Excerpt from Raven: The Call From Central (Chapter 2)

The lobby was filled with Iskandar images and trophies.

She was only two steps inside before a human female waved her over to the front desk. “Hi, over here,” she smiled.  “Welcome to Iskandar Bestmartin.”

Her greeter seemed to be a standard humaniform.  Short blonde hair, some makeup and a ready smile.  “Nice to meet you, I’m Heather,” she continued.  “What’s your handle?  I never met a Necris before.”

“Raven,” she replied.

They shook hands.

“What brings you to Central?”

“I…I came to apply for a try-out,” she stumbled, silently cursing her nervousness.

“Oh, one minute, please,” expressed Heather who circled behind a counter and began pressing buttons.

Raven wondered if she were calling Security.

“Josie, I need you quickly.  Walk-in to deal with.”  Raven overheard.

A thrill of fear shot through her.

Heather came back smiling. “It’s close, but I got you in.  You’ll have to hurry, there’s a free-for-all in five minutes.”

Another thrill shot through her.  Now?  Right away?  Her mind spun.

This is my chance, she thought.  Have to go through it no matter the circumstances.

Josie was a dark human who stripped Raven of her beltpack and backpack, and led her in a trot down corridors.  Before Raven could get her mind around it, she was in harness and being pushed into a pod.  She had a brief thought as to how comfortably fit the harness was, when she was immediately on the field.

Her first thought was this is Niflheim.  Then she was nailed.  The match had already begun.  It was a free-for-all deathmatch with Instagib.  She was nailed twice more within the first minute, but then got her first frag.  After getting nailed again, she became angry.  She channeled it into concentration, and began to get frags.  However, she was getting nailed too often.  There must be 50 players on the field, she thought, and she was constantly getting nailed from behind.  It was a tough grind.  No subtlety here, too many competitors.  Spawn and frag, or be fragged.

The bell rang. Raven was exhausted and depressed.  Those 15 wild minutes had passed quickly.  She went through the traditional final greeting with the smile she could muster and then was back in the pod.  No extractor was there, so she let herself out of the pod and harness, and redressed.

She hadn’t looked at the scores all match and didn’t now.  She knew she did badly.   Raven started down the hall, saw the sign for the lobby and headed that way.

She did not get far and she heard herself being paged.

“Raven please report to the main office, yellow, third level.”

The message repeated twice.

“At least I’ll get a ticket home,” she sighed to herself.  Raven was close to tears.  It seemed as if all those years had suddenly amounted to nothing.  What was to be her future now?

The main office was a huge room full of desks and one large counter.  As she entered, a few people looked up and she noticed how diverse the workforce was.  Almost every race and civilization, except Necris.

“Raven, I’ve got a ticket for you,” said an older human female.

Raven noticed her belongings leaning against the counter.  Very efficient in getting rid of people, she thought.  Makes sense, they probably have thousands of walk-ins.  Raven took the ticket and sighed, glancing at it.

It was for Carson Main. Everyone in the universe knew Carson Main.  That suburb of Central City was the heart and home of the professional Tournament.

“This…this is for Main,” she stuttered.

“Yeah, they want you up at Prime,” began the older female.

A thrill of fear shot through Raven.  It almost didn’t register.  She was speechless.

“They want you up at Prime as fast as you can get there,” came a male voice from the side.  He was a Skaarj.

Raven’s stomach flopped and her mind slipped a gear.

“They want you for an assault match at 19:30 and if you get the next shuttle, you’ll have time to eat and rest before the match.”

“Uh,” was all that she could get out.  She’d never trained for an assault.

The Skaarj smiled, which was a frightening display of pointed teeth. “When we saw the stunts you were pulling on the field,” he continued.  “We piped a feed up there for them.  They watched the last five minutes and want to see you in person.  Congratulations.”

“And good luck,” added the female.

Raven heard a beeping and the Skaarj touched his earpiece.

“Grab your stuff quickly. There’s transport waiting for you outside.  You can just make the next shuttle if you hurry.  Go girl!”

Raven grabbed her stuff and ran.  Heather shouted ‘Good Luck’ as she ran through the lobby.  The transport door was open and waiting for her.  For an ordinary Necris girl, having a plush two-seater all to herself was luxury.  However, she didn’t have much time to even breathe as the driver made the shuttle in ten seconds, and they hurriedly waved her through the gate.

The FA, a ‘bobblehead’ from Tractis Minor, ushered her to First Class and showed her a triple. “We saved you a row so you can relax a bit,” he lisped.  “I’ll be right back with a menu.”

She managed to choke out a ‘Thank you.’

“Special dietary?”  He inquired hesitantly, turning back.

“Anything human, Earth, Tractis, whatever,” she replied quickly.

He murmured thanks and departed.

Raven flopped into the large over-stuffed seat and breathed deeply.

The realization hit her.

She was headed to the Iskandar Prime facility at Carson Main.  They wanted to see her!

She dissembled that it was probably Secundus that has the assault, but she might get a chance to meet some of the Prime team.  A long-forgotten fantasy from when she was 12 years old came back: meeting Grabby and having him fall in love with her.  She shook her head to clear it.

Grabby was the top player in the Top Tier.  No others came close.  He was the only male player on Iskandar Prime, and had stood on the pinnacle of fame for longer than Raven had been alive.

She smiled thinking that they’d probably keep her now.  Where would they fit her in?  Even if it was back to Bestmartin, that would be excellent.  The taunting she endured from friends and family would fade away finally.

The ‘bobblehead’ came back with an immense tray.  It was a Tractis cold seafood platter.  It didn’t matter: Raven began sampling everything.  Being wary of the upcoming match, she tried to limit herself, and only wash it down with surgis.  No stimulants because it was a match, and no depressants so as to keep her quick.

Between the good food and wide soft seats, Raven inadvertently fell asleep.

Synopses for Books 1 & 2 in one place!

Synopsis — Raven:  The Call From Central

Raven heard the call from Central when she discovered the Tournament and her icons of team Iskandar at four years old. Then and there she made the decision to train her way onto her favorite team. Despite her home planet, Necris, banning women from competing in the now over 200 years old Tournament, Raven was not dissuaded from her calling. Her driving passion saw her train hard solo in order to give herself the best chance possible of achieving placement on her favorite Top Tier team at Central: Iskandar Prime.
Her dream propels her to the long light-years journey through the Alliance of Planet to Central, arriving broke with no real alternatives. Raven is the first Necris in Central, her bone-white skin and tall stature sets her apart from the crowd as she approaches the AA minor league team of Iskandar: Bestmartin. Her dream is to perform with the heroes of Iskandar Prime, Grabby the oldest and most decorated player in the Tournament; Soria, Captain and only elf in the Tournament, and this is the first step in the journey.
Iskandar Prime is searching for their tenth and final member. Can she leverage her skill in an immediate and unexpected trial? Can she enter this world of replicated warfare, where the line between simulation and reality blurs, and perform in an arena of professional competition?
Disturbed by apparent failure, she is suddenly thrust into the spotlight by a trial with Prime itself. On the field surrounded by her Iskandar Prime heroes, she realizes that she could be the tenth and perfect team member. “Let me stay here,” she wishes. However, is this an opinion that is shared by the most successful organization in the Top Tier? Will she be given a permanent place in her dream team – or a one-way ticket home?

Synopsis — Raven:  Mirabelle

Raven: Mirabelle takes up where the first book, Raven: The Call from Central, ends. Iskandar Prime has won the Tournament Championship by sweeping through their opponents without one close match. After a week of banquets and celebrations, the team is sent on a goodwill tour by the Tournament Committee. The tour is to encompass the ‘Inner Circle’ of planetary colonies around Earth and is to include Earth itself. The first stop on the tour is the second-oldest colony, Mirabelle which is also the birth planet of Chaoschick and the search for her family intensifies. The team is greeted right at landing by an enthusiastic fan base that includes Raven’s Raiders. The team terrorizes the opposition, the local and regional teams, but also encounters the Royal Family, irate hairdressers, malfunctioning translators, fans chanting about fruit and ocean-going predators. Who is the guy in the red parka? Why are there purple bears all over the island of Elba? Why do all of the statues of Napoleon hold salad bowls? Why is Skylla suddenly talking different? What are the secrets Chaoschick is keeping about her family? Why are the team arming themselves with real machine guns and plasma lances? And why is Raven’s mother all cranked up? The planet of Mirabelle will never be the same as the team brings their own brand of behavior to one of the oldest cultures in the Alliance.

Interview for Raven: Mirabelle

An Interview with Steve Tomporowski

by Nancy Bielot

Editor’s Note: Steve Tomporowski, who is an Engineer II in Middletown, published his second book in the “Raven of Iskander” series. This one is called, “Raven: Mirabelle,” and picks up where the first book in the series left off. Considering he has now published two books, we thought it was time for another interview.

So, now that you’ve published your 2nd book, what does that mean to you?

I wanted to publish the second book quickly so that my readers, and those yet to read my first book, would realize that I was committed to continuing and finishing the series. I’ll bring up George R. R. Martin again, although I can sympathize with his predicament, but he’s left his readers hanging for years for the next book in the Story of Ice and Fire series (otherwise known as Game of Thrones). Does it make me feel more like an ‘author?’ I don’t know. I just know that I have a path through to the end of the series and I want to get there. I’ve mentioned it before that I have already written the last two chapters of the series and it’s great. I want to get there.

How helpful was your editor, Yvonne Marrs, in the publication of this book? After all, she is the one who encouraged you to turn the first story into a book.

Yvonne is a great cheerleader and an excellent editor. You don’t hear negative things from her, only concerns on what works and what doesn’t and, of course, there are her skills at sentence structure and punctuation. We do get into disagreements over the differences between American and English! For example, in the scene where Chaoschick’s music stand falls over and she says ‘Five.’ Yvonne didn’t understand that the brunette was counting how many times it fell over. But those are the times that she is indispensable. I have added a lot of material to explain situations and concepts because she catches that stuff that the reader may not understand. One thing that I did learn is that the reader may not have retained all the details from the first book. While I know exactly what’s going on in my created world, it’s important to recap what happened and what was explained in the first book. I’d like to think that someone could pick up the second book—without reading the first—and not be totally lost!

What is “Raven: Mirabelle” about? Does it pick up where “Raven: The Call from Central” left off?

“Raven: Mirabelle” does pick up right after the events of the first book, “Raven:  The Call from Central.” Very early in the first book, we find out that the team is going on a tour of the ‘Inner Circle.’  This is a reference to the earliest planetary colonies and those closest to Earth. The first stop is Mirabelle. I actually place the planet Mirabelle in an existing star system and that is mentioned in the book. I was surprised at how much happened to the team during their two week stay on Mirabelle. Just for teasers, the team encounters the Royal Family, irate hairdressers, ocean-going predators, and purple bears. As a spoiler, one of the team, raised by the ‘state,’ finally finds her Mom.

You mentioned that Tricia Blanks’ laugh found its way into your first book. Are any characters in this book based on people you know?

Some of the characters are based on me! Tricia’s laugh was intentionally added because I believe it really made that particular scene. Otherwise I don’t think I’ve consciously created a character based on real life, although I do seem to ‘borrow’ names. I particularly enjoyed taking our shipping virtuoso, Joe Fitzner, and making him a piano virtuoso. You’ll hear about him every time Raven practices the piano.  What can I say, the name really fits the situation. By the way, Lily, the twitteral music teacher, will be back in the fifth book… and it’s going to be a surprise, well, at least to Raven. Then, Bob Masotti found himself in the first book, although he did complain that I murdered his name (the spelling, that is).  That was intentional. One of the most bizarre names I did come up with is the manager of Iskandar, Francona Epstein, who was named after Terry Francona and Theo Epstein, who were the manager and general manager for the Red Sox in 2004. To get back to the question, I haven’t consciously added a person I know to the books. I’d say that I do take bits and pieces of people’s personalities and form a character from them. For example, the character that has Tricia’s laugh, Damaris Barcemusen—again, you’ll notice that I’m borrowing names—personality-wise is a lot more pompous that Tricia ever was.

Do the words just “flow” out of you for your books, or what/how do you write? Do you lock yourself in a room so you’re not interrupted, or what?

I have a ‘computer’ room down in the basement, and most of my writing is done on the same computer that I play games and balance the checkbook on. I do carry a USB memory (stick) so that I can do some writing during lunch. Between the two situations, I’d have to say that I’m always interrupted, which is why I don’t end up writing linearly. Whatever inspiration I have at the time is written down in a separate chapter, and I use a number to roughly correspond to where it will fit into the story. Then I will revisit it, add more to it, and then do the writing to make it flow from the previous chapters and into the subsequent ones. It’s sort of a continuous editing process. At some point I’ll put all the chapters together into the same file and then begin the almost endless process of reading through everything to see how it works.

When will the 3rd book in the series be published? How many books do you think will be in this series?

It will most likely be sometime next year. As opposed to what looks to be the fourth and fifth books, I had very little material to start with for Book 3. The major hold-up in writing the third book is imagining the societies the team will encounter during the tour. Mirabelle came out wonderfully with the royalty, but every planet needs to be different to keep the interest high. So Book 3, which currently has no title, will cover the rest of the planets on the tour. This does mean that the third book may be very long! The team does get themselves into and out of various problems on and off the field. Near the end of the tour, well, I’ll tell you it’s on Triballi, everything pretty much explodes.  How many books?  I had started off believing it would be 4 books. Now it looks like it will be at least 6. Book 4 will be about the break between seasons, and Raven takes a surprise guest home with her. Book 5 will encompass the beginning of the new season. Back in the first book, there was a reference to another Necris, Vysse, entering the Tournament. She’ll become a major character in Book 5.

Any other books/ideas rolling around your head?

Right now my intention is to publish a book of short stories before Book 3 comes out. I thought that I had quite enough short stories written over the last 40 years to fill a book. Of course, reading them now, all but a couple require substantial rewrites. Not to give too many spoilers, the title of this collection will be, “The Day the Elves Stole My Wife and Other Stories,” and, as a teaser, I’ll tell you that one of the stories will involve something I always wanted to see as a kid: a poltergeist at a baseball game.

Which brings up a point, one of the short stories is ‘The Last Hegemon.’  It’s actually a follow-up story to a novel I wrote in my 20’s, which I’ve dabbled with rewriting but never seriously. It’s a post-apocalyptic novel, basically about a single incident, pretty much a war. A lot of the stuff in it is pretty trite, so it does need a substantial rewrite. It may be published one day.

Oh, and one more thing about the collection… Yvonne Marrs has decided that she would like to try writing a short story and add to the collection. I’m not sure how she did it, but she convinced me that we should each write a short story about one of the other’s characters.

Now that you’ve published 2 books, what does your wife think? What do your kids think of having a dad who is not only an Engineer, but also a published author?

Nobody in my family has the enthusiasm of a Nancy Bielot! I’m not sure that anyone in my family has an idea on how significant it is to have a book published. Well, I’m not sure if I have any idea! My kids are all over Connecticut, and the ones I hear from think it’s ‘cool.’ My oldest daughter always gives me a like whenever I post on the Raven of Iskandar Facebook page. My wife occasionally asks me how sales are going. Oh, and I have been asked why I carry around a calendar for the year 2243. I just tell them pretty soon it will be 2244.

Since you have this series planned out of whatever number of books, is there going to be a series ‘arc’ or just a series of incidents in the life of Raven? 

Although the first two books read more like a diary than a novel, there actually is a series arc which will be very important to the series. It is going to be reason that something very significant happens late in the series, and will eventually be the reason for the finale. Is that vague enough? The clues are in three or four places, maybe more, in the first two books, but they are so subtle that you’d have to be a rabid conspiracy fan to ferret them out. Early in Book 5 it will hit you square in the face. The result will make you think that the series will end on a depressing note, but it will turn around at the end.

Raven of Iskandar Book Links

This is the link list for both Raven:  The Call From Central & Raven:  Mirabelle for both the paperback and kindle versions for all Amazon locations worldwide:

For Amazon.com

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B076GVQKWB

For Amazon.co.uk

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B076GVQKWB

For Amazon.de

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.de/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.de/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.de/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.de/dp/B076GVQKWB

For Amazon.fr

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.fr/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.fr/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.fr/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.fr/dp/B076GVQKWB

For Amazon.es

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.es/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.es/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.es/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.es/dp/B076GVQKWB

For Amazon.it

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.it/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.it/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.it/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.it/dp/B076GVQKWB

For Amazon.co.jp

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B076GVQKWB

For Amazon.com.br

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.br/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.br/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.br/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.br/dp/B076GVQKWB

For Amazon.ca

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.ca/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.ca/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B076GVQKWB

For Amazon.in

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.in/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.in/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.in/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.in/dp/B076GVQKWB

For Amazon.com.au

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.au/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.au/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.au/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.au/dp/B076GVQKWB

For Amazon.com.mx

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.mx/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.mx/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.mx/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.mx/dp/B076GVQKWB

For Amazon.nl

Raven:  Mirabelle (Raven of Iskandar Book 2)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.nl/dp/1980987696
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.nl/dp/B07CSQJMGM

Raven:  The Call From Central (Raven of Iskandar Book 1)
Paperback:  http://www.amazon.nl/dp/1973242427
Kindle:   http://www.amazon.nl/dp/B076GVQKWB