Timeless Keeper - Writing Wonders July 2023

Thought-provoking Q&A about the Timeless Keeper Saga and writing in general.

July #WritingWonders, listing questions. Actual questions are in the body of this blog.

This month's Writing Wonders features the Timeless Keeper Saga sci fi / dystopian thriller series.

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.

Holtondome (Book 1) is available now. New Denver (Book 2) releases on Aug 15, which is right around the corner!

Your MC shows up on your doorstep. What do you say and/or do?

Like most people, I would involuntarily stare at Seg’s blind left eye, which is unnaturally pure, glassy white. I might then gape at his medieval-era farmer clothes, wondering what ren fair is in the area. Once the shock had passed, I would finally ask how I can help him, secretly and bitterly waiting for him to tell me what he’s selling. It’s a jaded world.

Do you think readers will find your MC likeable? Why or why not?

I hope so! Seg is the underdog among underdogs; an “imperfect specimen” where genetics are important for the dome’s continued survival. Despite that, he’s scrappy, has big dreams, and isn’t afraid to speak his mind (or use his fists when that fails). He’s the kind of guy I would root for. Whether readers like him or not, I hope they root for him, too.

Do you think it’s important for a main character to be likeable? Why or why not?

They have to be relatable and interesting, but not necessarily likeable. A good example is a protagonist whose has some unresolved trauma that has plunged them into a bad place. In that case, I’m rooting for the character to find their way out.

Seg from the Timeless Keeper Saga is a great example where the source of his spite is revealed throughout the story. I think it worked.

Would your MC ever work with one of their enemies? Why or why not?

Yes, and must do so constantly. Seg considers almost everyone in the dome his enemy, because they all take his genetic defect for something that makes him less than human. He has understandably grown up to resent them, but with a dome population of only 4,000, Seg has no choice but to work with people who would rather be anywhere else than with him.

Has your MC ever been involved in a physical altercation? If so, why?

Oh yes. Unfortunately, Seg tends to express his frustrations with his fists. He’s lucky to have an older brother who understands and can go toe-to-toe with him, sparing the rest of the dome from black eyes. (This has already got him in trouble more than once in the series. We can only hope that Fi’s influence will eventually help.)

MC POV: Name one thing that is guaranteed to make you angry. Why?

SEG: Too many to choose from! Pretending I don’t exist because of my blind white eye will almost always put me afoul. Why? Look, I get why genetics are important: There aren’t many humans left. We’re trying to rebuild the human race and have limited space, so we have to be picky about who breeds. But does it really cost anything to treat me just like, say, everyone else? Whatever.

What is your favorite stage of writing a story? Why?

Usually halfway into the first draft. By then, I know the characters and the setting pretty well. Things are beginning to flow, and I feel more like I’m living the story rather than struggling to create it.

What is your least favorite stage of writing a story? Why?

Apart from trying to sell it (*sob*), it’s the beginning of the story. I have the characters, a rough outline, and a setting, but they’re all abstract; I don’t know them yet. Getting to know them is hard. The first few chapters always make me feel like an incompetent buffoon, fumbling with puzzle pieces that I hope will eventually form a single, interesting picture.

What are you good at when it comes to writing?

According to readers:

  • Dialogue
  • Writing style
  • Bringing characters to life
  • Action scenes
  • Pacing (never boring, but not too rushed)
  • Seamlessly weaving together different genres
  • Grammar / editing

From my standpoint, I’m also good at finishing what I start. I've published 11 works and have only 2 unfinished manuscripts, and I’ll probably eventually finish 1 of those.

MC POV: In a fight, what is your weapon of choice?

SEG: Fists have always worked fine for me. I mean, seriously… What am I going to do, shoot someone? I’m a farmer in a dome full of farmers. All the wild animals died 400 years ago after The Fall, and there haven’t been bandits in Holtondome’s entire history. The Feds make sure of it. Only Feds carry guns, and they can keep them—preferably far away from my family.

What about your writing would you like to improve?

I forget to add description in my stories because I get too focused on characters, action, and dialogue. I need to better illustrate environment details to really put the reader there.

Tamsyn Muir’s writing style in Gideon the Ninth floored me. It taught me the true power of language, and how to delight readers with words alone. I would like to incorporate some of her amazing techniques into my writing.

What is the best compliment or review you’ve got about your writing?

Oh gosh… I’ve received many flattering reviews, but this private message from a giveaway winner I think tops them all:

Just finished Angels in the Mist. All I can say is WOW. I will do a review once I find the words to write it. All I can say is it was a powerful hold it had on me. Could not put it down. I hope there's more to this story to come.

All the feels!

When did you start writing and what inspired you?

I started writing in 2010. I’d had a burning story idea about technology-vs-vampires for years. Then I read an urban fantasy book of… questionable quality that seemed to be doing well regardless, and thought maybe I could do better. That was the spark I needed to give writing a try. 5 years and a cubic-ton of revisions later, I published my first full novel, Angels in the Mist.

MC POV: When was the last time you got into a fight (physical or verbal)? Why?

SEG: Freyja help me, that’s like asking what I ate for breakfast this morning. Let’s see… my brother and I traded a few punches two days ago, but yesterday my sister got on my ass about driving the hauler too fast again. I told her exactly where she could stuff her opinion, and we ended up yelling at each other until Hap split us up, so… yeah, yesterday.

Are there any kissing and/or intimacy scenes in your story?

Yes and yes, although it’s light on both. Relationships feature prominently in almost all of my stories, but the focus is usually on the emotional rather than physical aspects (Dragon Assassin is the exception that definitely “goes there.”). The Timeless Keeper Saga contains very adult themes yet tries to maintain a PG-13 rating.

How comfortable are you with writing kissing and/or intimacy scenes?

Comfortable enough that I don’t shy away from them. Intimacy is an integral part of the human experience. For me, books that artificially shy away from it feel unrealistic, so when my own stories call for intimacy, I let it happen. I don’t go into explicit detail, but there should be no doubt to the reader that something happened, and I let it run to its natural conclusion (no rom-com interruptions).

MC POV: Who was the last person you hugged and/or kissed?

SEG: Odin above! Getting kinda personal now. Fine, most of the dome already knows anyway. It was Val Gannon back when we were teenagers. Yes, it’s been that long. Are you seriously surprised? We… went all the way, but we only did that—or anything else, really—just that once. Afterward… well, that's none of your business.

I’ve gotta go. The wheat won’t haul itself, as my sister too often says.

Does your MC support the status quo in their world?

No. Despite the Federated Nations' annual “education” program and being isolated from the outside world, Seg feels there must be a better way for humanity to recover from The Fall than quarterly inquisitions at gunpoint to verify his dome’s compliance with the Pact. If only he had an outside perspective to illuminate the possibilities… *cough* Fi *cough*

(Perfect question for dystopian novels. Thanks!)

Secondary character POV: What’s the biggest sacrifice you’re ready to make for the MC?

VAL: My pride. My husband Nat passed away eight years ago, ending an awful marriage that, in retrospect, should never have happened. Had I swallowed my pride when Seg walked away and simply talked to him, I would never have courted Nat, and my life would have been so much better.

I’m older now. Still emotionally scarred, but ready. Hopefully Seg is ready, too.

Does your MC cause drama or resolve it within their friend group?

Seg is an equal drama contributor. Each member of the friend group that forms over the course of the story contributes their own unique drama inside and outside the circle: some romantic, some political, some business-related, some family-centric, some life-threatening (or saving), some violent… yeah, lots of drama.

Does he mostly cause or resolve it? Um… cause. 😅

Secondary character POV: Have you ever wanted to smack the MC? Why?

VAL: Smack my childhood partner in crime? Why would I ever!

Fine, maybe once a long time ago when… Well, we had a good thing going. Friends or whatever, but also more, you know? I thought it would last forever, and then Seg just… stopped coming around. Of course, that’s when I married Nat and my life went to pig slop, so if I actually had slapped Seg back then, maybe I’d be happier now.

What’s a common occurrence in your story that would be odd here?

Acid storms. Like, melt-your-face-off dangerous.

Antagonist POV: Do you see what you do as evil?

CAPTAIN BHARTA: Is this off the record? To be honest, I don’t 100% agree with how the Federated Nations treat Provider domes, which is hypocritical because I benefit from their labor. But look around! Mother Nature turned against us. The Pact pulled us from the brink of extinction and has worked for 400 years. Someone has to play the Fed role. Might as well be me.

Does your MC respect authority or buck it?

He would buck it if the authorities (Feds) didn’t have all the weapons. Provider domes are helpless to revolt by design. Even when the Feds aren’t present, Seg tends to eschew the rules and do his own thing, which causes no end of embarrassment for his family, who essentially run Holtondome.

Is your MC ever minorly inconvenienced with illness?

No. However, he’s blind in one eye (not because of illness), which does cause a bit of a problem early in the story, and is the primary reason he’s socially isolated from the rest of the dome.

Medicine shortage is also a source of contention between Holtondome and the Federated Nations. This plays strongly into the plot, so illness is top-of-mind for many residents.

Antagonist POV: How do you feel about what you do?

CAPTAIN BHARTA: It’s necessary for the survival of our species. My role as a Fed is to ensure that Cities, Traders, and especially Providers adhere to the Pact. Without the Pact, there is no balance. No purpose! The world would inevitably descend into the same selfish, technology-driven chaos that caused the Fall. That won’t happen on my watch, no matter how many Provider arms I have to twist.

Does your MC have a good fashion sense?

No better or worse than anyone else in Holtondome. Providers embrace simple lifestyle, without luxury or extravagance. “Fashion” doesn’t harvest the crops to feed their loved ones and other domes in the Federated Nations who depend on the fruits of their hard labor.