Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. You might have guessed. These are a few of our favorite things. Well, for Natasha and I, you can add having a guest post on B for Bookreview to that Rodgers and Hammerstein list. This one is special because it’s a cover reveal for my fourth book, a standalone time-travel story, Mirror in Time. Credit to my wife, Natasha, for this and all my covers. My only contribution to her work is the name at the bottom and coming up with the title.
About the story …
As the sun sets, eerie contrails appear on the dome of the firmament, ghostly streaks that have replaced the stars that should fill the night sky. These “ribbons in the sky” appeared 70 years ago. Since that time, planet Arkos has experienced increasing climatic and seismic activity.
Jo’el is the director of the Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory, a high-altitude astronomical facility situated atop its namesake. Tasked with finding a solution to this problem, he has concluded something outside the universe is tearing apart the very fabric of space-time. He has also discovered a gateway to another universe. Sadly, any pathway to this portal has now become compromised.
Go back in time and engineer a planetary exodus to the safe haven before it becomes inaccessible. It is a seemingly impossible task, but desperation is the mother of invention and the stuff of storytelling. Jo’el is not alone in this quest, with him are two lifelong friends, Chief Physician Kyros and Chief Psychology Officer Auberon. While only aware of Jo’el’s need for their support, they have a camaraderie born of trust that enables them to jump into the unknown knowing they will land safely.
Space-time mechanics are outside the realm of Jo’el’s expertise. So, he has enlisted the aid of Prefect Godvina, head of the Cosmological Data Collection and Compilation Center. His plan is to meet with her, confirm his findings and proceed on with his friends. However, their meeting arouses the interest of Prefect Tarsus, Head of Intelligence. The unwanted scrutiny disrupts Jo’el’s plans. Now, the Director must improvise, and he reluctantly includes Godvina in the fold.
Are they successful in their 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.
About the cover …
Shades of gray dominate the cover. That palette combined with a hooded woman gives it a gloomy, gothic feel. It could imply travel back to a period like that. On the other hand, it might reference time itself. The past is shrouded in mystery. Tomorrow is dark. Tomorrow unknown.
The accent color is green and appears in the globe of light and around the lettering. No interpretation is required to know the tendrils represent plasma. It is in front of the woman, implying you have to go through it to get to the end, which you do.
The woman stares back, a cryptic Mona Lisa smile on her lips. She knows something. What could it be? One interpretation is the story itself. She knows what is in the pages that follow. The reader does not. So, it is an invitation to journey past the cover and delve into the narrative. Her smile could also be a bright spot in an otherwise dreary color scheme. Again, a hint of what follows. In the face of impossible odds, there is always hope. On another level, it could be like looking in a mirror at our own reflection. It asks the reader a question: What are you thinking?
The idea for this Q&A came as a result of some back-and-forths with Els. Originally, I wanted her to review Mirror in Time, but the hard-science genre wasn’t her cup of tea. Instead, she suggested a Q&A. While very enthusiastic about the prospect, I’ve found it’s hard to delve into a writer’s work without some direct contact with it.
I’ve done a couple of off-the-beaten-path Q&As: one, how music has influenced my writing (http://dld.bz/h6G3C) and another where I interviewed my wife, Natasha, about our collaboration (http://dld.bz/jcJ3F). So, I thought it might be interesting to turn it around and have her interview me.
And, here we are…
So, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in 1980 at the Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Galveston, Texas and raised in Medford, a small town in east Texas. As a sci-fi writer, my education has been steeped in science. I hold B.S., M.S., M.A., Ph.D., and Sc.D. degrees. Of particular note is the position I once held as senior theoretical physicist at …
Thank you, Sheldon Cooper …
Doctor Sheldon Cooper …
So … we come to one of many pet peeves …
Absolutely. I find many Q&As spend an inordinate amount of time on the author. What do you look like? Where did you grow up? What did you have for breakfast?
I think people want to establish a connection.
Maybe, but I’m not interested in a Pavarotti warm-up.
Me! Me! Me!
Exactly, I want readers to connect to the work. Can we talk about that?
Ok, so, tell us. What was the inspiration behind your fourth novel, Mirror in Time?
I can’t tell you that. It’s a spoiler.
C’mon! Tell us something! Throw me a frickin’ bone here!
Ok, Dr. Evil. One of the inspirations came from Star Trek (2009) that changes the trajectory of Star Trek: The Original Series. I found it so interesting the movie was able to portray character traits and backstories familiar to viewers while revealing things about the characters that would have been considered an inconsistency. For example, Spock’s emotions are more on display in the movie compared to the original franchise.
So, what trajectory are you changing?
You know I can’t answer that.
Ok, so nothing about you and nothing about your work. This is turning out to be a great Q&A. This is your fourth book. How has your writing changed?
In a past life, I did a lot of technical writing.
Uh … you know you’re talking about yourself.
Lemme finish. … Technical writing is very descriptive and precise. The goal is to spell everything out, leave nothing to interpretation. It also leaves nothing to the imagination. That’s probably the very antithesis of fiction, especially science fiction.
In May this year, we watched part of a Ken Burns documentary on Hemingway. A segment describing one story titled “Up in Michigan” forever changed me as an author. It describes a very traumatic event without ever once calling it by name. You’ve often said I don’t leave enough to the reader’s imagination. Now, I get it.
I finally discovered that telling a story is like a connect-the-dots puzzle. Until Mirror, my dots were too close together, a holdover from my technical writing past. It makes telling the story interfere with the story. Unfortunately, when I figured that out, we were in the final stages of editing, and I had to go back and strip out a lot of words.
Yes, that was awful.
But necessary. Now, I don’t think there’s anything to slow the reader down. I have a new Zen mantra: Less is more.
But it didn’t end there …
No, I …
… are going back to the beginning. I will degrease then we copyedit.
I liked them just the way they were.
I like the stories too. It’s parts of the telling the reader sometimes has to slog through. I want them all to read like Mirror (which they will).
That’s just your obsessive-compulsive behavior.
We’re done Universe: Awakening (my first novel). It now reads as smooth as a Mirror, and your tweak to the cover — outstanding! It also has the added treat of all the visuals you’ve done for my guest posts. Tell me it isn’t a lot better.
(Heavy sigh) Yes.
Your Honor, the defense rests.
Great, only two more to go.
Don’t say it like that. We should be done by the end of December, and I’ll be into book 5 in the new year.
So … back to the Q&A, what’s Mirror in Time about?
Just as advertised in the synopsis. It’s a self-contained, time-travel story. However, unlike H.G. Well’s The Time Machine or the Terminator franchise, there’s no device.
And no magic …
None, so all that’s left is speculative science. I have to leave it at that, or I’ll introduce a spoiler. However, I will say, there’s a fuse that’s been lit in the narrative. True to the theme of the story, our MCs are racing against time (pun intended).
Who is the book written for?
You know the answer to that.
Me! Me! Me!
Thank you, Pavarotti, but yes, first and foremost, I write for you. If other people happen to like it, well, that’s gravy.
So, who else will like it?
Anyone who likes hard-science fiction, and by “hard”, I don’t mean difficult. I mean very sciency. However, I write as if I’m watching a movie, and that cinematic quality should provide a bridge for the technically averse.
Yes. The second group of readers it should appeal to are those who like character-driven stories. My stories only take place in a sci-fi setting. They’re really about my MCs.
Yes, it’s very gratifying.
I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I say Mirror in Time and the entire Terra Nova series are an allegory. So, I think it will appeal to readers interested in symbolism and philosophy. As an example, the Mirror in Time synopsis mentions a place called Jomo Langma Mountain. “Jomo Langma” is a variant of the Tibetan name for Mount Everest. Many character and place names have been chosen for a reason, and there are themes and deeper meanings that run through the narratives. It is one of my dreams to delve into those layers at MCM London Comic Con.
That’s quite a dream.
No use dreaming unless it’s big.
Now, one thing I’m sure everyone wants to know, how do you like working with me?
It’s been great!
And you’re not just saying that because …
… you’re the boss? No. I learned by trial and error (mostly error) that being an indie author is a huge undertaking. The finished story is just the tip of a very large iceberg. I may write the songs to paraphrase Barry Manilow, but the behind-the-scenes getting a finished product probably takes as long as a first draft. The very first version of Universe: Awakening had so many quality issues because I did it myself. From cover to copyediting, it was crap.
I wouldn’t go that far …
That’s because you love the story. (So, do I.) But seasoned readers and bloggers can recognize an amateur within the first few pages. You can’t say, “Over look the speling and punctuation: because the stories good.” No one will give you the time of day (nor should they). The Redux edition of Universe: Awakening has a much higher level of editing compared to the original one …
… and a much better cover …
Lemme finish … and a much better cover. That’s because of our copyediting together and your visuals. The degreased version is even better.
Your next big contribution has been outreach on social media. You’re better at it than me.
Anything you can do. I can do better. I can do anything better than you.
No, you can’t.
Yes, I can.
Next question, Annie Oakley.
What’s your next book about?
I’m kind of torn between writing the final instalment of the Terra Nova series and a story I’ve been kicking around tentatively titled Reality AV.
How are you going to choose?
Well, I know you’ve got ideas for both covers, and I have a skeleton for each prologue. So, I probably won’t know until the morning I sit down and start typing.
Probably, Reality AV. It’s much more dystopian, and with what’s going on today, the story keeps calling to me.
On that happy note, I think we’ll call it a day before we have to hear about the end of the world from you. Once again, our thanks to Els and B for Bookreview for the opportunity to share!
Thank you, D. and N. Ellis Overttun