Friday, February 24, 2017

Fan Friday # 1 - Rokkir Saga Book Two Update With a Dash of Magball

I have a lot of awesome fans. Since releasing Overshadowed last March, I've received fan mail, kind comments in regards to the book here on Story Geek, and even some glowing reviews that made me blush and then wonder what book the reviewer mistook for my own.

Writing is hard work, and nothing is as motivating or heartwarming as seeing people enjoy the content I create. So to everyone who's supported me by reading my crazy story: thank you!

This here brand-spankin' new Fan Friday is for you guys! I wanted to do something fun for anyone waiting on the next installment of the Rokkir Saga. So, every now and then, I'm going to put up a Fan Friday post with stuff like deleted scenes from book one, updates on the sequel, sneak peeks, maybe a flash giveaway or two, and more!

It's my small way of saying thank you for being along for the ride. :)

And to start us off, I've got a progress update on Rokkir Saga Book Two!
That there is a snapshot of the completed first draft, taken earlier this month! Last year, someone asked for a publication date for Rokkir 2, and I optimistically said sometime early 2017. The astute among you can probably guess this isn't going to happen. :) While I'm hesitant to offer up another estimate, I can say that progress is being made, and you can expect more updates soon. 

Until then, I'd love to hear from you! What do you all want to see in the second book? What answers are you dying for? Who do you want to see more of, or maybe even less of? I've kept a loose eye on feedback and reviews over the last year, and I'm working hard to make this a book fans of the first will love.

But, I do have some goodies for you now.

I've extracted for your reading pleasure a couple deleted scenes from Overshadowed's first draft, then called Rokkir Rises. I finished the draft in 2012, so the writing is even more abysmal than usual. Despite my desire to edit it to death before posting, in vain of keeping Rokkir's history alive and showing the reality of the iterative writing process, I'm keeping it mostly preserved (I just couldn't forgive some semi-colon uses. I just couldn't.).

The deleted scenes revolve around magball, Tayel's all-time favorite sport and hobby. I've interrupted the text in places to add in random comments or explanations, and I hope this gives you some insight into the characters, plot, and writing process! I'd love for this to be something YOU GUYS like, so let me know if this is working for you or not. Without further ado...

Rokkir Saga Book One - Overshadowed - Deleted Scenes

Tayel hissed as her opponent’s baton cracked against her fingers. Instantly they began to throb, each pump of blood sending sharp pain up her arm. The crowd went wild with demands for a foul. 

So this scene is from the good old days - one of Tayel's 
magball games before the Rokkir invaded Delta. 
She needed to keep this ball. There were only two minutes left in the game, and it was all tied up. If she dropped it now—
The same player who’d managed to hit her everywhere but her padding the entire game actually managed a clean hit to her baton, and another opponent got around behind her. Baddie number two locked the staff of her baton in the curved hook of his, and the ball popped out in the fray.  Xite.
She tugged, but couldn’t free herself, and the master of aiming scooped the ball off the dirt and ran toward her team’s goal to an explosion of cheers and boos from the viewers on the benches.
           Tayel had to get out of the other guy’s grip if she had any chance of stopping the forward assault. She tried a different maneuver than before, but her opponent stopped it easily.  She tugged again, then when he leaned into the pull, she pushed quickly forward and twisted her baton around so it came free.
           She took a moment to enjoy his incredulous look before taking off in a sprint down the field.
“Jerry get your behind moving!” she yelled to her teammate. “Stay on four!”
She finally got to the heart of the action, where her poor defenders had been shot on one too many times. “Marco! Block six’s view! Evass, go mid, watch for the back pass!”
           Tayel watched in horror as her team's back defender  ran out toward the opposing ball carrier. Another opposing player ran down the line, ready for a pass. In a boost of adrenaline, Tayel darted the distance to that player’s location, not needing to guess what would happen next. She turned around intercept the inevitable pass.
    The ball snapped into her baton to a roar of cacophonous cheers.
           “Evass!” she tossed the ball expertly over her opponent’s head, then sprinted past. “Here again!”
She caught Evass’ pass, making her way up the field. She dove out of an angry opponent’s way, rolling to the ground and onto her feet.
“Marco!” She passed.
The ball came back to her just as she went over the midline. And now, which Forward looked the most ready to score?
           She let the ball fly from her baton just as another player caught up to her. The girl Tayel passed to was barely opposed as the other team had sent everyone up for the attack. She shot and scored just as the timer ticked down to zero.
The cheers from the small crowd of forty or so parents and family friends were loud and elated, but no one would get to see their children until the after-match “friendlies” had occurred.
           Tayel got in line behind the others on her team, though it wasn’t much of a line. Most everyone was crowding around the girl who had scored the final goal.
           “You’re amazing!”
           “MVP! MVP!”
           “You are single-handedly the best Mag player I’ve seen!”
           Tayel was used to this, but she still sighed. The referee politely asked her team to maintain a line, then moved them along. It had been a good match. Tayel hoisted her battered baton over her shoulder as she started moving, shaking hands with her opponents before pushing through the crowd to find the portion of the audience that was her own. For their part, they were never hard to find.
           “Tayel!” Jace all but tackled her into a hug. “You were amazing!” He looked over her shoulder as the girl who scored was lifted into the air and celebrated. His smile turned a little weaker. “Defense is more valuable, I think.”

When I was crafting Tayel's character, I knew defense had to be a big
part of her value. She's strategic, and thinks things through, and 
a lot of that comes from her time spent playing magball as a defensive
player. I grew up playing sports, and one thing I've noticed is how
(relatively) unappreciated good defensive plays are, and how important
those can be for winning games. Everyone loves the quarterback, the shooter, etc.,
because their plays do technically put points on the board. For Tayel's part,
she doesn't mind the "Forwards" getting the glory. Her self-confidence in her role
is what later allows her to become one of Shy's strongest, most supportive allies.   

           “Hey, I always say the best offense is an offensive defense,” she said. “Hey Jerry,” she called to her teammate, “did you put bricks in your pants this game or were you just competing to be the slowest?”
           “Good game to you too, Tayel!” Jerry hollered.
           “Funny,” Jace said dryly. “Offensive defense. That’s pretty good.”
           “Yeah, well, I try.”
           “Great game, kiddo,” Otto said, approaching with the rest of Tayel and Jace’s families.
Tayel caught eyes with her mom and they gathered each other into a hug while everyone continued to chat.
           “Enjoy the game?” Tayel asked.
           “Mm, not as much as I just enjoyed that sweaty hug,” Mom joked.
“Well drat,” Otto said, “You should be the one in the air right now! Ya won the damn game yourself!”
“She really should be,” Mom said, looking at Tayel with pride before a smirk grew on her face. “Though it’s not like your head isn’t usually in the clouds anyway.”
           “Boo, mom.”  Tayel crossed her arms.
           “Welp,” Otto started, taking a step back from the happily chatty group. “It was great seeing you play as always, kiddo.”
           “Aw, not coming to dinner this week?” Jace asked.
           “Nope. Got myself some errands to run down here in the lower Sector. Shame though, I know—especially for me! I hate missing Nita’s cooking!”
           Mom giggled. “It’s funny because he can’t eat her cooking,” she whispered to Tayel.
    Tayel sighed.
           “So take care of yourselves everybody,” Otto said. “I’m sure I’ll see you soon.”
At Jace’s apartment, Tayel set up like she normally did on his bed, laying down to watch the show in the theater that was his room. To everyone but him, it was a disaster zone. Computer parts littered the floor and tumbled over the shelves, spare coils of wire and extension cords hung by hooks in the walls. His desk was a clutter of computer screens and hundreds of different sized nuts and bolts and pieces of scrap metal. Clothes, trading cards, and action figures littered the floor - some in piles, some spread about randomly - and a clutter of flexi-screens covered the walls.
Tayel always teased him for how his room was a strange combination between a mad scientist’s and a ten year old boy’s.
           Jace made room on his desk to place his trading card collection. He opened the hard album cover and found a plastic sheet, putting the cards he’d bought from Otto’s shop the night before into individual slots. As he did this, Tayel remembered the flexi she’d been given and dug it out of her bag. As her and Jace began to discuss his obsession with trading cards, she peeled off the tape keeping the tubular capsule lid closed and opened it, dumping the image into her hand.
           “Besides,” Jace continued, feathers puffed, “I can have a hobby—a collector’s hobby. It’s not that childish. I mean, Jerry’s dad collects rocks and how nerdy is that?”
           There was a pause. Tayel looked up from the glowing city of Zealot at Jace. “About as nerdy as collecting just about anything else.”
           He glared at her for half a second, then continued as if nothing had happened. “And he is way older than me,” he said, “So I don’t know why so many people think my collection is so funny. I shouldn’t be teased—“
           “You aren’t being teased,” Tayel said.
           “Or lose friends—“
           “Everyone loves you—“
           “Because of my collection!”
           Tayel just smiled as Jace stared at her dishearteningly. “Did someone on one of your net forums call you out, Jace?”
           He looked flustered for a moment, then shrugging his shoulders outrageously, admitted, “Yes!” He threw his talons in the air with an exasperated noise and picked up his album. He walked it over to his collection shelf. “You must be getting a real chop out of this, huh?”
           “I sure am,” she agreed, crossing one leg over the other and puffing the pillow she was using as a back rest.
           There was a knock on the door as Jace was preparing a rebuttal and Nita poked her head inside. “Dinner’s ready you two.”
           Deriving a comeback was no longer a priority for Jace, who hurried Tayel out of bed so they could get to the table. There was no argument there; Mag games always starved her. She had already eaten about half the appetizer by herself as it was and she still could happily eat more. It didn’t help that Nita’s cooking was phenomenal either. Sometimes she couldn’t tell if her favorite part of Saturdays were the Mag games or the amazing food.
           At the table was that lively Saturday evening chit chat Tayel wouldn’t trade for anything. They passed family style plates stacked with food around the table. Though still not huge, the meal looked divine. Combined with Mom and the Azenforth’s incomes, they were able to make that one night a week just amazing enough that they could all pretend they were part of the upper class. Their plates were topped with canned meat still, yes—not the real thing—but the vegetables were fresh, a luxury for them, and there was even fruit juice. Tayel’s stomach growled in anticipation but she knew it wasn’t proper to start eating, so she sat patiently waiting as the last leek was pulled from the serving platter.
           “Jace, would you lead us in prayer?” Arcen asked warmly.
           “Sure, Dad.” Jace closed his eyes and bowed his head.
           Tayel did the same. She wasn’t religious like the Azenforths. It was hard to believe there was a magical land beyond the grave that catered to every need if one was good in their lifetime. It was much easier to believe in the Cyborn’s theory of the Black Rest. Despite all this, it just felt respectful to follow along while at their table.
Mom never participated though, something Tayel was reminded of as she took just a moment to open an eye at her. Mom smiled back. Her hands weren’t together, nor her head bowed or eyes closed, but she sat in silence and waited for the end of the prayer. The Azenforths were respectful of her choice, and she was respectful of Tayel’s to participate. With all of this comradery before her, it was hard for Tayel to believe that there was so much religious hate still left in the galaxy.

Religion played a MUCH bigger role in the original draft. The Rokkir's
invasion was actually a sort of religious conquest. While Jace is still subtly
religious in the final version of Overshadowed, I cut religion as a major theme.
After getting to know the Rokkir and their plight better while writing, it
just didn't fit their MO.    

           “May Alhyt’s light always guide us,” Jace finished, and those participating repeated the line as well.
           Then it was time to eat, and Tayel took no time to dig in. She ate the vegetables first. The leeks and wild onions were covered in a delectable sauce that accented the freshness perfectly. These were so unlike the overly salted or far too oily vegetables that she so often had from cans. What was on her plate came straight from the upper Sector’s interplanetary trade market.
           “Slow down, sweetie,” Mom laughed. “You’re making it look like I don’t feed you.”
           Tayel did slow down then, half to appease her mom and half to reflect on a moment of clarity. She sighed inwardly, looking at the smiling faces exchanging stories and jokes around her. For all her thoughts of leaving home and exploring the galaxy, there was one thing she would always be sure to miss. This was her family. Not all of them by blood, but by bond. And though this realization would never halt her dream of leaving Delta, it felt empowering to know that she always had these smiling faces to come back to. She met eyes with Mom and smiled. Maybe in the end, if it all worked out, Tayel could take her off planet too.
           “I love you,” she mouthed silently.
Mom winked and whispered, “Olive juice,” just loud enough for Tayel to hear. She was half surprised her mom didn’t lean over and say: “It’s funny because it looks like I said ‘I love you’.” It was almost more meaningful than hearing “I love you” back. Her mom was a charmer.
           “And so I told her,” Arcen went on, Tayel finally focusing on the rest of the conversation, “That if she wanted a better program she might as well use the bugs—they’re so advanced they could be features themselves!”
           Nita and Jace started laughing their heads off, Jace even going so far as to lean back until he nearly fell out of his chair. Tayel just shook her head with a thoughtful smile; she never had to guess where her best friend got his nerdiness from.

I wish I could have kept some of these earlier scenes, because I love Tayel and
Jace's self-made "family." The first draft had a much longer beginning before the
Rokkir launched their invasion, but it was a little too cliche for my early readers.
Tayel woke up, went to school, went to Otto's pawn shop (which was originally in
the Upper Sector), and had a real "slice of life" couple of chapters before 
the big kaboom.  

           The laughter was just quieting down when Jace suddenly perked up, his eyes widening and his feathers standing up. He gripped the edge of the table and looked bewilderedly at his mom.
           “Mom?” he asked, voice shockingly fearful.
           Tayel thoughtlessly put a hand on his wing, concern flooding through her. “Jace?”
           Nita went through the same stages as Jace, her eyes growing large as she realized something that everyone else at the table was failing to notice. She reached her talon across the table to take her son’s, then put the other to her head. “Alhyt…the aether…” She turned to Arcen. “It’s so strong.”

What's happening here is that my aetherions used to be able to sense
large gatherings of aether, and this signaled the start of the invasion.
 It was a much more intertwined connection between all the aetherions 
and the elements they could harness. I axe'd that particular talent. 


This next scene happens long after Delta, during Tayel, Shy, Fehn, and this time, 
*Jace's* first fuel heist. In the original draft, Jace decided to go along with everyone
rather than running away to eventually be abducted by the Rokkir.

Shy hoisted up a matte black case half as tall as she was. “I wanted to show you this.”
           “What is it?” Tayel asked.
    Shy set the case in the grass and opened it up. A magball baton rested inside.
    “What, we going to play a game?”
    “No,” Shy said. “We’re going to start training.”
           “Training?” Jace asked.
           “Well sure.” She looked very seriously at both of them. “You do understand that Modnik is a warzone? Your friend was right about that. You need to learn how to fight.”
           Jace’s eyes fell downcast. He shifted a bit, and clicked his talons together.“But what does magball have to do with anything?” Tayel pushed.
    “Not familiar with the history that created your sport?”
    “No, I’m fully aware, but…” She realized what Shy meant as she spoke. “Oh.”
    Fehn joined them, wiping his hands on his coat. “Fuel’s in. What are we talking about?”
    “Training,” Jace grumbled.
    “Magball,” Shy corrected.
    Fehn peeked boredly into the case, unimpressed. He shrugged. “What about it?”
           Shy nodded toward Tayel. “I’m trying to discern if Tayel here can use any weapon whatsoever, or if we’ll all be making up for her lack of ability when we hit Modnik.”
           Tayel gaped. “Wait, you really want me to fight serpents and zomborgs with a magball baton?” She frowned. “I suppose if they all dressed in uniform and played by the rules, I’d have a chance.”
           “That is a little dumb, Bahni,” Fehn yawned.

"Bahni" was Fehn's nickname for Shy, which was essentially the
equivalent of "little shit" in Imperial slang. Both demeaning AND insulting!

           “Do none of you realize how powerful these were seven hundred years ago?” Shy asked. “This technology won the current day empire a lot of wars.”

The timeline in this draft is very different than the official canon timeline. 

           “You’re kidding.”
    “She’s not,” Jace said. “Although the stories make it seem more important than they were. A lot of factors played into the empire’s rise to--”
“Hey,” Tayel interjected, “the stories are the best part! Who wants to hear about boring manufacturing and war strategy?”
Tayel was about to sass back when Fehn asked, “What stories?”
“Story, really,” Shy said. “There’s a popular one about Brokir and Mjolnir.”

Norse Mythology played a big role in the original construction of Overshadowed.
There are still a lot of allusions to it, though not as overt. The concept of the Rokkir
actually derives from Pagan stories of what came before the gods of Asgard and
the giants.

“Who and who, now?”
    Looking at the sky, she said, “It looks we have enough spare time to give you a little mythology lesson.”
    “Don’t worry, I’ll give you the primary school version.”
    He crossed his arms, doing his best to look unoffended.
           “The entire sport of magball originated from these batons, then called hammers,” Shy said. “And the original hammer was called Mjolnir. The tale goes that a huge population of Titan was ruled by a vile King, obsessed with his own power. He was a master aetherion, an adept warrior, and a renowned expert in almost every weapon known to humans.
           “He became so arrogant, and so peeved by those who claimed they could rule the Kingdom better, that he proposed a challenge. Anyone who could beat him in combat would become the new King, he said, and offered up this challenge to all in the land. Those who brought in melee weapons—even master trainers—were hopelessly destroyed. Some brought in bows, but were only allowed one arrow, and the King wore strong armor and a helmet that resisted projectiles.”
    “Sounds like he deserved his throne if people were stupid enough to play by those rules,” Fehn said.
    “When they fired their one allowed shot,” Shy continued, “the doors were blocked and the King executed the bowman. Over time, attempts at taking the throne ceased. But one boy, Brokir, whose father was slain while challenging the King, swore to kill the unfair ruler, and set to work on creating the greatest weapon of all. A weapon that only needed one projectile, and that no armor could resist. He worked for ten years to create Mjolnir, and when he was done, he sent the King a challenge request, offering up not only his life, but his estate should he lose.
“The King of course, could not resist another challenge, and invited Brokir into his hall, where the royal guard inspected Mjolnir. At first they refused his entry. They showed the peculiar weapon to the King, and as he was arrogant, he said that nothing, not even that strange weapon could defeat him. Brokir was allowed just the one steel ball, aether crystals inside, and allowed entry to the throne room.
           “The King sat on his throne, wearing his impenetrable armor with a smile. He told Brokir to do as he would, and Brokir swung the baton at a great speed, the ball flying straight and true. It collided with the King’s armor in a splendid crash, but it wasn’t enough to break through. The King laughed as the guards blocked off the door, and he descended the steps from his throne with sword in hand to slay the blacksmith. But Brokir drew the aether through the baton, and to the King’s surprise the steel ball flew past him and right into the cup of the weapon. Then Brokir launched the ball again, and this time, the armor shattered.
           “The King, infuriated, charged Brokir with his mighty sword, but Brokir was too fast. He flew the ball back to the cup and swung with the baton, the ball’s weight inside the crevice cracking down hard upon the cruel King’s sword, shattering it as it had his armor. Brokir rose his baton again, and the King fell, defeated, to his knees.”
           “Then Brokir did what every hero does and spared his life, right?” Fehn asked.
           Tayel smiled. “Actually, this is the best part.”
           “Brokir smashed his head in,” Shy said with an equally enthusiastic smile. “He was so vengeful and full of long held grief at his father’s death that he smashed the King to a pulp and ordered the cooks to use it in a stew.”
           Fehn’s eyes widened.
           Tayel continued, “He ordered that the stew be fed to all who blindly served such a cruel-hearted man. Then he fired them all.” She laughed. “Best story ever, right?”
           “It’s definitely got the plot twist down.”
           “But that’s just the story,” Shy said. “In reality, the hammers were mass produced for those who could use the aether, and were deadly weapons. Eventually, and over time, it stopped being weaponized and evolved into a sport. But at one point, they were the pinnacle of weapons technology for humans.” She gestured to Tayel. “And I think they can be again, in a magball player’s capable hands.”

And that concludes our first Fan Friday! I hope you had a fun time reading through some deleted material! Let me know what else you might like to see in these Fan Fridays, and I'll be sure to come up with more soon. Plus more book 2 progress updates!