Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sequel Writing

Since book-3, The Dragon Princess, is with our professional editor, we’re working to get book-4 into a final draft so we can send it off to our advanced readers. Bobbie Titan in The Alternate Way is a sequel to our first novel and we’re finding new challenges from continuing a story instead of starting a new one.

When we write a novel from scratch, our goal is to get the reader hooked right away and then let the characters and plot deepen as the story continues. In a sequel we’re finding that it takes a new balancing act. We’re wrestling with how much background from the first story is required to remind return readers and provide foundation for new readers. We don’t want to lose anyone, but we also want to keep the new story fresh and not bog it down rehashing what happened before. And we really want this story to expand the world of super-teenagers we invented in the first book. We’re not fans of authors who are so in love with what they created that they can’t move the story along in a sequel. We want our loyal readers to think, “I didn’t see that coming,” while reading Bobbie-2.

We also don’t want our characters to stagnate. Since we received a lot of compliments on the characters in Bobbie-1, there was a tendency to keep them the same and just give them a new story. But that doesn’t feel real to us. They may be super, but they’re still teenagers and young people experience radical changes, particularly emotionally, in very short periods of time. We wanted our characters to do the same, even at the risk of making them less appealing. And we wanted to let our characters live the full range of emotions that teenagers do today, even if they aren’t universally accepted. It would have been easier to stick to the standard formula for young adult novels and not risk offending some sensibilities, but we decided against it. One of the real joys of being independent is that you are not forced to play it safe to appease a publisher’s idea of what is politically correct.

Finally, in this book, we want to propose a completely unique moral dilemma for our characters. We want our readers to stop and ponder what they would do given the same choice we give the KARI kids, and come away not sure what they would decide. To do that, the reader needs to understand the structure underlying this difficult decision; however, we can’t turn our adventure story into a dry dissertation on super cells. We think we’ve balanced the information flow with the right amount of narrative, but we won’t be sure until we get the comments back from our advanced readers.

We should be done with the final draft in a week or two. Then we’ll send it out and wait to see if we’ve achieved our desired results. If you would like to read an advance copy of Bobbie Titan in The Alternate Way, and are willing to answer questions we’ll post on the last page, let us know. We’ll send you a copy in your favorite electronic format.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Fantastic Liberation

As our loyal readers know, Lynn Evans isn’t afraid of the fantastic. Even when we are touching on subjects of the heart, like we did in The Valentine’s Game, or are diving into teenage angst, like in the Bobbie Titan novels, we love stretching the story past the everyday into the whimsical realms of our imaginations. But in these obviously fictional stories, we tried to keep it “feeling real.” Even when we describe some event that is clearly beyond the boundaries of what is possible, we want the reader to come away feeling like it could happen that way.

In our latest novel, The Dragon Princess, we freed ourselves from even this last modest constraint and have allowed our imaginations to run wild. This time we want the reader to go somewhere they’ve never been, to experience wonders that are only real inside our dreams, and meet characters they can’t meet anywhere else. When you finish reading The Dragon Princess, we want you to feel like you’ve escaped mundane reality and have soared, at least briefly, beyond what you could have imagined.

Inventing a world wholly within our minds was an immensely liberating experience. It is amazing where a story can take you when the only limitation is what you can think up. We wanted a place where even earthly prejudices could take flight, literally. We wanted a place where nobility was earned, beauty was unquestionably in the eye of the beholder, and where the unexpected was common place. If our advanced readers are to be believed, we just might have accomplished it.

We have finished updating the story based on the comments we received, and the novel is in the hands of our editor. With a little luck and a little more effort, this spring you should be able to find out how well we can imagine somewhere you’ve never been before.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy New Year

Like everyone else, this is the time of year when we like to look back on what has happened in hopes that it might guide us in the new year.

A year ago we were planning on attending two writers’ conferences; the first in San Diego and the second in San Francisco three weeks later. We learned a lot at both but the biggest takeaway was that the traditional publishing world is nearly paralyzed due to the digital revolution. Agents and editors who can barely use email were lost on where eBooks were going to take them and most of them were in denial on how much of their lunch Amazon was going to eat. We dutifully followed up with letters introducing ourselves and our work but were convinced by spring that, since we hadn’t slept with anyone famous or were related to a failed vice presidential candidate, it was going to take years to get noticed by the trade press and years more to get anything out of their cumbersome and outdated process. By Saint Patrick’s Day we had decided to be independent.

Our collaboration blog launched shortly after that. We introduced Lynn Evans on the last weekend in March and tried, mostly successfully, to put out a post every week. While initially designed to help us 
connect to people who would want to read our eBooks, the blog soon had a life of its own that encompassed more than our shared struggles to develop, produce, publish, sell, and distribute our stories. We decided early that it was better to write about what was on our minds than trying to limit the virtual discussion to just stuff about collaborating. So, even though we posted about the trials of writing and editing, we also tried to show how living our daily lives influenced what did and did not make it into our work. Along the way we learned that if we included pictures of people kissing or bikini clad rear ends, our anonymous Google hits increased. We ended the year by acting as journalists and covering another independent author who found our blog while looking for places to announce her own recently completed eBook.

Our favorite part of the year was doing the thing that got us started in the first place – writing stories. At the start of the year we had four draft novels. When we decided that we wanted to help support Poway High Student Services, we poured all of our creative energies into finishing our young adult paranormal adventure, Bobbie Titan in the Mark of Kain, the proceeds from which we are donating to the school. We worked hard and dutifully adhered to everything we learned to make our eBook a professional product as well as a great read. We were delighted and full of nervous anticipation when we announced in late June that it was available for download. It’s hard to describe how anxious we were while we waited for people to read it or how giddy we felt when the reviews were good. This was followed in the first week of October with our second eBook, The Valentine’s Game. The first reactions to our hybrid chic-lit novel have been very encouraging and we are looking forward to reading full reviews as the folks who bought the eBook over the holidays have the chance to finish it and write down what they thought. In between these two momentous achievements came the sad realization that one of our novels just didn’t meet the high standards we hold ourselves to. We decided not to pursue Promise any further after we failed to get our advanced readers to fall in love with the story. It was a hard decision, but, even though there wasn’t anyone telling us we had to stop, we are absolutely committed to only publishing eBooks we’re sure are worth the readers’ time and effort.

Looking forward, we are planning on using everything we learned last year while we finish our fantasy novel, The Dragon Princess. We’ve just started incorporating the readers’ comments and completing our final edit before handing it over to our professional editor. We’re still on track for a spring release. We were pleasantly surprised when we finished the first draft of the Bobbie Titan sequel a couple of days before New Year’s. We know that there is a lot of work to do before we get it out in the fall, but we’re anxious to learn if our advanced readers think Bobbie’s next adventures are as wild as we do. And, yes, Bobbie is going to fall in love, but like everything else in her life, it’s not going to be a typical teenage romance.

2011 was a good year for us and 2012 looks to be even better. We hope you’ll join us and find out if that’s true.