Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am pleased to be welcoming the author of Universe: Awakening (Terra Nova #1) D. Ellis Overttun to my blog for a combined guest post and book excerpt complete with a fantastic photograph by his wife Natasha.
From my correspondence with David, I can tell that he is really passionate about his work and his wife Natasha is a huge supporter of blogs. I hope that you enjoy the guest post and book excerpt.
Of all the chapters I could have selected for this guest post, this one seemed the most apropos. I had recently read Drew’s poem, “To Her” and it struck a chord. I was reminded of when I was 15 and lost the two most important women in my life. My mother succumbed to cancer that summer. Shortly after that, a rift formed between myself and my first love. We drifted apart without a word being said.
A first love is always the most exciting. The feelings are new, hormones rage and there is no precedent. So, uncertainty of outcome is high. It is both terrifying and exhilarating. Disappointment is also magnified and can scar, as was the case with me.
The two events left me with feelings that I did not become aware of until many years later. The most preeminent among them was abandonment. It prevented me from fully committing to any intimate relationship.
A chance encounter 25 years later gave us a second chance. We never did get together but it provided closure and I healed. When I met Natasha, I was able to commit to the relationship and it’s just like Carly Simon says: “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. It’s your heart and soul’s desire.”
And now to a brief synopsis…
Jo’el has been confined to stasis for the past 100 years undergoing remediation for mental trauma. Stasis itself is a Matrix‑like environment where the patient is able to create any situation drawn from memory. The end of this part of the treatment involves the completion of a task or journey comprised of a series of milestones, each reaffirming a patient’s commitment to reintegrate into the real world. On completion of the final milestone, the patient asks to leave stasis.
However, Jo’el has chosen to study with the Monks of the Nicene Desert, an order that seeks perfection through rigorous training of body, mind and spirit. This has created an insurmountable obstacle since perfection is always just out of reach. Prognosis: never‑ending milestones, failure and regression from which there is no return.
The only possible solution is a tried but unproven alternative.
Kallista, a nonmental health professional, has been asked by the members of the remediation team to retrieve Jo’el from certain oblivion. What makes her qualified to do this? Even so, how can she be successful when there are only a limited number of precedents to guide her? Nevertheless, she agrees. Is this overconfidence?
She knows the daily training regimen starts with a dawn run. So, she waits outside the gates of the Monastery. The chapter describes two conversations she has with Jo’el, one of which is most unique.
My wife, Natasha, has created a visual representation of the chapter to give you a hint of what is to come.
And now, for your reading pleasure —
Universe: Awakening, Chapter 66 – “The Second Way”.
* * * * *
Kallista stood in front of the wooden ironclad doors of the Monastery. The dawn was just breaking and the morning air was crisp. She waited for the deep sound of a gong to break the silence. After a few moments, she could hear the distant sounds of frantic activity. As the dawn pushed back the night, the sounds of footsteps drew closer. As the wicket opened and the acolytes poured out, she stood in front of the opening, waiting. Finally, she spied her quarry. As he emerged from the doorway, she stepped toward him, thrust her hand past the side of his head and grabbed the back of his collar. She used his forward momentum and drew him up and forward, turning as she did so. A fist to his lower ribs completed the move and he was flung into the air and hit the ground hard. No one paid any attention to the fracas but continued running down the side of the wall. He lay on his back for an instant then sprang back to his feet ready for combat. Then, he paused, recognizing something vaguely familiar about his assailant.
“Asherah?” he asked squinting, moving his head slightly forward. “Is that you?”
She hardly resembled the woman Auberon, Mica’el and Gabri’el had met just two days before. She was dressed the same as him but had shed her thick wavy locks for the buzzcut of a novitiate.
“Funny you should remember me Jo’el,” she said as she pressed forward.
She grabbed his lead hand, pushed it down, entered and then hit him hard with an overhand right. As he slouched forward, she followed through with a left uppercut. He staggered backward falling to the ground.
“What are you doing here?” he asked from his back looking up at her, trying to regain his senses.
“Why joining the Monks of the Nicene Desert, of course!” she exclaimed launching herself into the air.
Jo’el had just enough time to roll out of the way before both her feet came crashing down on the spot where he had been lying. He managed to regain his stance but she quickly sprang from her crouch and spun around bringing her instep across the side of his face, again dropping him to the ground.
“As you know, admittance is granted two ways. One,” she said picking up a handful of gravel and throwing it at his face, “is request.”
He was trying to regain his footing and was on his hands and knees. The particulate obscured his vision for an instant, allowing her to complete her attack. An up-kick to his stomach knocked the wind out of him, putting him on his back once more.
“I would imagine with all your fancy debating skills that is what you did,” she said as she launched herself in the air again.
“Two,” she said as he rolled away a second time, “is challenge. Beat the shit out of one of you sorry bastards and then enter the Monastery before the second group returns from their run.”
Attempting to rise, his vision was still impaired and he blocked expecting the same kick as the last time. However, she finished with a superman punch. His eyes rolled back and he fell to the ground unconscious.
“I choose the challenge.”
Jo’el awoke later that afternoon. He was lying on a rolled blanket under his head in a small makeshift tent about waist high that had been constructed by lashing together four wooden rods to form a quadripod. A blanket thrown over this skeleton formed a crude but effective protection from the heat of the day. Asherah was tending to the wounds she had inflicted.
“Asherah, is that you?” Jo’el asked as his vision began to clear.
“Yes,” she replied with a smile.
“What did you do to your hair?” he asked.
He raised his hand to touch her face.
“Owwww,” he said, “my…my body is one big bruise.”
“Be still my love. You have been through a lot today.”
“Yes,” he said with a chuckle, then winced in pain.
He could feel the puffiness in his lips as the tip of his tongue moved along the perimeter of his mouth exploring for cuts. Having found one on his upper lip and another on his lower lip, his search continued on the inside. He could taste the ferric residue of blood in his mouth and began moving his tongue around the inside, searching for the source. Tiny painful spikes indicated several small lacerations.
“Those will turn into cold sores,” he thought.
He could feel the swelling on the left side of his face. His fingers gingerly probed around his eye assessing the area and height of the lump. She pulled his hand away.
“Let it be.”
“Is it black and blue?”
“Yes, a rather colorful pattern. You bruise well.”
He shifted his body to the left and the right to determine what other damage he might have suffered. He experienced a sharp pain in the area of the ribs on his left side and his right shoulder ached. This was physical pain but it was preferable to the other pain he was feeling now. He had rehearsed many different versions of their reunion but this was the one scenario he had never envisioned. He was caught off-guard just as he had been during their physical encounter. He felt so ashamed because of his brother’s death that he had been unable to face her. He had sought sanctuary in these imaginary worlds all these years to postpone what was in front of him right now.
“What are you doing here?”
“I was successful in the challenge, but unfortunately I did not enter the Monastery before the second group returned from their run.”
“Oh yes, of course,” he replied chuckling and again wincing in pain. “Let me rephrase that, what are you doing here?”
“I came to get you. I told Auberon the task you had chosen would lead to failure.”
“Because I am weak?”
“No, because any task that is chosen must have a known outcome to define its completion. You know that beyond the initiation every person in the Monastery has different trials. They are unknown and cannot be known in advance.”
“Oh,” Jo’el replied, “I had not considered that.”
“And,” she added, “you are needed.”
“That is a silly question. Look how long I have waited. Look how I came here to get you. I have and will always need you.”
“Really?” Jo’el said as if a long-unanswered question had finally been answered.
It was as if a giant weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He felt relief. He felt joy. A large tear rolled down his cheek.
“Yes really,” Asherah said. “So, will you come?”
* * * * *
Jo’el’s time in stasis is a metaphor for that 25‑year period in my life when “I still grieve[d]” as Drew has so accurately described it in “To Her”. That moment of clarity in the chapter when all doubt disappears is drawn from my own experience. I remember the feeling well. “It was as if a giant weight had been lifted off [my] shoulders. [I] felt relief. [I] felt joy. A large tear rolled down [my] cheek.”
The fight scene has been based upon my many years studying martial arts. I was never really any good and Jo’el’s beating mirrors the many encounters I had in the training hall. The only thing I was able to master was to be able to look mean at the drop of a hat. To be clear, I have never been rendered unconscious. The closest I came to that was when I dislocated my jaw.
You might have noticed there seems to be a plot hole. The first paragraph of the chapter refers to “Kallista” but Jo’el calls her “Asherah”. I would explain but unfortunately my time is up.
Universe: Awakening (Terra Nova #1).
- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 1332 KB
- Print Length: 472 pages
- Publisher: Nialldara Books; 2 edition (7 Oct. 2018)
- Genre: Science Fiction.
- Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads
The year — 526,780. A probe is deployed from ISV Intrepid at the outer edge of the universe. It is the last of a complement of twelve that is part of the Deep Exploration of Uncharted Space or DEUS. Its mission: collect data on the redshift of light and spatial distortions. Time horizon: 1,000 years.
Before ISV Intrepid can return to base, something goes wrong. There is an accident. The ship is later salvaged but its pilot is missing, its copilot in a coma.
The probes collect their data with uneventful regularity.
Fast-forward to 526,880. A sole-surviving probe still sits in the darkness at the outer edge of the universe. Now, unseen to the naked eye, the space around the probe begins to stretch and distend. Then, the probe disappears, engulfed by an energy of unknown origin and unknown composition. However, it manages to transmit one final message.
CD3C has monitored the disappearance of each probe over the last three years. While the interpretation of the data remains a mystery, speculation is that something has invaded the universe and is moving a superluminal velocity. Its effects could be manifested in as little as the next thousand years. To the Celesti, this is one lifetime.
What can be done?
The one person who might be able to solve this problem is the copilot of ISV Intrepid. He has been lying in stasis suffering from mental trauma. He has been this way for the past century, the longest recorded case in medical history. His unchanging condition has been a convenient solution to stall any inquiry into the accident that put him there.
This threat changes everything. Now, he is needed.
Is it possible to unlock his mind?
The task falls to Auberon, a career nobody inhabiting the lower level of the hierarchy of the Ministry of Science. Can something be awakened in him to allow someone ordinary do something extraordinary?
Universe: Awakening answers this question. In the process, it explores the world of the Celesti, a highly evolved humanoid species with advanced technology, physiology and a unique way of procreation. It blends science and political intrigue to reveal the interplay of storyline and character development that forms the staging ground for the Terra Nova Series.
About D. Ellis Overttun.
I grew up in a town in the Midwest, my mother was a bookkeeper for a small HVAC company and my father was a draftsman. At university, I studied chemistry. However, when I graduated, I did not (or could not) pursue that vocation because I was terrible in the lab.
I have been a storyteller ever since I can remember. It started as a way to get out of trouble and evolved as a way to entertain those around me. My first recollection of writing prose was in elementary school when I had to write a short essay about a picture from a magazine. (Mine was a freshly baked loaf of bread.) In grade 7, I penned two short stories for a school writing competition. One was entitled “My Funny Cousin”, a descriptive piece about a relative (a little older than me) who stayed with us one summer. My mother very quickly killed that story. At the time, it didn’t make sense to me because she told me she thought it was very funny. It was only later that I figured out that I could have replaced “Funny” with “Flamboyant” in the title. So, it was back to the drawing board. My second attempt was a collection of anecdotes about the life of my maternal grandfather titled “The Hilarious Things My Grandfather Did”. That one went on to win.
My first complete novel was a story about a soldier of fortune in the age of horse and bow. At the time, I had contact with people in the entertainment business in California. The feedback I got was that I should take one of the chapters and expand it into a novel. That made no sense to me. What the heck did that mean? How could you expand something so small into something big? So, I never pursued it. However, the comment stuck with me. It was only much later that I figured out that it meant that I should never rush the telling of a story.
This brings us to the present and the Terra Nova Series. (Book 2 has just been published and Book 3 is in progress.) I write for an audience of one: my wife. She loves the stories. Now, all I have to do is get 99,999 more like her and I’ll have a hit!