Witty and Sacrastic Bookclub has been a constant supporter of my work. More recently, that expanded to include my wife, Natasha, in a Q&A we did, featuring the evolution of her expression as a graphic artist.
This post features Natasha once again in a cover reveal of my fourth book, a standalone time travel story, Mirror in Time. So, to quote a line she sang in that Q&A, “I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it.” As always, many thanks, Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub, for allowing us to share our thoughts!
As night falls, a lone atmospheric vehicle has come under attack on its final approach to a high-altitude research facility known as the “Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory”. Stars that should fill the sky have been obscured by a random patchwork of contrails that have come to be known as “ribbons in the sky”.
Ribbons in the Sky | Natasha Evelyn Overttun
However, Prefect Godvina, AV Sundog’s lone passenger, is now recovering in the Observatory’s medical facilities, a result of stress caused by the evasive maneuvers of the episode. Director Jo’el, head of the Observatory, has been keeping vigil at her bedside. His concern for her is personal. Was this the reason for her visit?
We learn the attack was the anticipated result of a plan to draw out dissident elements. Prefect Tarsus, architect of the plan, is pleased on two fronts. About the mission was to be expected. However, as to Godvina’s condition has come as somewhat of a surprise to Agent Thalia, Sundog’s pilot, and Agents Mica’el and Gabri’el, two of her escorts. It spoke to rumors of a prior relationship between the head of Security and the head of the Cosmological Data Collection and Compilation Center. These rumors are seemingly confirmed when an angry Godvina bursts into a secure room to confront Tarsus, and Thalia is later tasked with covert surveillance of the fiery Prefect to determine the exact nature of her visit to the Observatory.
Jo’el’s tenure as Director of the Observatory had been a direct result of the ribbons in the sky and their seeming adverse causal affect on seismic activity and climate of the planet. His research had led him to conclude the ribbons were an extinction event. He has found a solution, a portal to another universe. However, there was no way to access it. If only there was more time…
His plan: Go back in time before access to the portal becomes compromised.
He will not be going alone. His two lifelong friends, Chief Psychology Officer Auberon and Chief Physician Kyros, will accompany him on this one-way journey. However, temporal mechanics was not his main area of study. That is why he has asked Godvina to come to Jomo. He needed a sounding board, someone to check his logic and his calculations. There was no one better than the prefect of CD3C.
He had originally intended a purely academic discussion.
However, Thalia’s scrutiny has thrown a spanner in the works. She had been unable to
eavesdrop on their meeting, a result of one of Auberon’s very unique abilities. It would only be a matter of time until it would draw unwanted attention to Jo’el’s plan. Now, he had no choice but to flee Jomo with his two friends and a recently recruited CD3C Prefect. Their objective: Exit a facility under military jurisdiction, make their way through some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet and head to the very people who attacked AV Sundog.
Do they get off the mountain and travel back through time? Of course! Without it, there is no story, but how do they get there, what do they find, and do they make good on Jo’el’s plan?
Mirror in Time will take you on a journey beyond the galaxy then to the ancient world of Ziem as a band of intrepid time travelers struggle to save existence.
* * * * *
Now, about the cover… My wife, Natasha (@neoverttun), does all my covers and visuals for my guest posts. I am so lucky to have her support. At this point, I would also like to clarify she sources all the artwork she uses from Pixabay and similar sites. She then combines and manipulates them in Photoscape, GIMP and word. Is the result original? I think so because it’s all about proportion and balance. Take sulfur, carbon and potassium nitrate. They are distinctive and unique in and of themselves. But mix them in the proper proportions, and you get gunpowder. So, to quote one of my favorite chef’s, “BAM!” Let’s take it to the next level.
Shades of gray dominate the cover. That palette combined with a hooded woman gives it a gloomy, gothic feel. It could imply our MCs are going back to a period in time like that. On the other hand, it might be a reference to time itself. The past is shrouded in mystery. Tomorrow is dark. Tomorrow unknown.
The woman stares back at us, a cryptic Mona Lisa smile on her lips. I have seen that look before. She knows something, something we don’t know. What could it be? One interpretation is the story itself. She knows what’s in the pages that follow, and the reader doesn’t. So, this is an invitation to journey past the cover and delve into the story.
Her smile could also be a bright spot in an otherwise dreary color scheme. Again, it is a hint of what is to follow. Our MCs will be faced with impossible odds, but there is always hope.
On another level, it could be like looking in a mirror, and this is our own reflection. This asks the reader a question: What are you thinking?
The bottom half of the cover is also a reflection. Natasha blurred it slightly to make a distinction to the top half. For me, the fact it’s upside down makes it clear enough, but I think it’s a nice touch. We have two more. One is the inverted “r” in the title and the title itself. Natasha wanted to do something similar to my name, but I said, “Enough with the reflections already. I think they get the point.” We had a little “discussion” after that. To summarize, she “said”, “This is an artist’s prerogative.” I “said”, “Less is more.” She finally agreed. I include the episode here, not to gloat but as a record I am right on occasion.
The accent color is green. It appears in the globe of light and around the lettering. No interpretation is required to know the tendrils represent plasma. Because it’s there, it has to have something to do with the story. It does. Although, in the story, it’s a mist. Natasha could have feathered and blurred it to make it consistent, but she felt it would lose it’s immediate and unmistakable connection to power. (This is an artist’s prerogative.) It’s in front of the woman, implying you have to go through it to get to the end of the story, which you do.
Hi, everyone! I have a treat today: you don’t have to read my ramblings. Instead, I’ve got an exerpt from Mirror in Time, D. Ellis Overttun’s upcoming book. Enjoy!
It’s been a while since I’ve done a guest post excerpt. The world has changed, and I guess I have been caught up in it. It’s hard not to be deeply affected by a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, climate change and rising geopolitical tensions.
I’ve also just finished rereading A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright. Its basic premise is that progress itself leads to the fall of societies. For me, the most vivid example was the decimation of Easter Island. It used to be a paradise until the veneration of ancestors led to the felling of trees to move large stone blocks that were used to build the iconic moai that immediately identify this now‑barren location. I am paraphrasing Wright when he wrote that it must have occurred to the people cutting down the last tree that hey, there are no more trees. But they did it any way. Sound familiar?
Combine this with what’s going on in the world right now, and it should be the perfect environment for an author, like myself, to draw upon and ferment ideas, a primordial dystopian soup if you will. And it did. I have another series that I have been mulling over tentatively titled Reality AV that describes the challenges faced by a federation of planets. It will draw extensively on current world events, Wright’s ideas and an argument once presented by Abraham Lincoln that “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Oh, right, the guest post…
Book 3 in the Terra Nova series, Prophecy: Eve of Darkness, came out earlier this year. I should have moved on to the final book in the series (working title, Exodus: Flight from Arkos) but another inspiration pushed it aside, and I knew I would have to address it before I could move on. Enter Mirror in Time. From the title, you can see it is about time travel. It is a stand‑alone that moves, not Dan Brown fast but fast enough. I have also curbed my indulgence for detail and have restrained my technical writing tendencies to make the science as accessible as possible.
Until the beginning of June, I was bopping along like I normally do. It takes me about a week to write the first draft for each paperback chapter (5 to 6 ebook chapters). I was about halfway through when a once‑in‑a‑lifetime opportunity presented itself. How many of those come along? (Answer: By definition, only one.) Unfortunately, this detour was an every‑waking hour kind of endeavor that will span the next year or so at least. Unfortunately, I had no choice but to set Mirror aside. Even worse, I have also had to pull my wife, Natasha, away from social media promotion to help me on this project. Currently, I have only been able to squeeze dabs of writing here and there when I can find the time. Sadly, during the past 4 months, I’ve only managed to get to the three-quarter mark even though I have the plotline to the end.
Do you remember the Big Bang episode “The Closure Alternative”? Well, I have some obsessiveness in me just like Sheldon. It really bugs me that I haven’t finished Mirror.I thought, if I put something out there, it would “encourage” me to finish to avoid that haunting question that strikes fear into the hearts of all authors with unfinished works: “So, how is your novel coming along?”
@WS_BOOKCLUB to the rescue! I approached her with my problem, and she has graciously agreed to let me do a guest post of the ARC of the prologue. Many thanks!
“Track AVs. Priority link to Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory. Display time to contact.”
“Tracking. Linked,” the computer replied as a digital countdown displayed to the upper‑left.
“Jomo, this is AV Sundog. Requesting assistance. Six AVs just appeared on sensors. Threat assessment hostile. Estimated time to contact five minutes.”
“Sundog, this is Jomo. We see the same thing. Dispatching interceptors.”
“Understood. Activating distress beacon, frequency gamma. Sundog out,” the pilot replied nervously. She then tapped on the intercom icon on her control panel. “Ma’am, please engage seat restraints. I am expecting some…turbulence.” A yellow light just to her left confirmed that her passenger had complied. “Computer, combat mode,” she said on a separate channel.
“Engaging combat mode, shields at maximum.”
A harness engaged to secure her shoulders and waist, and a holographic sphere appeared around her, giving her a 360‑degree view of the outside of the craft. The AV seemed to have disappeared. From her point of view, she was now a transparent orb in flight.
“Access topography. Indicate any areas suitable for landing,” she said as she made a rapid descent to a valley below.
Sundog made its way to a ledge and set down.
“Activate holographic camouflage.”
While combat‑ready, the pilot was hoping to remain hidden until the arrival of the interceptors. And so, she waited in tense silence.
“Why have we landed?”
“Please maintain communication silence.”
“You dare order me about?!”
“I reiterate. Please maintain communication silence,” the pilot said firmly. “I will not ask again.”
At length, she felt a dull pressure on the top of her head. She swiveled her seat until its back was positioned horizontally. Above her, she could see six red dots. They had inexplicably altered course and were headed straight toward her location.
While it was inconceivable that she could be tracked, she was trained to never take anything for granted. “Magnify.”
The dots transformed into a squadron of combat AVs.
“They are closing fast,” she thought. “Computer, identify markings and transponder signals.”
“There are no markings. Transponder signals have been masked.”
“They are spoiling for a fight. Computer, designate hostiles one through six.”
A number superimposed on each AV.
“Activate targeting. Lock on to hostile three. Weapons hot.”
“Targeting activated. Locked. Weapons hot,” the computer replied as the images faded and were replaced by six red numbers.
“Estimated time to contact?”
Her seat slowly moved as it tracked the lead AV of the approaching squadron. Then, six smaller red dots appeared followed by another six and another six.
“Shit!” She quickly tapped a number of icons on her console, and the AV abruptly jetted skyward. “Launch chaff!”
Six small missiles shot out from the rear of Sundog. All but one of the incoming projectiles spread out then quickly slowed to a stop as the remaining one accelerated toward the defensive swarm. Then, there was an explosion, and the attacking missiles resumed course, quickly closing the distance.
The sensors indicated another six small red dots had emerged from the squadron as a cloud of chaff formed a bowl‑shaped shield protecting Sundog’s six.
“Guess I am not the only one who dislikes Godvina. Well, at least now, I have an excuse,” she said to herself with a smile. She started executing a series of aviation maneuvers.
“Is this…your idea…of turbulence!” Godvina screamed as her words were punctuated with the sounds of retching and vomiting.
“Sorry, Ma’am, please remain calm.”
Behind them, small explosions erupted as individual components of the protective shield disengaged to neutralize an incoming missile. Suddenly, four green dots appeared in close proximity to the attacking squadron. Then, four red dots disappeared from sensors indicating downed AVs.
“Sundog, this is Escort 1. Bogeys are bugging out!”
“Is that you, Avenger?!”
“Who else, Wind Goddess?!”
“And I suppose Golden Boy is with you?!”
“Escort 2 at your service!”
“We are life‑takers…” Avenger exclaimed.
“…and Gendu breakers!” Golden Boy chimed in.
“WAHOO!” they shouted.
“We are closing in on your position,” Avenger said.
On her screen, two green dots broke away from the dogfight.
“We would love to,” Golden Boy replied, “but we have our orders. We are supposed to protect…”
“Affirm!” the escorts replied.
“Take your time. I got this one. I need some target practice.”
“Are you sure? What about your passenger?”
“Not a problem. I already told her to expect ‘turbulence’,” Wind Goddess said as roars of laughter erupted in response.
“Ok, we will sit back and watch,” Golden Boy replied.
Wind Goddess turned to face the rear. “Computer, I count…nine incoming. Confirm.”
“Execute full reverse.”
Over the next several minutes, each small red dot disappeared from sensors. A short time later, the interceptors arrived and escorted AV Sundog to its terminus.
The summit of Jomo Langma Mountain was a series of closely packed mesas that were ideal locations for structures. “Jomo” as it was commonly referred to was perched atop its namesake. There were two observatories located at either end of a long I-shaped building that acted as a connecting corridor between two telescopes. Rooms off the corridors housed administrative offices, an infirmary, main dining hall, pantries and food storage, a digital library, simgrid and maintenance facility. Staff quarters and a small recreation area were located in a second building on a lower mesa. In addition to high altitude, it was located north of the Northern Polar Circle giving it at least 100 days of total darkness and 100 days of total daylight. It was the premier place on the planet to study stellar as well as solar phenomena.
“Jomo, this is AV Sundog. Requesting clearance to land. Transmitting authorization.”
“AV Sundog, this is Jomo. Authorization received and confirmed. You are cleared to land. Details have been transmitted.”
“Jomo, receipt of landing instructions confirmed. AV Sundog out.”
The Observatory had been exempted from the standard security required for all military and civilian aeronautical installations. But recent events required a strict interpretation of the regulation. Each mesa was now surrounded by an energy dome, an ionized field that extended above a perimeter fence. The control tower identified all approaching craft by their transponder signal. However, in addition, an authorization code was required. Once confirmed, an opening was created in the dome and instructions sent from the control tower to the incoming craft’s onboard computer specifying the approach vector and velocity required to land.
AV Sundog approached and hovered above and a short distance from a landing pad before slowly descending to the tarmac.
“Ma’am, we have arrived at the Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory. You may disengage seat restraints and debark. Please make sure you take all your personal belongings. It was a pleasure to have you on board today. I hope your sojourn here is a pleasant one.” She disengaged her own seat restraints then made her way to the rear to exit the AV. Upon opening the door from the flight deck, she was hit with an unmistakable, acidic, pungent odor. It was something that she had not experienced for a long time, not personally but from comrades who had had too much to drink.
Godvina lay unconscious in her seat restraints. Her clothing and various parts of the cabin were daubed with this disgusting concoction.
“What have you done to my ship?!”
* * * * *
There is no better way to give a story pace than a dogfight. Remember Top Gun? But more than that, the descriptions are designed to give you an idea of the technology that is the backdrop to the story. Yes, this is sci‑fi. What happens as night falls hints at some sort of calamity. Dystopian right? Or at the very least an Armageddon‑like event.
Godvina’s journey to the Observatory suggests she is a scientist, one of sufficient import to warrant a military escort. Although, what kind of scientist needs that kind of protection? Is she in weapons development? The attack on her alludes to a time of conflict or impending conflict with the Gendu. (By the way, “gendu” is an ancient Eurasian word that means “male”.) Who are they, and who were the defenders in this opening volley?
Many thanks to Natasha for the gif to help you visualize the opening scene, a place called “Jomo Langma Mountain”. The name is a variant of the Tibetan name for Mount Everest. What better name for a high‑altitude location. However, the mountain she used was not Everest because she needed plateaus in the landscape to accommodate a research facility (not seen in this visual). She used the Checkerboard Mesa in Mount Zion Park, Utah.
As for my description of the Observatory, I based its design on the Lick Observatory on the summit of Mount Hamilton in California.