A Brand New Denver and Top Coach Award

New Denver hits the shelves! Also a glimpse into the making of the Timeless Keeper Saga, and a review of A Tale of Valor from up-and-coming author Linda Scott.

3 paperback copies of New Denver on a material background. "Top Coach" award symbol.
New Denver is now available!

I guess the title should really be "A Brand-New New Denver..." but that doesn't have the same delicious (and corny) double meaning. 😅

Regardless, yes, this month's newsletter coincides with the exciting release of New Denver (Timeless Keeper Saga Book 2)! E-books are now available from all your favorite retailers, while paperbacks and hardcovers can be purchased through Amazon. If you'd like a signed copy, I don't have a form up yet, but feel free to reply to this email and let me know. We'll figure something out.

You may also notice the interior looks a tad spiffier than Book 1. That's because I'm now using Vellum to format my print and e-books. Scrivener does a fine job, but Vellum really takes the polish to the next level. (I also quietly released a Vellum update of Holtondome last week, so be sure to download the latest version from your retailer.)

Speaking of books... 😄 Ever wondered where science fiction authors get their off-the-wall story ideas? This month's feature delves into the inspiration behind the Timeless Keeper Saga. Buckle up for a crazy ride through my twisted creative processes!

In this newsletter

  • Top 20 Writing Coaches Award
  • The Inspiration Behind the Timeless Keeper Saga
  • Liminal Fiction Reviews Holtondome
  • Free Books, Sales, and Events
  • Currently Reading
  • Other Authors You Might Like

Top 20 Writing Coaches Award

I've been coaching in one form or another for most of my career, but I honestly didn't think anyone had noticed.

Apparently they did. This month I had the unexpected honor of being selected for the Top 20 Writing Coaches Award. Thank you Coach Foundation!

Top Coach: Ryan Southwick. CoachFoundation.com
Courtesy of Coach Foundation

The Inspiration Behind the Timeless Keeper Saga

At some point near the end of writing The Z-Tech Chronicles (probably during a romantic scene), I began to wonder what I would write next. I'd spent so long with those characters that I knew them inside and out. It had also felt like cheating, in a way, because I'd based the series off characters from a roleplaying campaign (except for the protagonist), so much of the groundwork had already been laid.

Could I create a world and characters as original as those in Z-Tech from scratch? Would it feel as real? As magical? Would I become as invested in those strangers as I had with the Z-Tech crew? Could I even pull it off?

Then a vision popped into my head about two lovers, separated by chasms as vast as chasms can be, but who had such chemistry and determination that even the universe couldn't keep them apart. (Yes, the idea just "popped" in there. The Z-Tech Chronicles was the result of countless roleplaying hours and baked for 10 years before I wrote a single word, but the seed for Holtondome came in a flash, and really out of nowhere.)

But that was it. I didn't know them at all, nor the setting, nor even what genre it would be.

While I wrapped up the Z-Tech series, I let the idea stew. What might separate these lovers? Physiology? Distance? Age? Upbringing? Society? Why not all of the above? "Go big, or go home," as a friend of mine says. It might be a tall order, but I've never been known to shy away from a challenge.

What really sparked it for me was another random vision of our two protagonists in a futuristic setting a little ways into their relationship. The woman is tired of keeping secrets from him—secrets that may change how he feels about her. Drawing her courage, she takes a knife and, to his horror, plunges it into her own chest. The man is in utter shock, but even more so when she sputters back to life and confesses what she really is. (Disappointing spoiler: this scene didn't make it into the series.)

That did it; I had to write this book.

But where would it take place? What setting would best introduce them? The man, I knew, would be an everyman: your average Joe struggling to get by. The woman would be something special. Perhaps even she wouldn't know how special. In the end, I decided a dystopian / post-apocalyptic world would set the right initial tone. I wanted it to feel bleak, but not entirely hopeless or chaotic, so I gave humanity a few hundred years to lick their wounds before the start of the story.

What's more, I'd never "pantsed" before. Z-Tech has been meticulously plotted, each character having 20+ pages of documentation to outline their personalities, background, etc. Could I wing an entire novel from the ground up, given just a few character notes and a setting idea?

Short answer: no, although I did try.

30% into the first draft, the story began to wander. My biggest no-no as an author is wasting the reader's time. Every paragraph needs to serve a purpose, building up to something greater, but in this case I couldn't see what that greater thing was.

So I plotted the stupid thing, then fleshed out the characters, and boy did that feel better! Fi's tone felt off, so I re-wrote all of her dialogue.

At the halfway mark (around 50,000 words), I discovered another problem: I'd barely made it through a quarter of my outline. The characters hadn't come close to making it out of the protagonist's home dome, and they had a lot of ground to cover after that. Unless I cut some serious corners (which wouldn't do the story justice), the book could easily reach 300,000 words!

Fortunately, I'd made that mistake before with the original Z-Tech Chronicles Book 3. Instead of powering through to the end, then attempting to break it into 3 separate but cohesive stories, I picked a good breaking point in the outline that felt achievable within ~100k words, then re-plotted to make it feel like a complete story, knowing there would be much more to come.

The result was Holtondome, which takes place entirely within said dome. I honestly didn't believe there would be enough interesting things about the dome to fill an entire book, but the more I wrote about the characters, their problems, and their interactions with the Feds and Traders, the more I realized it had to be its own story, and the series would be better for it. Holtondome more than stood on its own, which early readers confirmed with "OMG I loved it!" enthusiasm.

New Denver brought a whole different set of challenges. As I said before, Holtondome was only supposed to be the initial setting for our protagonists to get to know each other. Their real challenges lay far afield, where fantastical new settings and characters await (which is why I advertise the Timeless Keeper Saga first and foremost as Science Fiction, and secondarily as Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic). I think New Denver bridged that gap nicely. Book 3 will go in even wilder, more imaginative directions.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the making of the Timeless Keeper Saga. For other tidbits, last month's WritingWonders also featured this series, which I consolidated into a blog post for easy reading.

Liminal Fiction Reviews Holtondome

"An exciting, well-written, character driven sci-fi tale that lays its cards out on the table with an ever-increasing tempo that draws you through the story... I loved Holtondome, and now I can’t wait to see what’s next. Bring on the cities!" — Scott Coatsworth, Liminal Fiction

And that's just the highlight. He had many other insights into Holtondome, which you can read by clicking the button below. Thank you Scott for the wonderful review!

LimFic.com has many other book-related resources for science fiction fans, so be sure to check out their other offerings while you're there.

Free Books, Sales, and Events

Currently Reading

A Tale of Valor

Author Linda Scott treated me to an early draft of her upcoming A Tale of Valor (Accain's Assassins Book 1), and all I can say is WOW! Scott vividly paints a unique fantasy world using eloquent, flowing descriptions that truly made me forget I was sitting in my living room and not searching through plague-ridden villages or gallivanting across the countryside.

The title is a clever double-entendre because the protagonist is a guild assassin named Valor, or Val for short. Val arrives at her contract's doorstep to find the town dead or dying from a mysterious illness, except for a filthy toddler, upon whom Val takes pity and rescues from the doomed village. Her mark has of course fled the scene—nothing is ever that easy, right?—giving Val the added challenge of pursuit across an undead-infested countryside carrying a toddler who doesn't know the meaning of the words "quiet" or "still."

And that's when things get really interesting. The toddler and Val's target are tied into a plot bigger than she could possibly imagine, putting her in the company of saints, angels, demons, and everything in between. To have a hope of surviving, Val must push her training to the limits and learn to trust others in a fast-paced race to an unknown finish line.

Look for this amazing fantasy title soon!

Learn more

Wool (Silo Series Book One)

Someone who'd just read Holtondome recently messaged me saying, "You know they also have an agreement between the government and people called 'The Pact' in the Silo TV series, right?"

No, I did not. Wool had been on my TBR list for a while (along with Red Rising), but that little tidbit gave it a violent shove to the top. I'm only a few chapters in and am already digging the story, characters, and dialogue. Look for a review in the next newsletter. 😁

Other Authors You Might Like

The Repossessed Ghost

Do you think ghosts haunt only houses?

As a repo man, Mel just pulled off the smoothest take of his life. Kate, a college student, was undecided on which major to pursue. All of their plans went out the window the night Mel found Kate in the back of a ’74 Nova.

When Mel becomes a suspect in Kate’s murder, he must leave his life behind and make a new start in Sacramento, where he and Kate meet other people with supernatural gifts. But not everything is sunshine and roses in California. Awakening to power comes at a cost, and all ghosts eventually become monsters.

Can Mel trust these new friends in Sacramento? Can he help Kate find some peace without landing himself in jail?

The fateful night Mel slipped behind the wheel of an old Chevy, it wasn’t just the car that became repossessed.

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My Books

Timeless Keeper Saga

On a war-ravaged Earth no longer able to sustain life, a half-blind dome farmer and a mysterious city dweller may hold the keys to humanity's fate.

The Timeless Keeper Saga is a science fiction dystopian thriller series about forbidden love, mysterious ancient artifacts, hidden powers, and the indomitable human spirit.

Learn more

The Z-Tech Chronicles

In the face of a rising, ancient evil, a traumatized San Francisco waitress may be the only thing standing between humanity and oblivion.

The Z-Tech Chronicles is a science fiction / urban fantasy saga that follows Anne Perrin on her journey from a traumatized waitress to becoming more than she ever imagined.

Learn more

One Man's Trash - A Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy Story

Croft Winder grew up believing that love is blind.

It wasn't until he took his fiancée on a little vacation to the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy, however, that he learned it can also be downright insane.

Will the wonders of the Truck Stop save their relationship or send it to the executioner’s block? Not even the ancient Delphians could have guessed.

One Man's Trash is a cozy sci fi romance set in the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy universe.

Learn more

Dragon Assassin - A Steamy Shifter Romance

Half dragon. Half human. All woman... and all killer.​

Humans think Charon is a monster. Dragons consider her an abomination, condemning her to a lifetime of isolation.

Now her half-breed body is changing in ways she doesn't understand, torturing her with strange desires. Her only hope may lie with a handsome young assassin who, in courting her, might be getting more than he signed up for.

If you're into sexy shape-changing half-dragons, suave assassins, absurd anatomy, and steamy female-led relationships, then this thrilling paranormal romance adventure is for you!

Learn more