While a few people jumped on all three Rs, overall we stalled almost immediately. We released the book at the beginning of summer break in order not to interfere with the crazy last days of the school year. However, we learned that it is hard to grab people’s attention, particularly the students, when their heads are full of vacation. Of course, when everyone got back to school and their jobs, we had a hard time getting to them because they were now so busy. We also encountered the expected problem of those folks who aren’t yet willing to read electronically but we’d hoped they would do it just this once for a good cause. Paper books are prohibitively expensive to produce and distribute on demand, so we stayed digital and willingly provided free eBooks to the reluctant or others who might not have an easy way to pay for it online. For our strategy to work, we needed a strong local commitment to the first R – reading. “If we can just get them to read it,” we told ourselves, “the rest will fall into line.” To encourage this, Lynn nagged her Peer Counselors and we invested in local marketing efforts. The most recent of these blew up in our faces.

We ordered a thousand postcards with the eBook cover on the front and a description on the back. As our loyal followers know, the cover features the side of a bathing suit covered rear end and an old fashioned pistol (Evan’s stepmom called it “wimpy.”) The school administrators told Lynn the postcards weren’t appropriate to distribute on campus and some of the students said they felt awkward about passing them out. While we could come up with many arguments in favor of using the cover to advertise, we concluded there was no reason to cause problems for the people for whom we were trying to raise money. We’ve even thought of some clever ideas like putting up blank cards on campus with something like “Go to to see what they won’t let us show you here.” The only problem with that is dealing with the disappointment when people discover that the cover is pretty tame.

Now we don’t know what to do. Worse (better?) we’re not sure if we should do anything. Maybe it’s time to just let the book-as-fundraiser idea go and see if it has the wings to fly on its own. We certainly wouldn’t mind if we could quit nagging people about the 3 Rs. Still, we know if a small swell of local support doesn’t form soon, the chances that Bobbie Titan in the Mark of Kain will be discovered by a wider world this year are pretty remote and our goal won’t be met. Then we’ll need to think of some other way to raise the money for Student Services. Still, no matter what happens, we are committed to writing novels. We love creating books; it’s the promotion we’re not that wild about.

And, since we’re on that subject, can we interest anyone in a postcard?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Do You Believe in True Love?

We are not each other’s first loves. We don’t know if we will be our last loves. We are confident that we can be counted as a great love, maybe even THE great love of each other’s life.  But is our long and mutually committed relationship a match made in heaven? Were we destined to be each other’s true loves? We don’t know, but it’s a question we find fascinating; so fascinating, in fact, that we wrote a romantic novel on the subject.

This weekend we are completing the final proof for The Valentine’s Game. Our protagonist, Charli, is a love-jinxed twenty-one-year-old desperate for romance. Her prayers appear to be answered when Cupid shoots her with a love arrow on Valentine’s Day. However, instead of landing the man of her dreams, Charli lands in the middle of the Valentine’s Game where she must contend for true love, participating in games like Blind Luck, Four Play, and Five Hundred Kisses. The book is a fun ride on the romantic side that even guys (so long as they aren’t afraid of affection) will enjoy reading.

Writing this book not only brought back memories of our challenges together when we first started out, but it also made us examine our core beliefs on this universal subject. Luckily for our readers, it’s easy to learn what we’ve discovered about love.  Our philosophical view point is presented by the angels in charge of helping Charli and the other contestants on their quest for true love. Some of you who’ve been counseled by Lynn on your interpersonal relationships might find the angel Crescent’s description of “like, love, and lust” very familiar. Anyone who has ever been to a peer counseling retreat will undoubtedly imagine the innocent games played there in a different light.

The eBook should be available in a couple of weeks. We will, of course, let you know where and when you can get it. In the meantime, you might think about your own ideas of love and relationships so, when you read ours, you can let us know how close we came to uncovering true love in The Valentine’s Game

Saturday, September 10, 2011

We Could Use Your Help!

This week we need your help. We have just submitted our second novel to our e-publisher to begin the conversion and preparation for distribution. With the last book, since we were donating the proceeds, we were cool with giving the book its own website ( What we worried about then was “short.” We wanted a link that could easily fit in a tweet. While it was that, it turns out that it was also easy to forget and we’ve spent a lot of time retelling people the link.

Now that we are going to have more than one book out in the virtual world we want one site where people can go to find out about any and all of our published works. Like, the site’s main function will be to point to locations where our eBooks can be purchased. It will also feature more comprehensive descriptions of the novels and post reviews we’ve received.

Our problem is what domain name to use. “” and “” are both taken. So is “” Hopefully you know that is our general collaboration website that we don’t want to redo into a book site. So, we need another domain name.

This is where you come in. We would really like to know your opinion. We want to quit putting up websites and concentrate on writing novels but we want you and all of your friends to visit us and buy eBooks. So we’ve provided a list of some of our favorites and would love it if you’d tell us which one you like. Just click comment at the bottom of this post, drop us a note on Facebook, or email us at Looking forward to hearing from you!

Available domains we like include: (with and without a hyphen in front of “books”);;;; we-r-lynnevans;;;

Lynn really hopes you don’t choose the last one – that’s Evans humor, folks!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Rebirth of Inexperience

If you live a purposeful life, then experience is your reward. We like to believe that our lives, both the parts shared and the time we’ve spent apart, have left us with heaps of real world knowledge. Lynn has spent nearly three decades at the same high school and her opinion is sought on everything from how to deal with the most horrific tragedies to the refreshments served during staff meetings. Evan’s first computer-assisted analysis was conducted on punch cards and fed into a computer that wouldn’t fit in our living room. It makes him smile when younger colleagues gripe about how the company’s dual-core Pentium processor laptops with gigabytes of RAM and half-terabyte disk drives are “not all that good.” 

It’s not a boast to suggest that we know our way around our professions. We’ve applied ourselves for a long time and now, not unreasonably, we’re considered experts. So it has been something of a shock to realize that we are “wet behind the ears” when it comes to the writing game. Not so much creating a novel. There is a lifetime of stories, plays, and poems in our past and we have been dedicated to learning the craft of “can’t put it down” book length fiction for over five years now. It’s the stumbling about after the novel has been completed that reminds us of when we were young and our hearts raced at rooms filled with vacuum tubes or wide eyed students.

This post novel production might have been easier a few years ago when there was really only one path to take. But Amazon and eBooks changed all that. Now, when century old publishing houses are floundering about how to sell books and agents only want to represent the sleazy and notorious, everyone is on the learning curve. We realize that, while there has never been a better opportunity for independent writers, it hasn’t come with a road map. We often feel lost, frustrated, and like complete rookies. On the bad days it makes us wonder if it’s worth it. On the good days it reminds us of when we were young, newly in love, and believed there was nothing we couldn’t do as long as we never let go of each other’s hand.