With Dark Nebula Nursery now in the wild, I thought it would be fun to do a blog post on the trials and tribulations around writing this sixth and final book in the series. It’s been a long road for this series and I’ve learned a lot about writing and self-publishing. So if that sort of thing sounds like your jam, grab a cup of coffee ☕️ or tea 🍵 and keep reading.
Where should I start?
I was considering starting this last newsletter about the last book by writing about Dark Nebula’s beginning, but that doesn’t seem fitting here. Heck, that was ten years ago, and I’ve written about it a few times now, even in the back of my books. A lot has changed since then, my goals for this series being one of them. No, it’s probably easier to start this writeup after the author conference I attended in the fall of last year.
As is often the case, when I’m surrounded by a bunch of like-minded people, my mind relaxes. I become more receptive to new ideas and concepts, and more importantly, I gain new perspectives. After this conference, I took a long hard look at my past books and my current writing, and I made a hard decision.
I decided to end the Dark Nebula series.
In retrospect, it’s not as monumental as it was at that moment. Everything has an end, and all authors eventually move on and write other books. Before that decision, I imagined I’d be writing this series through my initial nine-book goal. That meant I’d be releasing books into 2026 at my current pace of one book in the series per year.
What prompted this decision?
There were several reasons. You know that feeling you get when you rummage through old boxes and stumble upon something you created in high school? A piece from at least ten or twenty years ago? When you read it, it feels like the work of someone else. That’s how I feel about the first few books in this series.
Mind you, I think they’re good books. Hell, I think they’re great. They’re just… missing things. The writing is stiffer, less fluid, and the characters don’t always always pop like I’d want them to today. With each release, the quality of the books improved because my writing skills developed. It took time, but I found a path and evolved how I express the emotions of my characters and the scenes they’re in. That doesn’t mean I don’t recommend the books, far from it. I just know that the past few releases are far better than the initial ones. In the end, for me to give my new books a better chance of success, it makes sense to end the series.
How did you decide to end it?
This one wasn’t as hard as you’d imagined. Remember, I’m an outliner. Everything has its place… well, it used to. While everything didn’t flow exactly as I’d have liked, I took several of the ideas I originally had for book six through nine and compressed them down. For instance, I foreshadowed a huge plot idea in book three during the campfire scene, except I had planned it for book eight. While that wasn’t happening, I still wanted to make it work, so I used it at the end of book six. Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler. It’s too vague to give anything away, and to be honest, it won’t make much sense until you get to the end of book six anyhow.
I extracted ideas like this from my broader series outline and pulled them all in, compressing four books worth of ideas into one really really long final book. As I mentioned in previous emails, the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint any readers who’d kept up with the series. I appreciate all of your support over the years and hope you enjoy this book as much as all the others.
What inspired each of the characters?
Although I brought back over twenty-five prominent characters from previous books into Nursery, the story only revolves around six main points of view. I’ll constrain my answers to those.
Abigail: She’s the first character I wrote I book one, and she’s loosely based on my real life daughter. As the eldest child in the family, she feels the brunt of the pressure to follow in Harold and her father’s footsteps. She has a strong personality and yet, a soft side when she lets you in, very much like my daughter. Beneath that focused exterior lies an emotional force to be reckoned with, and this comes to a head in Nursery. You get to see her round out her story arc and come full circle to that opening sentence in Isolation: “Self-doubt was a real bitch.” It’s a concise reflection of her inner conflicts and mirrors my own daughter’s personality as she ages. I won’t even tell you how many times I wrote and re-wrote that sentence before I finally published Isolation. The idea of starting my debut novel with a swear word freaked me out.
Bradley: The middle Olivaw child, and also loosely based on my middle son with the same name. As in reality, he has a strong case of middle child syndrome. Always feeling under-loved and under-appreciated, he is forced to take his own path throughout the series. In Nursery, he comes full circle, breaking free from his solo take on the universe vibes. We follow him on his journey as he embraces and butts heads with his family, in his very own Bradley way. And no book would be complete without some solid brotherly fights.
Zachary: The youngest of the three Olivaw children is loosely based on my youngest son. Remember, I started writing this series over ten years ago. That would make him three years old when I started. While I had no idea what he’d become, I started his character with his playful young self and evolved him as my real son aged. Throughout the series, I peppered in his personality quirks into the character, in hopes that some day when he read the books he’d notice them. Either way, he was the brains of the family, and in Nursery his role is played out in spades. From battle and contingency planning, to the burden of making hard decisions while his sister is out of contact. His journey in this final book may not be as physically grueling as his siblings’, but emotionally, it’s equally as intense.
Ibu: The Nanil character was a stretch for me. Writing the role of an androgynous alien in Discovery was challenging, but when I gave them room to stretch in Graveyard, I really loved how they evolved. That fondness led me to me include the sixth book. The Olivaws are Ibu’s found family, and in this epic closing book, you get to see them come literal full circle on their path to self discovery. I won’t give anything away, but you’ll find out the journey they have in store pretty quick in the opening few chapters of Nursery. There’s no fitting way to narrate it that didn’t include their Zhen blades.
Joyce: She was one of my favorite characters from Isolation, so bringing her back in Generations, Beacon, and Nursery was a no-brainer. She wasn’t a brainwashed Olivaw, and the last you saw her, she was unabashedly in camp Hera. While I can’t say if that’s how Nursery played out, helping her get closure on her past was a huge part of her story line. The events that transpired in book one have been looming over her character since the ending of her first scene. Every moment of her life since then had either been in service to her colonist family or in service to that event. Well, in Nursery she gets to take on her every wish in spades, and with an alien twist. I promise I won’t say more than that. She was a fun character to develop for sure, and while she isn’t based on any one person in my life, she has hints of a few people. From her tenacity and persistence, to her unapologetic nature, she’s everything a good leader needs to be, but rarely is.
Lync: Last but not least we get to our favorite Ulixi friend. I wrote her short story before I even started Dark Nebula. Something about a band of nomads living among the trojans planetesimals of Jupiter was an idea that just came to me one day. It was mysterious and yet futuristic. How I took that nomadic family and twisted it into the Ulixi was pure and simple accident. There, I said it. I don’t even know what came to me in Isolation when I wrote the scene in the ceremonial chamber. It wasn’t at all part of my outline, but as I wrote it, it just flowed. I have no idea why or what brought it on, but it added a whole new supernatural angle to the story line. That worried me at first. I didn’t want this to turn into a fantasy knockoff with wizards, but I did like the ideas of being part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s a trope as old as time. The idea that there was some untapped part of humanity that the Ulixi were able to unlock, it was exciting. Lync was my vehicle to make that happen, and she was wrapped up in family quirks and secrets of her own. She’s a badass pilot who really gets some epic page time in Nursery, piloting her Nyílak fighter.
Do you have any closing remarks?
When I look back on the series and how it unfolded, I can’t help be in awe. Ten years ago, I would have never imagined that I’d write over one thousand words, let alone one million words. My self-doubt held me back from writing for decades. In case it’s not obvious, that opening line in book one has a more profound meaning for me than just for Abigail. All too often in life, we let our lesser opinion of ourselves prevent us from reaching for the stars (pun intended). Dark Nebula is about my voyage to unlock my inner author.
The series’ conclusion is bittersweet, but I’m eager to explore new projects. While I’ll miss these characters, I won’t rule out revisiting them in the future. In the meantime, I’m excited about my Elemental Portals Tetralogy and other upcoming books, spanning genres from techno-thrillers to Isekai.
There, I wrote it. Dark Nebula is done.
If you haven’t already grabbed it, you can pick up Book 1 of the Dark Nebula series (Isolation) for FREE.